Globally, the construction of buildings contributes to about 28 per cent of annual carbon emissions. This statistic came as a surprise to Harshit Puram while he was pursuing a master’s in entrepreneurship at the National University of Singapore with his cousin, Parikshit Linga.
“Parikshit and I learned that construction is among the major contributors to climate change, and professional architecture was only contributing to worsening the situation,” Harshit tells The Better India.
So when the cousins returned home in 2021, they decided to follow sustainable business practices. “We wanted to create a positive impact in the construction industry by breaking barriers in conventional practices,” he says.
Hyderabad based Harshit (24) and Parikshit (26) firmly believe that technology and sustainability go hand in hand. “The traditional concept of sustainability cannot always relate to our living conditions, as we do not follow the same lifestyle as we did hundreds of years ago. So it is crucial to blend technology to adapt the aspects of sustainability in our lives,” he says.
Harshit adds, “We wanted to find a solution that did not use cement and concrete in building homes.”
In March 2021, the cousins formed their company Okno Modhomes to start research in the same direction and visited various factories and industrial experts to identify solutions. Today, they design IKEA-like wooden homes that are weather and earthquake-proof and have the same strength as conventional houses made from cement.
As good as concrete
“Customers preferred using cement and concrete for construction for their strength and durability. But our research also pointed out that people in the USA, Norway and other western countries lived in wooden houses. These houses were robust and could withstand harsh weather conditions, including storms and extreme cold temperatures,” he says.
Harshit says they decided to learn and borrow the same technology to suit Indian climate conditions.
“We sourced the pine wood used by residents in these western countries. We processed it with a non-chemical solution that prevents any damage. It also makes sure that the wood does not bend for 15 years. We prepared designs using these primary raw materials,” he says.
He adds, “The house is built using a panel system and the customised wooden sheets are arranged into multiple structures considering the strength and loads. Once the base is established, the rest of the structure is built on it. All the structural materials are flat packed and come with written instructions. The builder has to follow the guidelines and assemble the house using interlocking techniques.”
The house has a life cycle of about 50 years and includes recyclable materials such as metal frames and other structures. The interiors of the house are made using wood and other waste. The founders claim that for every tree used to build the house, 4 saplings are planted to restore the environmental balance.
Parikshit says the house is 80 per cent sustainable. “At present, we are using some cement to create a base for laying the foundation. Currently, we have no alternative for glass used for windows and panels, which are not entirely sustainable practices. But we are already working on finding sustainable alternatives for both,” he says, adding, “Moreover, the entire structure set up using our customised designs takes 90 days.”
Meanwhile, Parikshit notes that the company is strict with this 90 days delivery promise. “Customers often face this particular issue with the housing. And hence, we accept money on a pro-rata basis but promise to return a part of it for every day’s delay in delivering the house,” he explains.
“The delivery time may be delayed if the customer’s requests are for a bigger structure or have additions. Moreover, the structure can be dismantled and moved to another place, thus, making it mobile,” he adds.
The company has already set up four houses, including one in Chikmagalur in Karnataka and three in Hyderabad, Telangana.
Dharshak, a client who built a vacation house in Chikmagalur, says, “I came to know about the startup through mutual acquaintances and wanted to build one for myself. Chikmagalur receives heavy rains, especially during monsoons. The terrain in this region is also challenging. But despite geographical and weather challenges, Harshit and Parikshit demonstrated unique confidence and achieved success. It cost me Rs 15 lakh.”
He adds, “I rent the house to guests as a rental homestay, Bird’s Eye Estate. It accommodates four persons, and people enjoy spending time inside the property.”
Parikshit says that at present, these houses mainly function as holiday homes. “We are working to build full-fledged homes using sustainable materials. For now, we feel satisfied to have demonstrated an alternative form of building a house that is eco-friendly and helps to reduce carbon emissions,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu