What architecture lacks today , be it for an individual or a collective, are meditative spaces with a green and responsible intent. But the exception at times stands up to the rule. We will share today a radically different space. A home that demonstrates just how introspection and sensitivity towards the environment can make an inspiring statement.
The home of Bangalore-based architect Chitra Vishwanath and husband Vishwanath Srikantaiah is an endorsement of their beliefs. They have arguably led the water-harvesting movement in Karnataka and it all begins for them at home.Their home is unpainted, unplastered and has sun-baked mud block walls and terracotta tiled flooring. It harvests rain water (30,000 litres taken from the neighbours!), reuses washing machine water to grow paddy on the terrace and taps into solar energy for cooking, lighting and water heating purposes.
Yes, there is electricity but overall 11 bulbs in the house are lit through a solar energy panel. The house is orientated towards the east and has multiple skylights to receive maximum light.
The mud used in the construction was derived from the site itself and the house needs no fans or air-conditioning.
The 1600-sq ft home in Vidyaranyapura makes no concessions to the ‘use and throw’ ideology so rampant today and cost just Rs 4 lakh to build in 1995.
That a zero-maintenance house built with organic, unconventional materials has weathered well proves the point that common sense and a solid sense of aesthetics need not burn a hole in your pocket or the earth.
Vishwanath says, “We built our house in 1995 and the impulse was to maximise the bio-diversity on site, use all natural resources available and essentially put our money where our mouth was. It was also an opportunity to experiment as much as as possible with design ideas and materials.The area is around 1,600 square feet and the primary material used is earth excavated from the site itself. The colour palette is earth and orange. It took us six months to finish it.”
Adds Chitra, “The house is naturally cool and rain water harvested from the roof is used for drinking and cooking. In total around 1 lakh litres of rain water is harvested annually through different means.”
An Ecosan toilet built in 2004 on the roof reduces water demand and provides fertiliser for the rice on the rooftop.
How green the Vishwanath home is is demonstrated by the 32 different species of birds that have been photographed on the roof and in the house garden!
For the ecologically challenged, the two have a few pointers: “Change to CFL bulbs, use a solar cooker, harvest rain water, engage in household level composting and use less plastic.”
And what else can we learn from the Vishwanath home? “Since close to 50 per cent energy consumption is in households and buildings, we can get directly involved in reducing it. The most important thing is to educate children to be energy sensitive,” say the two.
For those who have misgivings about green architecture, the Vishwanath home is a template, a blueprint that shows an eco-sensitive home is a functional idea whose time has come.
(Reema Moudgil is the author of Perfect Eight, editor of unboxedwriters.com and an RJ)