A green oasis

Project: IIT, Jodhpur

Architects: Creative Group

The design of the campus sets out to build a totally self-sufficient, green ‘oasis’ and fountain of knowledge in the middle of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert. It aims to provide high efficiency, reduced energy footprint and improved occupant comfort to achieve a net positive energy campus. Importance has been given to reduce the energy demands of the campus and then meeting them with very high performance equipment in order to inspire the students, faculty, staff and visitors to do better each and every day and imbibe the idea of sustainability.

“We aspired to create a campus that acts as a living laboratory so that the students can learn various practices of sustainability while walking and being part of the campus,” says Ar Gurpreet Shah.

Urban Design Principles for the Campus: The overarching planning concept is a radiating geometry that emanates from the central step-well amphitheatre at the very heart of the campus. This aims at linking the entire campus in a unifying gesture. It minimizes walking distances, allows for better shading, promotes a better understanding of the sun’s path and allocates more usable ‘un-built’ area for agriculture, solar farms and natural landscapes. Located within the boundaries of the various sectors are the courtyard building typologies for both the academic programme and hostel programme (hostels, faculty and staff), each with their own unique architectural requirements in terms of massing, functionality and planning. The courtyard planning provides shade and semi-private open spaces for relaxation, play and study, drawing inspiration from the traditional models of Rajasthan.

The streets define the sectors for the location of the building and the buildings define the courtyards and the open spaces. The building masses both contain and form the shaded open spaces. The building blocks are a maximum three storey high (15m) with shared open space at the centre.

Development Plan: The campus master plan is to be constructed in various development phases. Landscape phasing will be completed in parallel with the infrastructure and building construction. Since many projects will be completed simultaneously on the campus, the campus site and landscape phasing will include protecting the soils and vegetation, as well as work in concert with building construction, to reduce congestion during partial occupancy. The beauty of the master plan is that while it grows it retains its iconic and unique identity.

Net Positive Campus: The campus attains energy efficiency using passive, active and innovative design measures at both the building and master plan levels to provide more efficiency. The aim was to embrace the traditional concepts of Jodhpur and combine them with the current cutting-edge energy reduction technologies. The hostel and residential zone of the campus is designed to maintain occupant comfort without the means of any active conditioning strategies. Air movement is induced through thermal labyrinths, which are located below the building, to provide cooler air to the hostels using passive cooling strategies. The education, administration and supportive zone of the campus is a fully conditioned zone which employs all of the passive design strategies, along with active HVAC measures to meet the higher cooling demand. These buildings will have high performance HVAC controls of temperature resets, outdoor air flow monitoring and heat recovery among other strategies, to have a considerably lower footprint than a conventional building.

The Academic Zone: The academic zone buildings are designed and sized to provide a variety of spaces according to the program including classrooms and labs of varying sizes and proportions, faculty offices, meeting rooms and lounges. The interconnected stairs are extra wide to promote chance meetings and are located at the corners to maximize flexibility and efficiency. All three-storey high buildings contain a basement. Central courtyards for all building zones are one meter below the street grade to allow light to penetrate into the basement level. The building’s basements are designed for lab use where daylight is not required, storage and mechanical rooms. Rooms are no greater than 10m from a window to maximize daylight.

The buildings are designed to allow for natural ventilation. Jaalis have been traditionally used for light and air. Locally made precast concrete jaali screens will be used on the east-west facades of the academic building. Adjustable smart louvers are provided to screen the south façade of the academic building. All south facades facing the courtyard have a two meter overhang to allow for additional shading.

The Hostel Zone: The hostel buildings are designed with a double loaded corridor, with north-south facing rooms. The double loaded corridors also allow maintaining air circulation and service efficiency. The common spaces on various floors allow for interaction among students. The services are positioned amongst the east-west axis.

The Residential Zone: The housing is designed as a row housing typology where two units on each level share a common staircase and the other two shares a common wall and an air shaft. Each building allows for a maximum of six units on each side of the courtyard. Each unit has an individual wind catcher that circulates cool air from the labyrinth beneath, during the day and extracts hot air out at night. The windows are also staggered to provide for maximum shading and unit natural cooling. Double glazed windows are used for all three blocks for both natural ventilation and views towards landscaped courtyard, plazas and parks.

The residential complex, surrounding the academic block is strategically released in the form of wetlands and smaller step wells at regular intervals, designed and placed in accordance with the natural watershed. The smaller step wells shall feed the larger one in the centre to facilitate effective collection of rainwater for re-use in various forms. “Age-old traditional practice of step-wells celebrates conserving and utilizing every drop of water.”

Landscaping: The landscape and architectural components of the campus are based on capturing, storing and using every drop of water from the monsoon. An integrated approach of the very latest innovative systems creates sustainable open spaces that are in harmony with the setting, seasonal interest and microclimate. The strategy aims high optimization of de-desertification to produce high agricultural production and support a diversity of plants, livestock and wildlife. As the landscape evolves, and the hydrological regime improves, the campus may be able to support species, not normally found in desert climates.

Within the academic sector and residential ‘villages’ of the campus, there are narrow shaded pedestrian streets for electric buses and bicycles. Specific courtyards and gathering spaces are designed to be served as outdoor classrooms. A variety of shaded building courtyards pocket ‘oasis-like’ gardens and demonstration bio-filtration areas for the students. The academic sectors, the hostels, the faculty and staff housing ‘villages’ utilize recycled grey and black water. Specific courtyards and gathering spaces are designed to be served as outdoor classrooms.

Locally sourced materials, appropriate for desert climate such as Jodhpur sandstone, granite and limestone are proposed for street paving. Hardscape materials are to be incorporated into custom landscape features, and different furnishings aim to distinguish different campus zones. The ecosystem restoration and performance of the landscape will be monitored using different systems. Storm water quality and quantity will be monitored using a data acquisition system by individually containing the drains, identifying a collection point and tipping area. On a macro scale, the same system can be used to study water use across the different landscape typologies.

The south-west section of the site shows apparent traces of saline deposits and a natural location for botanical garden with salt tolerant plantations. Traditional strategies like khadin are introduced on site that will help to harvest surface water runoff for agriculture and vegetation.

A solar park towards south-east is designed with a huge number of solar panels all around and a central water tank that absorbs the reflected sun’s radiation from the panels. All waste in the campus is considered as a resource including solid waste from humans and animals, kitchen residue, grey water and black water which will be filtered and converted into different forms of energy to supply light, electricity, hot water and water for irrigation. With a comprehensive integration of structure and nature, and efficient utilisation of given areas and natural resources, the campus seeks to offer an eco-friendly built environment. It aims to dictate a way of living and evoke within one, a conscious effort to practice and promote a sustainable livelihood.

Client: Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur

Principal Architect: Creative Group, New Delhi

Associate Architects: Frederic Schwartz Architects

Design team: Prof Charanjit S Shah (Founding Principal), Gurpreet Singh Shah (Principal Architect), Frederic Schwartz

Consultants: AECOM (MEP), Andropogan (Landscape)

Built-up area: 8,07,518sq m

Cost of the project: INR 3660 crore (Four Phases)

Status: Conceptual proposal