Saturday, 1 June 2019


Why the world should be watching India's fast-growing cities

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) predicts that future increases in the world’s urban population will be concentrated in just a few countries. India, China and Nigeria are together expected to account for 35% of the projected growth in the world’s urban population until 2050; of these three, the absolute growth in urban population is projected to be the highest in India. In terms of sheer numbers, the largest urban transformation of the 21st century is thus happening in India, and the Indian real estate and infrastructure industry is a key contributor to this growth.

India’s real estate sector is expected to contribute 13% to the country’s GDP by 2025 and reach a market size of $1 trillion by 2030. However, the environmental footprint of the Indian real estate industry is also mounting. Buildings in India account for 40% energy use, 30% raw material use, 20% water use and 20% land use; they also generate 30% of solid waste and 20% of water effluents. The sector is responsible for 24% of India’s annual CO2 emissions, contributing to global warming and poor air quality. It is therefore critical that India adopts a holistic and sustainable approach to real estate development.

Monday, 17 December 2018


-       Dr. Ajit Sabnis

"Civil engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the progressive well-being of humanity in creating, improving, and protecting the environment, in providing facilities for community living, industry and transportation, and in providing structures for the use of humanity."
American Society of Civil Engineers, 1961

From Newton’s mechanistic world view theory to Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity, from ancient pyramids to present wonders of the world, from the depths of mysterious natural resources to engineering marvels, from underground bunkers to skyscrapers, the list goes on and the pendulum of human life sways and swings in the shadows of engineering minds.

Today, the world is undergoing vast changes. The technological revolution, population growth, environmental concerns are creating unique challenges for civil engineers of every specialty. The ongoing technological revolution has changed most of the routines of a traditional Civil Engineer. DSS (Decision Support System) and GIS (Geographical Information Systems) are becoming a part of Civil Engineering design.  Laser beams have replaced the old survey instruments and satellite signals have replaced the photogrammetric methods of mapping.  Space age fabrics replace conventional RCC roofs and Geo-textiles minimize soil erosion. Robots manage smart buildings and the Civil Engineering is endeavored to achieve a paradigm shift.

The post independence period:
The post independence period of India was marked by economic policies which tried to make the country self sufficient. Under the economic reform, stress was given more to the development of defense, infrastructure and agricultural sectors. During the mid 1960's the government initiated the ‘Green Revolution’ movement and the emphasis was on better agricultural yield. As a result, new irrigation projects were planned and executed. Economic Reforms during 1990s initiated the liberation reform and it changed the market and financial scenario of the country. Under the liberalization program FDI was encouraged and service sectors came into picture. 

The development of construction sector has been in focus specially during the last two decades and the influence of this sector spans across several sub-sectors of the economy such as highways, roads, ports, railways, airports, power systems, irrigation and agriculture systems, telecommunication systems, hospitals, schools, townships, offices, houses and other buildings, water supply, sewerage etc. Thus, the Construction Sector becomes the basic input for socio-economic development.

Subsequently, the technological advancements began to put pressure on every service provider in terms of quality, aesthetics, durability, economics, management, communicative dexterity, time, profitability etc. and in the bargain, these service providers tried to establish their supremacy over their own co-competitors. These advancements also gave rise to superiority in professionalism in certain specific fields of activity coupled with customer satisfaction and thus, outsourcing became an inevitable factor.  This general law is now becoming more and more relevant even to construction industry of which Civil Engineers play an important role in upholding the entire industry.

 Civil Engineer with a new shift – the Future
The ever increasing human demands and needs will eventually get translated into engineering skills.  A professional called Architect, with his creative mind tries to decode the unsaid aspects and with his wisdom tries to evolve a system which meets the cause. But in the process, he has to integrate the multidisciplinary activities involved in his creation, weave them together and produce an effect that matches the need or the demand. 

It is here, the role of a Civil Engineer as the vital energy gets manifested.

