Vastu Shastra

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Similar to Feng Shui, a design philosophy and approach known as Vastu Shastra is based on teachings of the ancient scriptures of India. Introduced into the US by the American practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Vastu Shastra aims to harmonize people, buildings and land. While individual homes have been built using these ancient principles, the largest commercial expression of this approach to creating healthy work and living environments is an office building in Rockville, Maryland, expected to open for business in 2007.

Located on 11 acres, the $72 million, 200,000-square-foot 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard building is aiming for a LEED Gold rating and an Energy Star certification, based on a projected 41% savings in energy use. The building will also be the headquarters for two privately owned real estate companies, The Tower Companies and Lerner Enterprises, who will together occupy about 70,000 square feet.155

Vastu Shastra focuses on building orientation, facing east to take advantage of the energy of the rising sun. According to Vastu Shastra philosophy, this helps to energize people as they come to work. Many Native American dwellings also opened to the east to capture the warmth and energy of the rising sun. (By contrast, most passive solar designs have the long axis of a building facing east-west, and not north-south as is the case here, to promote energy efficiency and daylighting.)

Different activities are located in the building to take best advantage of the sun during the day. This approach is easier to apply to homes, where kitchen, bath, living room and bedroom all are used at fairly specific times of the day; in a commercial building, most uses don't really change much during the daylight hours.

Vastu Shastra is also concerned with proportion, a key to successful design in nature. Proportion is a key principle in architecture, and nature often mimics the same proportions at different scales, an approach characterized by fractal geometry. As you might suspect in a healthy building, Vastu Shastra also has a focus on using natural and non-toxic materials, filling rooms with daylight and fresh air and using the sun's power for on-site energy generation. As befits a healthy building, 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard will also have an onsite fitness center, a meditation room (by the way, you can find these in a number of airports now, so why not have them in office buildings?) and a nature preserve, to bring nature closer to people and to preserve what is already there. What solar doesn't provide, wind power will; the project plans to fulfill 100% of its power needs from renewable energy sources.156

You can see that Western architecture can certainly learn a lot from traditional Eastern design methods, with their focus on managing subtle, as well as physical, energies and on harmonizing dwellings and buildings with the natural environment. Living and working in healthy, sustainable environments has long been a focus of other cultures, one we are just beginning to emulate.

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