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'Glass facade buildings harming envt, causing health issues'

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Sravani Sarkar

Nagpur: Poo design and overuse of glass facades in buildings are not only causing harm to environment by locally increasing temperatures but are also leading to serious health issues for occupants, a scientific study has shown.

Temperatures could increase by 5-11 degrees Celsius on surfaces close to the glass compared to those in other areas, the study undertaken jointly by director of National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) Dr Rakesh Kumar and Dr Rashmi Patil of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, has shown.

Similarly, the occupants are prone to health complications like fatigue, insomnia and season affective disorders (mood swings, depression etc.).

Among solutions, the researchers have suggested that for buildings with glass use around the envelope (outer surface), the use of glass should not exceed 40% of the overall envelope surface area. This could help reduce the impact of glass related heating of atmosphere.

Dr Rakesh Kumar, while talking to reiterated that use of glass in restricted manner and under proper design is not dangerous, but overuse can be certainly harmful to ecological and human health.

The study took into consideration glass facade buildings in Mumbai including the Churchgate Station where the design had to be altered after commuters and people in surrounding areas reported discomfort.

The study highlights that the glass facades absorb and retain much more sunlight and heat causing rise in internal temperatures and use of electricity to maintain the cooling. This in turn increases emission of carbon dioxide.

The energy that is currently used worldwide to keep the internal building temperature at a comfortable level contributes to 40-50% of the world’s CO2 emission.

Other issues include difficulty in maintaining fire safety in glass facade buildings and increased chances of bird hits and mortality.

“There is an urgent need to provide new set of regulations to control use of glass in buildings keeping fire safety and environmental aspect at the center. We should include agencies like fire department, local authorities and environmentalists in formalizing the glass façade building codes,” the researchers have suggested.

The solutions suggested are:

-         Avoiding fully glazed facades, use of natural ventilation and local materials

-         Facade designs that increase energy efficiency

-         Orientation of glass façade buildings should be North- South avoiding East-West

-         All windows should orient towards the north-south side and clear glass should be avoided

-         Usage of glass in openings should be restricted to 60 per cent of the total wall area.

-         Use of solar control glass in building facades

-         Bird friendly façade designs for buildings

-         In taller buildings glass should not be used beyond 70 m as a glass external facade

-         Use of Photo voltaic glass to produce electricity

(Photograph is representational)