Imaginations get transformed from 2D to 3D existences through a process of stress-force- bending moment analysis. This process of Conversion from 2D to 3D with the available resources and within the framework of affordability without compromising on quality, aesthetics and time, indeed is a Herculean task. Performing this Herculean task calls for an enormous amount of professionalism, skill, practical knowledge, pragmatic handling of human psychologies and above all, WILL to implement and establish the challenge put forth.
Future Civil Engineers have to demonstrate the following abilities in addition to all the conventional knowledge at their command:

  • An ability to integrate the knowledge of other sciences.
  • An ability to communicate effectively.
  • An ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs.
  • An ability to understand the techniques, skills, modern tools necessary for engineering practice.
  • An ability to strike balance between physical and emotional needs / demands.
  • A clear understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • Knowledge of Project management and Asset management.
  • An ability to adapt to the advanced construction technologies and methodologies.
  • An ability to understand the value of life and apply it in terms of disaster management.
  • An ability to look beyond his generation and work towards establishment of sustainable future society. 

In conclusion, Civil Engineers have a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders in developing a nation in which all the needs and demands of human existence are met with and an optimum level of comfort, ambiance is provided for sustenance.


An integrated approach for sustainability evaluation of materials and buildings during construction phase using Figure of Merit 
Dr. Ajit Sabnis

International conference on “Sustainable Energy and green Technology” was held at Kuala Lumpur between 11th and 14th December, 2018. It was an excellent platform for several young engineers and researchers who presented their ideas in achieving a sustainable society. Most of the papers were focused on clean energy options and very few touched upon alternative materials.

A presentation with the above title was made by the author on the first day and the abstract of which is placed below for my fellow engineers to consume.
Please mail me clarifications ( if any.


Built Environment is an overriding sector responsible for the increased carbon footprint especially in urban scenario. Complex interactions between construction materials, embodied energy and greenhouse gasses play a significant role while evaluating sustainability parameters in buildings. These interactions are simplified as; I1-Interaction between construction materials and embodied energy, I2-Interaction between embodied energy and GHG emissions; I3-Interaction between GHG emissions and construction materials. The net outcome of interaction phenomenon is the ‘Sustainability Development Index (SDI)’ designated ASP-SDI that enables prediction of sustainability levels in buildings. In support of United Nation’s call to establish a standard SDI, this paper presents a comprehensive assessment tool that is applicable to all building typologies in different climatic conditions, by integrating two critical engineering properties, two construction industry cost stimulants and eight other eco-indicators using Figure of Merit (FoM) as a founding principle. An urban scenario case study project (CSP), falling in warm-humid region of India and based on real time construction data is considered to illustrate the ASP-SDI model. It is found by the analysis that, the CSP exhibits an overall sustainability level of 56.25% and that the Concrete, Steel and Formwork cast high impact. The proposed ASP-SDI model applies normalisation to ten primary parameters in the whole building system to compute the overall impact per square meter of a building prior to actual construction process. ASP-SDI model provides two levels of sustainability indicators namely: Impact contribution of primary parameters constituting a building system and Impact contribution of whole building system, enabling in identifying strategies to reduce global warming using alternative materials and technologies.


Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Holistic Approach in Understanding 

-Dr. Ajit Sabnis

Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Society, Eco-friendly communities, Global warming, Climate change etc. are the modern day buzz words and are being very commonly used by one and all. Professionals also coin new and attractive phrases like: Smart and Sustainable Societies, High performing Societies, Eco-spirituality and so on. In most cases, the understanding of true sustainability has a very limited bandwidth.

Till the beginning of 18th century all looked OK. Sustainability aspect never bothered us. Most of the natural resources, most of the environment had remained un-altered. It is then the period of Industrial revolution emerged on the global scenario and western countries started to establish their supremacy in terms of infrastructure development, better life style their citizens, more and more comforts to their citizens etc. And in the bargain, they started using the natural resources provided to them by the nature. This suit followed by other countries by the time we reached mid nineteenth century. Present developed countries were then the Developing countries. They were probably smart and cautious enough to reserve most of their natural resources and started importing these resources from third world countries. Third world countries accepted this change whole heartedly as they also aspired for infrastructure development in their economies in proportion to their population. It has continued even today and those developing nations have now attained status of Developed Nations.

