Is PAPER the only answer?


Figure 1 explains the cons of using a paper cup. Reference:

Lately we have been listening to the eco-friendly/ sustainable approaches that many franchise are adopting in order to reduce the non- degradable waste generated. The common/ most used alternative is PAPER! But has anyone questioned whether using paper instead of plastic is ‘THE SOLUTION’, as a sustainable approach?

Everyone loves to start their day with a cup of hot coffee. But have we really paid attention to what these coffee cups are made of? These days we see that almost every coffee shop has adopted the use of paper cups. These paper cups have a thin layer of plastic/ polyethylene which helps in keeping your coffee warm and also gives added stability to the cup. However if you closely study the product, such paper cups are even more difficult to recycle as the plastic used in the production cannot be separated from the paper. Hence they eventually land up in the landfill.

Thermal…. Comfort????

Talking Green 01

In our day to day life we have been spending majority of our time indoors i.e. either at our workplaces or at home. Hence it is of utmost importance to have the indoor environment thermally comfortable to the occupant in order to maintain the productivity as well as to stay healthy.

Comfort/ Discomfort in extreme temperatures (Image courtesy: Saint Gobain/ illustration by Elisa Gehin)

Firstly, let us address the term Thermal Comfort- it simply means the ability to adapt and make ourselves feel comfortable at a particular ambient condition. Thermal comfort mainly revolves around the following factors:

  1. Air Speed
  2. Radiant Temperature
  3. Metabolic Rate
  4. Clothing
  5. Air Temperature
  6. Humidity

These factors vary according to different climatic seasons and geographical locations. Furthermore, these factors are closely related to the occupants’ age, sex, body structure, activity and personal differences. Hence, as thermal comfort is moreover perceptive, it can be simply categorized into personal and environmental parameters.

Climate responsive built environmnet (Image courtesy: Saint Gobain/ illustration by Elisa Gehin)

While designing a building, an architect must have comprehensive study in the field of built environment and its relation with the occupant satisfaction. The main aspect of occupant satisfaction is thermal comfort. Hence in order to attain thermal comfort, the nature of ventilation systems of the building plays a major role. Essentially, there are three systems of ventilation,

  1. Natural ventilation
  2. Artificial ventilation
  3. Mixed mode ventilation

Every ventilation system has its pros and cons and therefore an appropriate thermal comfort evaluation approach is essential in order to make the building sustainable to use.

Walkie- Talkie building in London, UK

India ranks highest among Asia Pacific Partnership countries in energy consumption [1] where majority of the energy consumed is in the residential sector for lighting and ventilation in order to achieve visual and thermal comfort. Hence, as mentioned earlier, it is an architect’s responsibility to ensure that the building responds to the climatic conditions of the place eventually reducing the demand of energy.

Lately, we have been seeing similar aluminium and glass buildings, all around the world, that often fail in achieving its intended performance with respect to energy use, environmental conditions and occupant satisfaction. These buildings not only increase the energy demand but also have an adverse effect on the occupants’ health and well being.

A house from a village in Hampi, Karnataka

Hereafter let us all have an eye of detail in understanding how we react/ adapt to changing climatic conditions and how does our built space respond to it. This will help us create a better piece of architecture where the happiness index of the occupants will be higher.Hence it is our responsibility as a designer, as a developer and as an occupant to choose a well ventilated built place with appropriate use of materials. I think this is why our previous generations had prioritized occupant well-being and function and the design automatically gave a comforting experience.


[1]  Pachauri S, Jiang L. The household energy transition in India and China. Energy Policy 2008;36(11):4022–35.