For Jitendra P Nayak, being conscious of the environment while designing buildings has always been a priority. The Hubli-based architect has followed sustainability in his practice for over 24 years.
“I have been passionate about reusing materials, and as an architect, I have helped restore several old heritage buildings in Hubli. We have even rescued a building that was on the verge of demolition by converting it into a modern IT cell a few years ago,” smiles the 47-year-old.
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Even when buildings were dismantled, if he was the architect for the project, he would number each brick and piece of wood. He would then reuse these materials in the new structure, thus saving tons of resources and carbon footprints.
He would also offer his services to clients through his architecture firm ‘Infrastructure One’ based out of Hubli. In 15 years, the firm has delivered 200 projects across Karnataka.
However, since the last five years, his focus has been on the construction of green buildings.
But he realised that the concept of a green building can be lost due to the lack of understanding among his clients.
“Although we have constructed quite a few buildings which reuse materials like old columns and pillars from demolition sites, not everyone has an open mind. Several clients feel that they are building a home only once in a lifetime and hence, they should not compromise by using old materials. But this understanding is not quite accurate,” he explains.
So, when it came to building his own home about 10 years back, Jitendra knew that he could do whatever he wished. Finally, it was time for him to practice what he preached!
On a 2,500 sq feet plot, he constructed a home by reusing old materials, and thereby, cut costs by 40 per cent!
Additionally, through the use of greener building materials like Ferrocement slabs, he cut down on the use of steel by about 80 per cent. The same material has saved 60 per cent on-site cement use.
He also used novel techniques for construction and ventilation around the house. And thus, the house has no AC!
The ‘green’ architect shares how he built his climate-resilient home which can be a great example for us when we want to construct our own.
A green building vision
Jitendra’s first work experience introduced him to the goodness of salvaging old buildings and see real value in waste.
After he finished his Bachelor’s in Architecture from BVB College of Engineering and Technology in Hubli, Jitendra went to Ahmedabad where he worked under KB Jain and Associates for a year. This is where he learnt about upcycling and this opened his eyes to the possibilities of reusing materials.
“They are pioneers in vernacular architecture and were restoring old buildings with a modern touch,” recalls Jitendra.
After this experience, he returned to Hubli and started freelancing.
At the same time, he was also a professor of Climatology, a subject in Architecture, at the college where he graduated from. He taught students about green architecture in terms of materials one can use and techniques one can employ to build homes that are in sync with nature.
In 2006, he completed a two-year postgraduate programme in Infrastructure Management from Visvesvaraya Technological University in Hubli. He worked as a professor at BVB until 2008 when he decided to start his Architecture firm.
Using the right materials
After living in a joint family, Jitendra decided to construct his home in 2010. He realised that this was a great opportunity for him to employ the best green practices he knew.
The plot where he had decided to construct his home was two km away from the main city. But over the years, the surroundings developed.
As a propagator of green architecture, employing sustainable and environment-friendly materials was key. He decided to use prefabricated cement slabs known as ‘Ferrocemenent’, a construction material made from wire meshes and cement mortar. This not only eases construction because of its low weight, but also helps in quick construction. Naturally, Jitendra’s home was constructed in nine months!
The pre-cast slabs have been used in different parts of the building and mostly for roofing. The green architect also mentions a few other advantages of using this material.
“Since it is already manufactured in a factory, there is minimal use of on-site curing of the structure that is required when you are building using cement. Thus, Ferrocement facilitates a drier form of construction. Else, one has to cure the walls for 21 days by splashing fresh water on the walls. This can lead to wastage of 3,000 litres of water in a day!” he informs.
Other than that, it reduced the use of steel for the foundations of the building by almost 80 per cent. Also, the use of cement and stones on-site was low, ensuring lesser pollution of the surroundings during construction.
Another sustainable practice in terms of materials used involves reusing wood. In fact, the wood for the staircases, panels, rails, grills, etc, has all been upcycled!
“When machinery is imported from outside, it is grooved into these thick alpine wood logs so that it does not get damaged in transit. These amazing wood logs are discarded once they have served their purpose. I found a scrap wood dealer in Bengaluru who was selling this for Rs 32 per kg, which is basically a throwaway price!” exclaims Jitendra.
In comparison, had he decided to buy fresh wood, it would have cost him 10 times more, in addition to the costs on the environment. This helped him bring down his expenses by 40 percent. This wood is also used in concealing wires around the house.
Additionally, Asha Naik, an interior designer and Jitendra’s wife, used the scrap wood to make their furniture.
Building a climate-resilient home
As an architect, Jitendra was acquainted with a few tricks when it came to construction techniques. An interesting aspect of the house is that it has no ACs; and climatology in architecture has a lot to do with that.
Jitendra informs that walls on the south and west directions tend to absorb more sunlight, heating up the entire building on the inside. To avoid this, he decided to shield these walls by planting a wall of bamboo shrubs. This ensures shade and prevents the structure from heating up, keeping the interiors cooler by at least two degrees.
Another aspect that stands out is the exposed bricks.
The architect-owner of the house explains why he refrained from plastering the walls.
“The use of plaster in buildings is only for aesthetics. It does not add any strength to the building in any way. In fact, it only attracts heat and causes one to worry about re-plastering the walls over time. Hence, avoiding this helped us reduce cost on material and labour,” he says.
Ensuring that there was proper ventilation inside was something Jitendra kept in mind while designing the house. For this, he used windows and openings to create what is known as the ‘Funnel Effect’ for air circulation. Here, two adjacent surfaces squeeze the air between them, which helps in increasing the speed of wind or air.
In the house, the openings are created on the northern and eastern sides to facilitate the movement of air. He created a split window in the walls of these orientations, which ensure proper ventilation.
Also, there is a small square opening on the floor that divides the two storeys of the building. This helps in vertical air movement, in addition to the horizontal breeze through the split windows.
To keep in mind the energy efficiency factor, there are large windows in the ‘sunspots’ around the house that allow in natural light throughout the day.
Other than that, there is a solar heating and power system, along with a rainwater harvesting system to store water.
If you ask Jitendra about the challenges, you get a sense that this was more of a passion project, and a labour of love that he saw into existence. After years of work in green buildings, he knew how to navigate any roadblocks.
If anything, living in a home built using green practices only reinstates his values of being mindful of the environment during construction.
“When you go into the kitchen, you decide to cook with what’s available. This is the same philosophy we need to adopt with architecture. We must make use of what is available to us and get over this notion that using newer materials will ensure a better home. The idea is to use new techniques to utilise these materials and build a home that is light on mother earth,” he says, signing off.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)