A windmill on the terrace would be the indication that you have reached S Saravanan’s house. The bungalow looks like others in the neighbourhood, but a keen eye can see that unlike other houses near Kempegowda garden in Bengaluru, Saravanan’s home isn’t made with bricks and cement.
An example of how eco-friendliness begins at home, his house can inspire you to harvest renewable energy and to think beyond the construction options offered by commercial giants in the industry.
Saravanan, an engineering diploma holder, bought a plot in North Bengaluru. When his family of nine decided to build a house on that land, he decided it would be a green abode.
Speaking to The Better India, the 50-year-old says that the architecture of an ancient temple was his inspiration. “We had visited this temple in Tamil Nadu which did not have any pillars to support the two-storied construction. That idea stuck with me, and when we were building our new home in 2018, I decided to implement it,” he says.
He began with a simple google search, trying to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint that is characteristic of a conventional construction process.
One of these innovative ideas was to do away with conventional bricks manufactured by the thousands in a kiln and replace them with mud blocks. His decision was met with a lot of scepticism and critique from his soon-to-be neighbours, but the engineer was confident in what he was about to do. The house would not have any pillars to support the ceiling slabs, while the blocks would be made at the construction site, dried not in a furnace but under the sun.
Saravanan’s neighbours were genuinely concerned, but he explains why the house is perfectly safe even with his detour from the norms.
Sun-dried mud blocks and handmade floor tiles
“Our motivation was to use methods that account for a smaller carbon footprint. Since the manufacture of cement and the organisation of bricks releases a massive amount of carbon into the environment, we decided to go with mud blocks. These were also cost-efficient and cost us 15 per cent less,” says Saravanan.
In an era where cement is the world’s second largest industrial source of carbon dioxide, he did not want to be a contributor. On a closer look, Bengaluru is notorious for the surprising amount of sand in its dust on the road—23 per cent of which comes from construction. This situation is only going to get worse as a study suggests that in the next ten years or so, the particulate matter pollution in Namma Silicon Valley will increase by 74 per cent.
With such data in mind, the 50-year-old engineer chose mud blocks over bricks.
“People get worried about the fragility of the construction because they believe that the blocks are simply dried mud. But that is not so. Say 11.5 kg of mud is used to make one block; this mass is compressed into 8.5 kg in a compressor. The clay also comprises lime paste and neem oil to avoid internal damage. Once compressed, we let it dry under the sun. Since the blocks were made on site, we also cut down on transport costs,” he explains.
That mud houses invite insects and reptiles is purely a misconception, he further clarifies.
Compressed stabilised earth blocks, like those used in Saravanan’s Bengaluru house, emit 12.5 times less carbon than country-fired bricks.
Moreover, their embodied energy is over 10 per cent less than the conventional bricks. Made using local, biodegradable materials that are easy on the pocket as well as the environment, the mud blocks proved to be a boon for Saravanan.
Once the exterior of the house was confirmed to be cost and eco-effective, Saravanan stepped inside. He turned to Tamil Nadu’s Anthagudi village for this. The Pillai family of Anthagudi had introduced Tamil Nadu to a handmade tile that was inspired by ethnic designs. Saravanan wanted his house to be made entirely of these tiles—from white cement, sand, and pigments. His home would be beautiful and unique.
“The floor tiles and mud blocks gave an authentic Indian ambience to my house. But not just that, it is thermodynamic too. In summers where the temperature is above 32 degrees outside, my home is less than 30 degrees inside. Similarly, when the mercury drops to 15 outside, we stay warm at 17,” he adds.
An air bender and a water bender!
Solar energy has been a favourite of the eco-conscious, but Savaranan discovered another renewable resource. In that relatively less urbanised area of Bengaluru, the winds flow freely and at high speed.
He contacted an energy tech company in the city and asked if wind energy could be harvested to produce electricity. Surely enough, a windmill was installed high up on his terrace, along with solar panels for days when the winds would be slow.
“We generate electricity from the windmill for over 200 days of the year. On other days, we use solar energy for all small appliances. Only the washing machine, geyser, and other heavily loaded appliances use BESCOM’s supply. The results are evident from the fact that a house of nine members has brought down its electricity bill from Rs 4,000 to nearly Rs 1,700 within a few months!” Saravanan says. He proudly adds that he has installed energy-saving LED bulbs.
A biogas plant and a rainwater harvesting system are two other sustainable initiatives. This house shows how one can adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle through small initiatives and big.
The three-storied home took Rs 30 lakh to build in nearly six months. Staying true to his inspiration, Saravanan has built the first two floors without any pillar support. “The mud blocks are load-bearing agents that allow the construction of a wall over another. The lower wall takes the load of the upper wall and together, the house has a 90-year guarantee,” he says.
You too can take eco-friendly initiatives like Saravana and make your home a greener place. Not only will it help the environment but also take a load off your shoulders.
You can get in touch with Vinayaka Energy Tek for windmill installation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the supply of stabilised mud blocks, contact Sudharshan on 9448064767/ 8105916567.
Contact Dhanasamy for the Anthagudi tiles on 9442757824.
For more guidance on building an eco-friendly house, get in touch with Saravanan on email@example.com.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Images courtesy: S Saravanan