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A chimney with bricks, consuming no power, making no sound and requiring no cleaning, can still be built, says architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

What has a house kitchen got to do with sustainability? For most of us the idea of going green with kitchens may appear irrelevant, or even suggest envying the neighbour’s kitchen. After all, the kitchen is a place to cook and clean, a functional space that serves the household. It cannot do much towards an eco-friendly home.

Before we fully subscribe to the above thought, let us pause for a while and think. Which part of the house is most used during a typical day? Which room demands a large part of our electricity consumption? Which space costs the most during interior designing?

Where do we end up with maximum gadgets, buying or upgrading them? Which area of the house requires good space planning and design efficiency? Surprisingly, all of us would suggest a single word answer for all these questions – kitchen.

For most of us grown in traditional houses, with kitchens normally thrown to the back with less light and air, often filled with smoke in case of firewood cooking, kitchens have been among the neglected part of the house. They were never the focus of the house.

Nowadays, thanks to both technological and social changes in Indian urban society, most kitchens have moved from the back to the front, both physically and metaphorically. On many matters ranging from comfort to consumption, they demand our attention more than ever. As such, the idea of kitchen as a central issue in an eco-friendly house design is a new thought, though it may sound strange.

The need for fresh air and light in a healthy kitchen has already been much talked about, but most architects and owners continue to struggle to achieve it. While a range of modern kitchen chimneys — the ducted exhaust systems to pump out the hot air above the stove — are available today, they need electricity, make a fan sound, require periodic filter cleaning and cost much money. Even when installed, most families do not put it on all the time, keeping it off during simple tasks like making tea, when there is no exhaust at all.

In many traditional homes, there used to be a chimney built with bricks, a narrow shaft going from up above the stove all the way to the roof. It is still possible to have them, fabricated in metal today, fixed between kitchen space and final roof such that it sucks the heated-up air and kitchen smells.

For the general looks, they can be made to look like an electric chimney, but would actually be a natural one, consuming no power, making no sound and requiring no cleaning.

Our modern living requires different sets of solutions, but they all need not come from modernity itself. Traditional chimneys can be a simpler and natural solution to modern problems!

Sathya Prakash Varanashi



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