‘For Us & Our 4 Dogs’: Peek Inside a Couple’s Dream Home That Exudes Sustainability

Amritha and Harshit's home in Chennai is constructed using minimal cement and concrete, yet stands proud and tall and a proof that sustainable architecture can look royal.

In August 2021, Amritha and Harshit were all set to tie the knot. The couple also wanted to start this new chapter of their lives in a home of their own.

Amritha (24), a real estate professional, was sure that she wanted a home that would be “sustainable in every respect”. It was with this simple ask that she reached out to architect Ammaar Aziz Chowdry of ED+ Architecture — a sustainable architecture wing of Eskay Design, established in 1988.

“Sustainability has been a part of my personal life as well, not just my professional. I was taught to care for nature right from childhood. Sundays were spent cleaning the beach, as we lived a few minutes away from the sea. I always knew my dream home needed to reflect the values that I was brought up with,” she says.

Ammaar was more than happy to get started on the project that he describes to The Better India as “one of the fastest projects to complete”. It took them just four months, from September 2021 to January 2022, to complete the 4,000 sq ft house, which the couple named ‘The Gully Home’.

Situated in Chennai’s Thiruvanmiyur, it is a monument of several intertwined dreams — the manifestation of the couple’s vision of their dream home, the place that saw them take their vows, and a majestic symbol of sustainability.

With its quaint yet modern facade, the 6,300 sq ft beach-facing plot is designed in a way that one side faces the ocean, while also providing a spectacular view of the streets of Chennai.

The Gully Home is a sustainable house in Chennai built with porotherm walls
The Gully Home is a sustainable house in Chennai built with porotherm walls, Picture credits: Ammaar

The Gully Home: A sustainable dream 

Recounting the conversation he had with Amritha, Ammaar says he knew from the beginning that this project would be very different from their usual ones.

“For starters, there weren’t any reference images. Amritha and Harshit communicated their vision of their home — one that would be climate-friendly, have close to net zero emissions, and be apt for a young couple and their four dogs to start their lives.”

Interestingly, the first sketch they came up with on butter paper was exactly what the final outcome looked like. “And that isn’t the only interesting fact about the house,” he notes.

“As you enter the property, you’ll spot a tree right at the front. It was planted by Amritha’s grandfather 40 years ago and we designed the home around the tree. Today it divides the property into two halves — with the garden on one side and the parking space on the other.”

The home is designed in a way that every corner is visible from every other point
The home is designed in a way that every corner is visible from every other point, Picture credits: Ammaar

A creative design philosophy

The eclectic interiors of the home can exude finesse, but don’t be fooled, Ammar tells us. “Every nook and corner has been designed with a sustainable angle while bearing in mind the home’s proximity to the ocean,” he points out.

“For example, the walls of the home. There is minimal use of cement. The Gully Home faces the east, which means that it has a great view of the ocean but also gets the brunt of the sun. To counter this, we used porotherm blocks with half-cut bricks on either side, thus forming 350 mm thick walls. The double insulated walls help trap the heat entering the house.”

Two factors played a role with regard to the windows — privacy and ventilation.

“The windows open out to a gorgeous view of the ocean, but there is a hot breeze as well that comes in. So, we came up with a window system that has inward-opening glass shutters and outward-opening aluminium shutters with operable louvres, which can be adjusted according to the time of the day,” Ammaar adds.

Amritha and Harshit, the couple who now lives in The Gully Home
Amritha and Harshit, Picture credits: Amritha

The naturally polished kota flooring reflects the heat while the bedrooms boast terrazzo flooring — made from marble scraps and recycled glass chips. “The ceiling is from where the maximum heat enters the home. A metal framework would get corroded from the salty air as the ocean is close by. So, we added a layer of terracotta and poured concrete over it. The terracotta acts as an insulation material and keeps the home cool besides reducing the amount of concrete used.”

To provide additional cooling, a swimming pool has been constructed above the central room.

Inspired by the gullies of Chennai

The couple loves hosting people and parties, so they wanted the house to be designed in a way that one can easily have a view of the other rooms from any point in the home. “So we created an open staircase that connects all the rooms.”

For the same reason, the home is built at an elevation, he adds. “There is an elevation of 1.5 m through the garden, while the parking lot sees a dip of 1.5 m. This steep topology ensures that even the ground floor gets a view of the ocean. In fact, every floor is staggered by 1.5 m on either side,” explains Ammaar, adding that this aspect is also the inspiration for the name of the home.

The Gully Home utilises minimal cement and concrete and is built on sustainable principles
The Gully Home utilises minimal cement and concrete and is built on sustainable principles, Picture credits: Ammaar

“In the olden times, people would sit on their balconies and watch the gullies below. We wanted to recreate this concept. At the centre of the home is a triple-volume space known as the Great Room, from where the windows open out into the gullies and streets of Chennai.”

The cost of the building amounted to Rs 3,800 per sq ft, but Amritha and Harshit say The Gully Home has been a dream come true, as it stands tall against the setting sun on the horizon, a symbol of how big dreams and luxurious spaces can be built on a foundation of sustainability.

Edited by Asha Prakash

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