Building Biology in India

   India is growing fast, the population as well as the economy. Cities are dealing with a very high and increasing population density. Many new buildings are being constructed. Unfortunately in the haste to build a new modern India, construction practises are forgetting the quality of life for those living in these new buildings. There is an urgent need for building biology and sustainability to improve the quality of life now and in the future.
   India currently has the second-largest population in the world and is projected to overtake top-ranking China in 2030. One out of six people on this planet lives in India. More than 50% of India’s current population is below the age of 25 and over 65% below the age of 35. About 72.2% of the population lives in some 638,000 villages and the rest 27.8% in about 5,480 towns and urban agglomerations. India is the home of thousands of ethnic groups, hundreds of languages, and numerous religions.
   The Indian economy is doing well, as a result a fast growing middle class population looking for better housing and higher levels of comfort. According prognoses from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) about 70% of the buildings that will be in India in 2030 still have to be build. The result is that the focus will be on building fast. Many people from the villages choose to look for fortune in the cities. In and around all mayor cities high rise concrete structures are appearing.The focus lies on material wealth, little attention is given on the physical and mental health of the population. The mining for resources needed for this massive construction are depleting the earth, ecosystems are being destroyed and often the native population is forced to move. Conveniently forgetting that all these concrete buildings will become waste one time, dealing with this is a problem for future generations.
   There are millions living in slums, deprived of basic needs for shelter, proper sanitation, clean drinking water, education, a future. There are many aspects to this problem which cannot be solved easily. It is a challenge for the Building biology how to deal with such a problem. Together with existing organisations who effectively want to work on this situation, Building Biology can help to improve the quality of life of many aspects of the slum issue.
   India has an ancient tradition in constructing healthy and sustainable houses. The building biology knows about the consequences of modern building practises. Combining the traditional wisdom with this modern knowledge could make the difference between wealthy and healthy housing. Every region in India has developed over time a great knowledge how to build healthy and sustainable using local materials, while considering climatological conditions. There is also the ancient intuitive wisdom of the Vaastu Shastra, which is in its true form a valuable asset.
   Current building practises focus on cement steel, glass, aluminium… Controlling the climate artificially, depending on unsustainable energy sources for the production and maintenance of buildings. These practises can lead to many sick buildings, and – more important – many sick people. This can be prevented when building biology is applied consciously. There is a deep rooted idea that the modern world can only be build with steel and cement. There is a need to inform the public that traditional materials can create a much healthier indoor climate, do not destroy the earth, and can be used to build comfortable and wealthy houses. This knowledge can be used to design buildings for the future, where past and future is integrated in the best possible way.
   The electrification of India is not that old, and still there are remote areas without electrical power. In many places the electrical infrastructure is made in ways to provide power for the least amount of cost. This has resulted in unsafe installations and in an unreliable power supply. Not taken into consideration is that many of these badly made installations are the cause of much electro-magnetic pollution. Recently there is a boundless growth of wireless communication. Like everywhere else in the world India has become under the spell of this new technology. Without giving it much consideration how it will effect the quality of life now and in the future. There is very little awareness about the effects that electromagnetic pollution has on the health and well-being of people. This is an important task for the Building Biology, to create this awareness and to help with the reduction of electromagnetic pollution by sharing knowledge about designing a healthier infrastructure, and a conscious use of this new technology.
   Family life is very important in most Indian cultures. The bonds between family members are deep-rooted and strong. What happened in many western counties is that these bonds are dissolving because of an increase of material wealth. The influence of more media has become more important than the love and care of those living close. As a result a social isolation. By living in impersonalised neighbourhoods and the need to work many hours under constant stress to keep on growing economically, cultural and social impoverishment will increase. Building Biology can help with the design and realisation of settlements in a way that social life and mental well-being is stimulated.

Educations and informing professionals in construction as well as health care is necessary to recognise and prevent issues related to recent developments. The Centre for building biology is willing to share information and give presentations to all interested in this topic. For those who wish to go further the IBN correspondence course is now available in English. This course has a holistic approach and gives a profound insight in all issues related to our modern man-made environment.

India is a country with many challenges for Building biology. There is a need to create awareness about the effects that modern building practises have on the well-being of its inhabitants. Architects, builders and all those responsible for the design of new buildings need to be made aware of their responsibility to create healthy living environments. Research is needed to deal appropriately with climatological as well as cultural issues specific for India. Many sick building are waiting for treatment. To be able to do all this more Building Biology professionals are needed.