On 20, May 2018, guests entering the house with a brown brick exterior in Peenya, Bengaluru were in for a surprise.
Though the outside temperature had touched 35 degrees, the scorching heat could not penetrate N Sridhara’s newly-built home. In fact, throughout the housewarming party, no one felt the need for either ACs or even fans, thanks to the terracotta tiles and open spaces that allowed air ventilation naturally.
Among the innumerable conversations that took place that day, the invitation card and return gifts were the highlights.
The one-of-its-kind housewarming invitation card was made entirely from recycled paper that gave information about the features of the eco-friendly house. Meanwhile, close to 500 tulsi (Basil) plants were distributed among the guests.
‘Dwarkamai’, the house that has made the lives of the family easier, cleaner, greener and more sustainable, had turned one.
Sirdhara is a Senior Scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Two decades ago, he moved to Bengaluru from his hometown Malenaadu, a lush green region in Karnataka.
While growing up, I saw trees in every corner of the town I went to. Adapting to the city life was not very easy and absence of nature was one of the many reasons. I knew the importance of environment and so I opted for a green home, Sridhara tells The Better India (TBI).
The 41-year-old scientist and his wife Gayatri took nearly six months to come up with an idea of a house that suited their lifestyle without disturbing nature.
After months of research and meetings with city architects, the couple came across Biome Environmental Solutions. The design firm conceptualised the materials and designs of the house to accommodate sustainable technologies.
Home is a place where we share our happiness and make valuable memories. I believe it has to depict your life choices. My entire family is a firm believer in being in harmony with nature, he says.
For Sridhara, the intermingling of natural light and air was of utmost importance while designing the house.
We wanted plenty of air circulation and natural light. We took advantage of air flow (west to east) and chose West facing direction for the house. Our 1200 square feet house is blessed with abundant lighting, he says.
The best part of the house are the two neem trees, says Sharath Nayak who designed the house.
Sridhara was adamant about retaining the 30 feet tall trees. The building is constructed in a way that the trees can be visible from all corners of the house, he says.
Electricity needs are met with the nine solar panels installed on the roof. All electrical appliances run on solar energy, “Our metre unit is zero and we pay minimum amount for the bill. In case there is no sun, the power back up can supplement electricity requirement for 3 days.”
The waste is religiously segregated, wet garbage is converted into biogas and the manure from compost is used for gardening.
The grey water generated from bathing and washing purposes, after getting recycled, waters the plants, “We are a family of four and each person flushes 5-6 times per day. Grey water can save 30 litres of fresh water per day.”
Other water saving techniques include Rain Water Harvesting (RWH). The family collects thousands of litres of water that serves the needs of the house for 200 days.
We collect rainwater and floor water in multiple tanks for our water needs. Whenever there is an overflow in the tank, it recharges the groundwater tables. We are 65 per cent dependent on the rains, he adds.
A few steps away from Dwarkamai is another eco-friendly house ‘Arnava’ built by Ananda who is also a Senior Scientist at ISRO.
Ananda, who grew up in nature’s lap in Hosanagara town, went through the same pangs of nature-withdrawal as his colleague.
My life took a turn in 1998 when I got my dream job at ISRO. During my schooling days, I lived in Mandya district, a scenic place. Trees, birds and treks were my favourite part during those days, Ananda tells TBI.
At ISRO he continued his passion for trekking but the presence of nature was missing.
So, for his new house, he also approached Biome Environmental Solutions, “My wish was to wake up with the chirping of birds and build a house that left less carbon footprint.”
The house was built with the minimum concrete usage and authentic, affordable and sustainable Athangudi tiles that were imported from Chettinad.
“The tiles adjust according to the seasons, providing both coolness and warmth in the house.”
The house has enough open spaces to let air and light reach every corner of the house. However, it is the ‘Devasthana’ or temple that looks divine around the year.
We have built the temple that is open to the sky. The light passes through the transparent roof providing rays of sunlight, adds the 44-year-old.
The water and electricity bill has reduced significantly with installation of solar panels and RWH system. The grey water is recycled and used for watering the plants.
We have several flowering and vegetable plants. Just a few days ago we got a nutrient-rich purple brinjal. It was literally the fruit of our green efforts, he says.
Ananda and his family have also changed their consumption patterns after moving to the new house. They are giving up all plastic items gradually starting with plastic bags. Every member in the family carry a cloth bag when they step out of the house.
Like Sridhara, this family also had an eco-friendly housewarming party. The guests received seed balls of different plants as a return gift.
Expert’s Take On Eco-Friendly Houses
A majority of the people who wish for a green house fear about high maintenance and by extension, high cost of living.
When TBI directed these concerns to Ananda and Sridhara, both scientists debunked the myths.
There is no maintenance cost at all. We save money on our water and electricity bills each month. There is also no extra effort that we put in to run all sustainable technologies in the house, says Ananda.
Sharath, who has been working with the firm that has built over 700 eco-friendly houses says that it is the uncertainty among people that stops them from even making inquiries.
There are enough examples where sustainable homes are affordable and feasible. People want to do it but fail to execute it for more reasons than one. We help them fit their needs with our practical solutions, he concludes.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)