High walls not only cut off the view but also obstruct light and air, says Sathya Prakash Varanashi
As a society, are we building walls between us? Sociologists may respond positively analyzing how individuality is increasing, gadgets are enabling isolation or neighbors do not know each other. Metaphors apart, the physical walls are also increasing their heights between houses, which not only cut off the view but also light and air movement. The sides of a tall wall are very negative in connotation, not letting sunlight to nourish the plants and making people uncomfortable next to a blank wall. If we can not wish them away, the least we can do today is to keep these walls low, besides seeking alternate modes of doing them.
If we aspire for a green edge with flowering creepers that require least of maintenance, material consumption and affordable cost, then chain link fence can be a natural choice. We commonly see them demarcating the city corporation gardens, a stretched open knitted wire mesh fixed to steel supports at regular distances. Covered with creepers, they can compliment the looks of any buildings, besides bringing fresh breeze into the house. Garden picket fences do equally good job, but may cost more if done in wood. There have been attempts to do ferro-cement picket fences, which may tend to crack over the years if not cast properly.
Black cudapah slabs are also an excellent option for compounds - space saving with only 2” thickness, easy to fix, recyclable and zero maintenance cost. The unpolished black surface facing the road provides an attractive texture. Granite slab walls with rough cut local stone also make lot of economical and ecological sense. They can be fixed vertically, burying a part into the ground or can slide down horizontally between two edge supports with grooves to slide along. Considering the fact that a plastered surface along the road edge gets dirty very fat, the stone surface stays fresh for years.
With sense of insecurity increasing, it is common to see cage like steel grills surrounding the city houses. People with ulterior motifs can jump the wall or cut this grill too, so it is wiser to think how much of such grills we need, which often create cage like look. If fabricated extensively around, it can consume more steel than all the window grills put together! So, let us keep such external grills to the minimum needed or work with alternate security ideas like burglar alarms and such others to save on material consumption.
Individually it may be difficult now to stop doing compound walls, but neighborhoods, gated communities, new layouts and campuses can start by making studied choices. After all, compound walls are left fully exposed to sun and rain demanding money, time and attention to keep them looking good, hence alternates like fencing or stone slabs make green sense.
(The writer is an architect, working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)