The Complexity:

Sustainability as a phenomenon is very complex and no one can actually claim to have understood it in its entirety. It is considered as one of the Big Questions by the scientific community.

The Definition:

Sustainability in general is as an ability to sustain as per most dictionaries. This aspect of sustainability has different definitions in different contexts. For example, in the context of forestry, sustainable development can mean the harvesting of trees and other forest products at a rate that does not exceed the capacity of the forest to regenerate itself. In the context of urban planning, sustainable development can mean managing growth within the capacity of infrastructure to service the population and so on. As per Dr. Abdul Kalam, Sustainability is the line between Need and Greed. As per United Nations, Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of our generation without compromising the needs of future generations. As per one of the recent studies, True Sustainability is establishing harmony with the Nature and the Environment it provides.

India’s Position:

After agriculture and industrial revolutions, India focused on its infrastructure development and still we are a developing economy in the world and this is mainly due to uncontrolled population growth. On one hand, we have always struggled to reconcile with the Demand and Supply chain and on the other, global geographical boundaries are shrinking and the global community is becoming one in experiencing various impacts of human greed. This phenomenon is referred as ‘Anthropogenic’. Developed nations, which are actually responsible for all the environmental chaos hitherto, are putting pressure on developing nations to exercise control on their growth patterns. In the process of aping the West, we have forgotten our ancient wisdom, sustainable practices and now looking for Sustainable Solutions from them and that is the irony.

Info Box: As of today, global greenhouse gasses emitted together by USA, China and European countries put together amounts to whopping 56 % and that by India alone is only 6.5 %. However, we are fourth in the list. Average per capita power consumption is highest in the US while India it is the least. All said and done, today, the detrimental impact due to human greed is affecting our Planet.

Why the Big Concern!

In the name of materialistic development, especially since the beginning of 19th century, we have brought the Planet Earth to the brink of disaster. It is an established fact that whenever a new and better species have appeared on earth, there has been a major disaster or chaos. What exactly is the IMPACT we are all talking about! Why the whole world is now so concerned about it!

The Impact:

The impact phenomenon that we are talking about is the detrimental impact human beings are casting on the Natural Environment. This can be understood by looking at the three important challenges we are head-on with;

1] Global warming- Where the average global temperature is increasing very rapidly due to human activities. This is due to emission and accumulation of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This has several detrimental impacts.

2] Climate Change – Due to long term effects of several factors impacting season change, health, change in migratory patterns, ocean acidity, acid rains etc. Also, resulting in a phenomenon called Polar Amplification, where the ice caps are melted exposing the underlying rocks which in turn, absorb and reflect more heat.

3] Natural Resource depletion- Unscrupulous use of natural resources provided to us by nature. We continue to drain our natural resources with no sign of relenting.

Conventional Sustainable Society:

Till recently, establishing a sustainable society called for integrating three fundamental spheres of a society namely, The Social, the Cultural and the Economic. As the concern about the deteriorating environment became an issue of criticality, the fourth sphere called- The Environment was added. This too was inadequate in understanding the true meaning of sustainability. Unless and otherwise, an individual willfully and ethically participates in achieving the SUSTAINABILITY DEVELOPMENT GOALS, establishing a sustainable society is not possible. Hence the fifth sphere of ethics (Spiritual) was included. 

Science-Spirituality Convergence:

If we see these five spheres, they represent nothing but the Physical, Vital, Mental, Spiritual and the Psychic development of a society as described by Sri Aurobindo. Only when this integration of 5 spheres happen harmoniously, true sustainable society can emerge and manifest.  In a way, Science and Spirituality are converging. We see 20th and 21st century to complement this view. Sri Aurobindo and Einstein, both of them extensively delved on the same subject of Matter and Energy, almost simultaneously. While one established matter as the foundation for in the Evolutionary process, the other established a relation between matter and energy. The advent of quantum physics, efforts of several physicists leaning towards the philosophy of Shankara to answer some of the Big questions, stand as testimony of this convergence. Even Stephen Hawking, in his latest book, released after his death, talks about the possibility of a super human on earth. For him, superhuman is a human being who is capable of self-designing his DNA structure and the truth is, we are moving towards this formidable achievement. It is Impossible to judge the logic of the infinite with the logic of the finite. Interestingly, though Stephen hawking is an atheist, he observed about Einstein’s work-“the key element of Einstein’s scientific career lies in his ability to convert his intuitive imagination into experiments applying the laws of physics”.

