Tuesday, March 5, 2013


A truly eco-friendly, green home that’s a model for Kerala

13th November 2012 10:54 AM
‘Visala’ has every ingredient that goes into the making of a dream home. But when architect P B Sajan built the house, naming it after his mother, he wanted it to be a model for the entire state. Mocking at the conventional style that reeks of luxury, but severs all ties with Nature, this experimental house from Costford has its place booked among the rare and true eco-friendly, green houses in the state.
 Sajan, who helms the affairs at Costford, the organisation that promotes Master Architect Laurie Baker’s architectural theories, blended his personal and professional tastes well enough to come up with a model for green building in the outskirts of the city.
 So, at ‘Visala’, you see bamboo, casuarina poles and coconut tree trunks holding a house built in mud, covering 2,700 square feet, using recycled and renewable items. That too, at just Rs 750 per square feet covering the labour expenses, electrification and water connection charges.
 Perched atop a hill a few kilometres from Powdikonam, the house was Costford’s presentation at the recently-concluded Green Building Congress at Hyderabad and won much appreciation.
‘’Many buildings, just by using solar panels or planting indoor plants, claim to be green buildings. But we at Costford wanted to convey the message that a green building should use materials close to Nature, bring down carbon emission and most importantly breathe for itself,’’ says Sajan. His wife Shailaja Nair, associate professor at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, also shares his views.
 Compared to conventional construction, the use of steel, cement and Msand, among other items, has been less than half. Since the raw materials were not transported from faraway places and only included locally available items, that brought down much diesel cost too.
The main roofing materials - bamboo and casuarina poles - were treated using a mix of borax and boric acid, a formula developed by Costford. Sajan trained the labourers in treating the material and putting it up as the roofing items, for which initially they had raised much doubts.
 ‘’Many people are concerned that mud, bamboo and casuarina are a dangerous mixture that could put a house in danger regarding its strength. But at a hilly place, where winds are strong, experts say it has a strength ten times more of what is required. We also opted for a four-storeyed building since the general conception is that such green concepts which are also cost-effective only applies to small buildings,’’ says Sajan.
 The house has reused doors and windows sourced from demolished ancestral structures. For the staircase, wood of the mango tree has been used while the pillars of the car shed are treated coconut tree trunks.
The other highlights remain the rainwater harvesting facility, solar panels, bio-waste plant, plenty of open spaces (a mini courtyard reserved for creepers alone) and of course the scenic landscape outside for free.
 ‘’A research study once published in the World Watch paper had said that 35 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions are contributed by the building sector. I think it’s time we think about the next generation and leave something for them to build their dreams upon. And going green in its true sense is the only hope,’’ Sajan says.
 ‘Visala’ has been attracting many architecture students and green lovers ever since Sajan completed it six months back.
The family and the architects at Costford are hopeful that the experimental home would be replicated in many places soon.

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