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No ACs in 40 Degree Heat: A Peak Inside Gujarat’s Eco-Friendly ‘Cool House’

No ACs in 40 Degree Heat: A Peak Inside Gujarat’s Eco-Friendly ‘Cool House’

In the sweltering summer of Gujarat, ‘Cool House’, a sustainable home designed by Samira Rathod, uses no ACs and coolers to remain naturally cool.

Summers in India bring with them the tantalizing delights of aam pannas and shikanjis, which provide a refreshing refuge from the scorching heat. But even with these respites, Indian summers can be harsh and unforgiving. For the most part of April to July, many regions face extreme heat, with temperatures going up to 48 degrees Celsius. 

Amidst the dry and arid city of Bharuch in Gujarat, there exists a remarkable house that defies the norm of blasting coolers and air conditioners to beat the heat. Unlike most households, this unique abode manages to remain comfortably cool without any of these devices. 

“The client wanted a ‘cool’ house metaphorically and literally, so that is what we delivered. We used the direction of the winds, design and cooling materials to lower the heat of the house,” says Samira Rathod, the principal architect and founder of Samira Rathod Design Atelier. 

Keeping it cool and breezy 

“Whenever I start with a project, I ask the client what they specifically want in their house. For the owners of Cool House, the first thing he mentioned was that he wanted a house that helps them beat the arid heat of Bharuch,” she shares. 

The Cool House took a good five years of sketching, designing, and experimenting to complete. 

“The client already had a property that he was residing in and wanted to deconstruct it. The plot of land was located in a society and there were houses all around it. I realised that the house won’t open to any view in particular,” she says. 

Samira decided to make the house an introverted one, with all the views opening inside rather than outside. 

cool house
The Cool House is built on a area of 10,500 sq feet using various cooling techniques. Picture credit: SRDA

“The plot had three buildings around it and a road on one side. The only view that the house would have was the neighbour’s building. An introverted house was a good choice in that sense. It is basically one where the house opens up when you go inside it. From the outside, it would look like a rather closed structure,” she explains. 

“The house looks inwards and we have created courtyards with trees so it feels like you are looking outside rather than inside. In the middle of the courtyard on the first floor, we have a beautiful tree with a view like a garden,” she adds. 

The house, which is built on a 10,500 sq ft area, has a unique design structure that allows the wind to pass through the home. 

Samira explains, “I had a passive energy design in mind for the house. The air in Bharuch is cool during certain times and we wanted to use that. We created a channel running across the northeast and southwest for the wind to pass through,” she says. 

Built on a track-like design with rooms on either side of the house, there are courtyards that help the wind circulate. “Even if the wind is slightly warm, the air passes through a water body that we created on the south side and cools down. This air in turn cools the entire house down,” she says. 

Samira continues, “Besides the channel, another thing that helps to bring down the temperature is the terrace garden with another small water body. This cools the second floor down along with the running channel, the courtyard with a jali structure on one end of it,”

cool house
The house has an introverted design with courtyards to let the breeze flow throughout the house. Picture credit: SRDA

To combat the heat, the house utilises 18-inch thick external walls and a soothing lime plaster interior, effectively keeping the rooms cool and breezy. 

Additionally, to make the house more sustainable, they used reclaimed wood for the interior and also have solar panels for energy, and solar geysers. 

‘We find peace here’ 

“The house feels so quaint and peaceful. Three generations of my family reside in this house including my parents, my wife and my two daughters and we enjoy every inch of the house,” says the current owner of the house. 

“When I thought of building a new home, I had some ideas in mind. For instance, I wanted it to be as minimal as possible and I wanted to use traditional methods of cooling. My thoughts aligned with Samira very well and I knew my house was in good hands,” he adds. 

The owner says that courtyards add to the beauty of the house. “We have a few trees in the house which make the introverted design work wonderfully. The house remains so breezy and cool even in peak summers. The windows are a combination of 63 large and small ones to let the air circulate throughout the building,” he says. 

cool house
With the design, the architect was able to bring 10 degrees down inside the house. Picture credit: SRDA

“My only concern with the house was that it will heat up. The house is south facing and receives sun throughout the day, so naturally, the heat used to get trapped. However, with Samira’s excellent design the temperature of the house remains as low as 29 degrees,” he says. 

Through the collective efforts of the architect and the implemented design choices, an impressive reduction of 10 degrees in temperature was achieved, offering a significant respite from the scorching heat.

“Even when it’s 45 degrees outside, the temperature in the house remains around 30-35 degrees. In some areas, it is even lower. If you come and sit in the courtyard, you won’t need a fan as it is so breezy,” says the owner. 

“After the house was complete and ready to move in to, I was concerned that all the thermal ideas that I used are on the test now. It was peak May, and it was burning outside. But inside, the house remained cool. The breeze is there, but in most cases, the houses are not able to catch it. With ‘Cool House’ we were able to catch the breeze and hence its name,” says Samira. 

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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