CW Interiors |
 
Landscape | July 2011

Grass Roots

For the trainee campus of ACC LTD, landscape designers at SGC Design Group keep in mind the requirements essential for LEED Certification.

It is not often that one gets to work on a site belonging to a 100-year old company, on a campus with 70-year old trees and built forms that speak of the era of their existence. When SGC Design Group bagged the project for the landscape design development for La Residency, a residential facility for trainees of ACC Ltd in Thane, there was an anticipatory buzz in its office – this, despite the fact that the project was only a small landscape insertion within a much larger master plan.

The main creative challenge for the landscapists was that the building aimed to obtain a LEED (Leader­ship in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification; giving them the scope to design a truly green landscape.

INSPIRATION

‘Stated simply, the aim of the planner is to create for mankind a better environment, a better way of life. One designs not places, or spaces or things…. One designs experiences. The places, spaces and things take their forms from the planned experience’. Deriving inspiration from these words of John Ormsbee Simonds in his book ‘Landscape Architecture’, Gaurish Chandawarkar, Principal Architect, SGD Design Group, and his team attempted to create an experience on this one-acre land.

Being a residential facility, the immediate outdoor spaces were meant to provide a welcoming visual character and areas for passive recreation. The existing trees and topography provided the cues to initiate the design process, and the demands of the LEED Certification helped further the cause of ecologically-sensitive design. A definite boundary was marked out for the area to be assessed for the LEED certification.

THE EXPERIENCE

The design of the La Residency landscape is rich in colour and texture, involves the sounds of nature (the gushing of water, the chirping of birds, the crunching of stone gravel while walking) and a variety of patterns in the floor and overhead planes (the large existing trees reveal the sky in patterns).

The natural lay of the land allows surface water to flow into a brook that is located at the extreme edge of the site. A feature wall that welcomes users to the Y building is integrated with the brook and is designed to have sheets of water falling into the brook.

Grids of coloured gravel and planting form a foreground to the built form, while also allowing permeable ground for water recharge. Large wooden decks have been created for people to enjoy the views of the water, while aromatic plants have been planted close by. The brook is a great place for the trainees to come together and interact at leisure.

LEED-ING THE WAY

The current global desire to achieve a LEED Certification for projects augurs well for landscape architects because it sets certain non-negotiable norms in the designing and execution process; it also aids them in achieving an energy-efficient and sustainable project.

The various factors that are assessed and evaluated in terms of credit points for the LEED Certification, like reduced site disturbance, water-efficient landscaping, reduced heat islands and light pollution reduction have been taken care of in this project, in ways that are enumerated below.

REDUCED SITE DISTURBANCE

According to the LEED guidelines, it is essential that the landscapist conserve the existing natural areas and restore damaged areas to provide habitat and promote biodiversity.

In this project, the SGC team limited site disturbance including earthwork and clearing of vegetation (scrub, not trees) to 40 ft beyond the building perimeter; 5 ft beyond primary roadway curbs, walkways and main utility branch trenches; and 25 ft beyond constructed areas with permeable surfaces. The top soil was removed and stored away, and later spread over the softscape areas when the planting was done.

WATER-EFFICIENT LANDSCAPING

For a water-efficient landscape, the landscapist must limit or eliminate the use of potable water for irrigation. At La Residency, the SGC team devised the use of recycled water for irrigation. Automated sprinklers and drip irrigation systems that operate in the late evening ensure optimum use of water and reduce evaporation losses.

The choice of plant species is limited to native and adapted species. Drought tolerant species form nearly 25 per cent of the total plantation. The use of lawn/ turf is limited to a maximum of 25 per cent of the total area under plantation.

Irrigation volumes have been calculated on the basis of factors such as:

• Landscape coefficient (the volume of water lost via evapotranspiration)
• Species factor (variation of water needs by different plant species)
• Microclimate factor (environmental conditions specific to the landscape)
• Density factor (number of plants and the total leaf area of landscape)
• Evapotranspiration rates for a landscape area

HEAT ISLAND EFFECT

To reduce heat islands (thermal gradient differences between developed and undeveloped areas) and minimise the impact on the microclimate, SGC has limited the use of impervious paving to the minimum; most paved areas are located under the shade of existing trees. Grids of pervious paving have been created to promote ground water recharge, and parking areas are shaded with trees.

With all the stipulations in place and the design intent on its way to being achieved, the project was successfully completed in July 2010. The landscape architects are now waiting for the plants to mature with time and complete the visualised plan!

Total area: 3,900 sq m
Total cost: Rs 75 lakh

Text: Sumisha Arora
Photos:Netra Palkar

Meet the Architect: Gaurish Chandawarkar

  • Firm: SGC Design Group established in 1999.
  • Firm specialisation: Landscape design, site planning, master planning.
  • Design philosophy: Design with essence, ethics and aesthetics.
  • Philosophy towards life: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly” - Richard Bach, Illusions.
  • Favourite designer/architect: Will Alsop, Prof YM Chandawarkar, (1935-1995).

Materials used:

• Natural stones: Kota, shahabad, marble, slates
• Wood
• Crushed stone gravel: Jaisalmer, kota, marble
• Stone grit
• Fibre reinforced plastic for water body

Principal contractor: SGC Site Works. Mobile: (0)93200 72031.
Light Fixtures: Lime Light for K-Lite Make. Mobile: (0)98211 61701.
Sub contractor: Khilji Constructions. Mobile: (0)98203 99703.
Waterfall/Body: Nihar Tumhne. Mobile: (0)98228 48017.
Planting contractor: Green Grower. Tel: 022-2641 5985.
Paving material: Vyaara Tiles Mobile: (0)93222 85672.
Irrigation: Hii Rise. Mobile: (0)97730 62255.

SGC Design Group Team:

Gaurish Chandawarkar & Netra Palkar 3, Kalpana, 5th Road, TPS III, Santacruz (East), Mumbai-400 055. Tel: 022-2610 5029. E-mail: sgcdesign@yahoo.co.in

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