‘Want to propagate our right to breathe right’: Architect who builds ‘green’ offices
By Disha Roy Choudhury: Activists worldwide are now striving hard to promote the cause of sustainability, which is the need of the hour.
Architect Bhupendra Kumar, however, was among those who understood its significance a decade ago when he started his company Aeiforia Architects.
His goal was to “design green”. An alumnus of Apeejay Institute of Technology-Apeejay School of Architecture and Planning (AIT-SAP), Bhupendra tells us how he was introduced to the idea of sustainability, his company’s motto, and more. Read:
What got you interested in architecture? How did AIT-SAP prepare you?
It was in 2003 that I joined the college. I remember I was sitting in the library when a senior asked, ‘By chance or by choice?’ I said, ‘By chance.’
She told me if I was indeed there by chance, architecture was not the field for me. But I thought, now that I have already started the journey, I will not quit. That is how it all began.
I learned a lot from the professors at Apeejay; we developed a very close relationship through the process of learning.
Not just textual knowledge but the students were also given exposure to the market. I was introduced for the first time to corporate interiors, which is now my area of specialisation. We also got a lot of hands-on experience in design.
I topped almost all the semesters in college. With the support of my teachers, I even got an extension to prepare my thesis well.
Later, I also pursued my master’s degree and graduated with a gold medal. Not just architecture, Apeejay inculcated several life skills that helped shape my personality.
How was Aeifoira Architects formed?
The idea originated in Apeejay itself around 2005. In the third semester, I happened to get in touch with an organisation that was doing some research on washrooms.
They hired some of us from college. Around this time, I also got the opportunity to attend an event in Delhi where I heard APJ Abdul Kalam speak on green interiors.
His ideas moved me and that is when I decided on doing something similar. I went back to college and brainstormed ideas with my friends including the firm’s name.
That is when we zeroed in on the two words ‘aei’, a Greek word for ‘sustainability’, and ‘foria’, a Greek word for ‘forum’. So, the word ‘Aeiforia’ actually means ‘a sustainable forum’. The idea behind starting the firm was to design green infrastructure.
Back when I started, my office in Delhi was the first to receive a ‘Platinum’ certification from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in North India, and the second in the country.
My current office in Noida is also Platinum-rated. Now of course there are many such offices. Now, Aeiforia is venturing into projects that take care of parameters like waste energy and the conservation of water. Our company will officially complete 10 years in November this year.
What are your future plans for Aeiforia?
The plan for the next decade is all about sustainable development and green design. We are in the process of applying for copyrights too.
Our goal is to propagate the message of “Right to breathe right”. This is because we are spending one-third of our lives in the interior, whether it is our home or office.
Through sustainable interior design, our motto is to make the air fresh and breathable. That is how we are trying to do our bit to protect the world.
But are the clients equally aware of the need for sustainability or is spreading awareness also a part of the process for you?
Many MNCs nowadays do understand the value of sustainability. It is relatively easier to sell them our concept since they are well aware.
But for other organisations, we try to explain sustainability in more simple terms. For instance, we say that the interior should be designed in a way such that there is more sunlight and fresh air, etc.
For all our designs, we have ensured that the building is close to nature, properly ventilated, and well-lit.
Aren’t sustainable products relatively more expensive? Is it difficult to convince clients to accommodate the cost in their budget?
I would like to argue that it is a misconception that eco-friendly products are expensive. In sustainable design, we always say “reduce, reuse and recycle”.
If you are reducing our consumption and reusing components, the products are meant to be more affordable.
The industry, however, has the tendency to market good-quality products as expensive. At Aeiforia, we tell our clients that they are not paying any additional fee; the only extra fee they might end up paying is for green building certification in case they apply for it. Our aim is to give people a space where they can live and breathe green.
Is your company also venturing into handloom as seen on your website?
This e-commerce section is handled by our co-founder and architect Pragya Tripathi. She connects with local artisans from across India, obtains their creations, and sells them in the market.
You have also ventured into education. Tell us more.
Yes, the idea is to bust myths around sustainable design and promote awareness among people. As part of our venture, we have tied up with MSMEs to educate their officials as well as students from various colleges and other clients regarding, with the help of webinars and other channels. We also provide them with certificates.
When you started your business a decade ago, entrepreneurship was not really the rage that it is now. How challenging was it for you in terms of not just navigating policies but also convincing your family?
(Laughs) I had two choices—a decent corporate job as a project manager or starting something on my own where success was not guaranteed.
One fine day, I told Pragya, who was also working at that time, that I wanted to explore the latter. I asked her if we would be able to manage the household expenses without any financial aid from our parents.
I was also freelancing for a couple of projects, so we thought of taking the plunge. We managed to find a stronghold in a few months.
When I look back now, I feel we got a bit lucky as the market was in its nascent stage and there wasn’t too much competition.
It was a calculated risk for us. Plus, we got the right guidance from our mentors. It was not my journey alone. I was supported by many people.
What kind of future do you foresee for sustainability?
Sustainability is no longer an option for people. It is what we need if we have to survive in a healthy environment.
Sustainability is the way to cope with pollution and climate change. We must adopt sustainability and preserve resources.
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