Identification with the Nature, the Only Way Forward:

In the process of creating a sustainable society and sustainable living, we have consistently ignored the one fundamental aspect which could make this possible: Our identification with the nature, to become one with the nature. Forget the timetables, technologies, and transfers of money from developed nations to developing nations; living in a sustainable way is only possible if we and especially our leaders more deeply understand the very fabric of Nature.
In reality, Spirituality and Sustainability go hand in hand; one cannot proceed without the other. In fact, sustainability is an Attitude, the way of life. A spiritual person cares deeply about people, animals, plants, the oceans and the entire planet. A spiritual person knows that, we are all One. A spiritual person has kindness, compassion, humility as his or her guiding principle and naturally leads a life of sustainable living. Conversely, living in a conscious, sustainable manner promotes spiritual growth. Thus, spiritual evolution makes sustainable living, an essential way of life. Spiritual practice soon reveals the truth that I am a part of the Whole. If I fail to preserve the latter I fail to preserve myself.

The Indian Concept of Sustainability:

Concept of Sustainability is not new to India. Since time immemorial, Indians have lived respecting the nature. The essence of Indian philosophy itself is founded on the very concept of oneness- Prakruthi and Purusha, being the two facets of the same Absolute. We have always revered our planet earth as our Mother– ‘Maata bhumihi, putroham pruthivya’- Many of us, as we get up in the morning, repeat, ‘Samudra vasane devi, Parvatsya Stana mandale, Vishnu patni namastubhayahm, Padasparsham Kshmaswame’- O! Mother Earth, Pardon me as I touch you with my feet. ‘Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavantu’ – prays for the wellness of every speck of dust, chara and achara. We even revered our waters. We invited sacred waters of seven rivers while bathing- ‘Gangech, Yamunechiva, Godavari, Sarswati, Narmada Sindhu Kaveri, Jalesmin sannidhim kuru’

But then, what happened? How and where have we lost these exemplary and resplendent vales? As Sri Aurobindo puts it, every society has to pass through different stages in the evolutionary process. The Symbolic age, the typal, the conventional, the individualistic, the age of objectivism, the age of subjectivism and then followed by Spiritualised Society. We are all in the age of Objectivism. Reason, Logic and half-truth-mental perceptions dominate our being. We need to rise above from this stage of objectivism by satisfying it before entering into subsequent stages. Let us now look at the other facet.

When we talk about ‘Sarvam Khalu idam bramh’, the essence of true sustainability is encrypted in the entire universe. To me the entire universe created by the creator is sustainable. Look at the various constants of Nature! How sustainable they are since billions of years!  Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, the Poorna Yoga, is also called by some as Integral Adavatism of Sri Aurobindo. The triple transformation formula given by Sri Aurobindo, Psychisisation- to look within and make our Self as the guiding force; Spiritualisation-to find All in One and One in All; Supramentalisation-to realize the supramental truth; describes our journey from one state of consciousness to a higher state of consciousness, encrypting our journey towards the realms of higher perfection, and the interconnectedness. Sustainable living is then, just a byproduct of our spiritual journey in the Evolutionary Process. 


There is no inherent disorder or evil in the universe. Such evil and disorder comes into creation through our ignorance. Present environmental crisis is one of such things. True Sustainable Development calls for conservation and preservation of natural resources and of the environment. This requires a paradigm shift from our present ordinary self-gain mind set to a sustainable mindset. True sustainability is probably the first step towards establishing a spiritualised society, and that is our aim too.

Let us work towards it individually and collectively. The time has come to find reconciliation between all subjects and anti-subjects. As Sri Aurobindo puts it, even by negation, we arrive at the same realization.


Why the world should be watching India's fast-growing cities The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) predicts th...