In the early 90s, when S Vishwanath and his wife Chitra were looking for a house in Bengaluru, they were sure of building an eco-friendly abode. It was almost like the husband-wife duo had predicted a water crisis looming across the world, including India’s silicon city.
The prediction came in after a rainy day in 1990 when their house was flooded, and they had to call for tankers for drinking water.
For Vishwanath, a Civil Engineer and Urban and Regional Planner, and Chitra who was an architect, it was not difficult to chalk out a sustainable design.
It would use minimal natural resources, like energy, water and materials.
As a result, the house in Vidyaranyapura was built in a few months from compressed, stabilised earth blocks, excavated from the site. On entering the two-storeyed house, Vishwanath suggests that one stand under the white-painted section of the room for pleasant weather.
The temperature drastically increases after a few steps. That is the yellow section of the house. A part of the same roof is covered with sheets made from agricultural waste to prevent heating of the surface.
For natural air and light, the design focused on open arches instead of doors. Meanwhile, the basement windows at the ground level keep the indoor air cool even during the hottest days.
While it looks no different from a conventional house from the outside, it has no fans or air conditioners, thanks to the natural ventilation system. There is only one table fan, exclusively for their dog!
Explaining the importance of open arches, Vishwanath tells The Better India, “The arch distributes the weight of the roof to the walls, cutting down the use of concrete and cement. Arches also ensure continuity of air flow, eliminating the need for more doors or walls in the house.”
Solar energy powers the house, bringing the electricity bills down by 1/4th in comparison to regular homes. As a backup, there is a biomass heater for heating water and cooking.
If you are already impressed, let me tell you that these are only some of the many environment-friendly features. Here are others that are not only cost-effective but also sustainable.
1. Rain Water Harvesting
Through different forms of storing water from the rooftop, Rain Water Harvesting (RHW) system in this eco-friendly house, helps store around one lakh litres of rainwater every year. Also called ‘Lifeline water’ for drinking and cooking, it comes from the clean catchment areas through the staircase room. Around 1,000 litres of water are used for bathing and washing clothes.
Meanwhile, the water collected in the underground tank, that every household in Bengaluru has, is used for other purposes.
There is also a recharge well outside the house that is connected to the stormwater drain. It recharges an average of one million litres annually, from the ground and neighbouring areas.
“It collects rainwater from the ground and overflow from the sump tanks. The layers of sand and grain in the ground act a natural filter and preserve the depleting groundwater tables,” says Vishwanath.
RWH has helped the couple cut down on their water bills as well, “The water bills are zero for 8-10 months,” he says.
2. Composting Toilet
The eco-san toilet does not require water at all! The house has two of them.
The waste collected after every use is covered with ash, and the microbes present on the toilet surface convert it into manure in a short period, which helps maintain the rooftop garden.
From potatoes, leafy vegetables, rice, millets to fruits, you will find almost all kinds of organic produce growing on their rooftop. The duo uses grey water for their plants, “We reuse water from bathing and washing for watering the plants.”
The garden design attracts all kinds of insects. “Besides,” Vishwanath claims, “the rooftop garden helps in cooling the entire house.”
Near the creepers is an organic waste converter that converts kitchen waste into manure daily.
It is all about connecting with nature
One of the most common questions about leading a green life is about the investments of time and money. To this, Viswanath answers, “Contrary to popular belief, the capital cost of building an eco-friendly house reduces by 10 per cent. It also reduces the overall carbon footprint and water wastage.”
The 55-year-old continues, “The maintenance also comes down by 75 per cent. Of course, I have to allocate a couple of minutes every week to clean the water-saving appliances, but it is like taking care of your child.”
The couple believes that building an eco-friendly house should be an intellectual pursuit—where you learn from your failures and apply your lessons—all for a habitation that helps you as well as the environment.
To know more about any of the eco-friendly practices, visit Vishwanath’s YouTube page here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)