Sustainable Design In Vernacular Language: St. Andrews Girls Hostel by Zero Energy Design Lab
Credits and Project Specifications:
Architects: Zero Energy Design Lab
Area: 25000 ft²
Year of completion: 2020
Photographs: Studio Noughts and Crosses
Manufacturers: ACP, Asian Paints, Samsung, Ultratech
Structural Consultants: DESIGN SOLUTIONS
Civil and Façade Contractors: LS Associates
Client: St. Andrews Group
Design Team: Shivangi Banerjee, Rohan Mishra, Naveen Pahal
Architecture firm Zero Energy Design Lab designed the girls’ hostel of St. Andrews Institute of Technology and Management in Gurugram as a sustainable design manifested in vernacular design language. Completed in 2020, the block is a paragon of climate-responsive architecture.
The St. Andrews Girls Hostel has a 25,000 square foot area of St. Andrews Girls’ Hostel uses a free-standing facade to form a double skin envelope that makes the highlight of the design. The design of the St. Andrews Girls’ Hostel inclines towards that of the boys’ hostel block located opposite to it. The resemblance is quite clear between the two hostel blocks, with the red masonry and the exposed concrete.
While the hostel block had to fit within a campus, the firm Zero Energy Design Lab also wanted to manipulate hostel design into a campus design in itself. While visual relation with the block’s immediate context (the boys’ hostel) could be established via a similar material palette, there were other hurdles to cross. The primary challenge was ensuring that the hostel was a safe hub for the users and provided freedom of movement by establishing a clear congruence between the indoors and outdoors.
As a solution to these constraints, the firm designed connections between the indoors and the outdoors physically and visually from different levels. The enhanced visual connections between a multitude of areas increase social interaction and activities in such spaces. The pantry is connected to outdoor spaces like the foyer and the lobby that spill into green areas allowing students to enjoy their evenings in a natural landscape.
The flexibility of spaces handover a certain amount of control of the use of the spaces while still in a safe environment.
The Design Layout
The hostel houses approximately 130 students and consists of rooms and a variety of ancillary spaces to manifest the idea of campus within a campus. Passive design principles are used to introduce the idea of adaptive comfort and spaces that accommodate a variety of indoor conditions and activities.
The second-floor terrace on the western end functions all day as a social gathering space while the stairwell and the lobby double as spaces for informal gatherings and a badminton court. The design and layout of the building prioritize user comfort and flexibility in the functioning of the different spaces.
The hierarchical order in the arrangement of spaces is evident through the adaptive layering of spaces. The play of light and shadow from the double envelope adds an intangible element to the already multi-dimensional space.
A double-height reception area makes for a grand entrance and rooms exist on all four floors of the building.
“As students move from the interiors of the building into the open, they experience distinct transitions in varying thermal environments. The activity lounge on the ground floors is placed next to the landscaped court,” explained Zero Energy Design Lab.
“The lounge creates an intimate environment for studying or conversation. Further, the adjacent internal landscaped court features dense plantation to reduce heat gain through evaporative cooling.”
The Facade Design
The limited space on the northern end left them using the hotter, southern facade to increase perceptive space from within. The ideal solution was the use of a double-skin facade to combat the intense heat of the region and address the concerns of thermal comfort within the building.
This double-skinned frontage forms a semi-permeable layer diffusing 70%of the incident radiation and cooling the internal spaces by shading and controlled airflow.
In response to the boys’ hostel design, St. Andrews girls’ hostel also uses masonry blocks rotated in calculated directions to diffuse radiation. Except that, while the boys’ hostel used hollow bricks with insufficient depth, Zero Energy Design Lab utilized red-pigmented hollow concrete blocks that had sufficient depth to ensure efficient working of the facade.
After extensive research and multiple design iterations, the parametric facade was manifested with concrete blocks rotated in precisely calculated angles. The red-pigmented concrete blocks resemble the brick of the boys’ hostel, they have sufficient thermal mass needed to absorb the heat and reduce glare.
Furthermore, the parametric concrete block facade controls the airflow through the practical application of Bernoulli’s principle, further reducing the heat carried by the outside air into the building.
While the outermost skin protects the interiors from heat gain, the second skin encloses the breakout spaces between the two skins, creating a smooth and gradual transition from the inside to the outside.
The vegetation within and outside the building is a thoughtful addition by the ZED lab that further cools the interiors by evaporative cooling and shading while creating a conducive environment for the users to interact with nature.
Source: World Architecture
The landscape design enlivens the spaces by integrating green elements in and around the building, serving aesthetic and functional purposes. The bio-climatic controls of the vegetation serve to improve thermal comfort and the psychological well-being of the users. While the edges of the planters served as seating for the students to sit in close vicinity to nature, the plants brought down the surrounding ambient temperature by evaporative cooling.
Bamboos created screens at the peripheral areas and the shaded courtyard hosts a large variety of plant species that bring a piece of nature into the building.
Large Champa trees planted outside the building create cool seating areas under their shade. This activated spaces within and outside the building for the use and interaction of the users despite the harsh sun.
Source: World Architecture
Zero Energy Design Lab studio ensured that all of the outdoor landscape courts are uncovered to facilitate water permeation into the ground. All wastewater is conveyed to a sewage treatment plant after which it is reused for gardening.
Structural and Material Details
In terms of construction too, the staircase and the attached façade posed a design challenge. The free-standing façade was constructed at a thirty feet distance from the main body of the building. The facade spans three floors in height and is conscious of its structural integrity and seismic resistance.
The southern facade was parametrically designed and has a wide staircase that cuts diagonally through it. The staircase is exposed to the outside and the eccentric placement of rods along its length makes the facade seem like two separate fabrics, one perforated and one void were stitched together.
The structural members and the concrete elements are exposed to contrast against the red of the pigmented concrete and bricks. Columns resemble an inverted tripod-like configuration for greater structural stability.
Climate-Response and Energy Efficiency
A prime example of a climate-sensitive design, the St. Andrews girls’ hostel also boasts an energy-efficient design. The double skin envelope reduces solar heat gain within the building and diffuses 70% of incident solar radiation on the southern facade of the building. Green areas within the building create a cool microclimate due to evaporative cooling and the shadow of the free-standing facade.
All these factors minimize the heat gain within the habitable spaces of the building and reduce the mechanical cooling loads by 35%. A 35% reduction in mechanical cooling loads is a marked increment of public buildings from the Energy Conservation Building Codebase case.
In conclusion, St. Andrews Girls’ Hostel is a prime example of traditional architecture that is climate and context-responsive as well as one that learns from its precedents. Zero Energy Design Lab strived to reduce energy consumption using passive design techniques and created a building that is a four-way congruence of sustainability, aesthetics, functionality, and user comfort.
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