Property Plus

A ‘green’ transformation

When city-based couple Roshini Gopinathan and Radhakrishnan decided to renovate their home in Besant Nagar, they wanted to ensure the structure was eco-friendly and sustainable. They wanted their home to have adequate natural light, ventilation, and to reflect their love for South Indian heritage. It was then that they approached Green Evolution, an architecture firm specialising in environmentally sustainable design and construction. The year-long project was completed in 2015 and cost them Rs.2, 250 per sq.ft. (of total built-up area).

Prior to the renovation, the firm conducted an evaluation of their home, and it was found that the spaces were very enclosed and, as a result, natural light and ventilation in the central dining and living rooms was not adequate.

The first step was to open out the kitchen, eliminating the wall between the dining and the south-facing kitchen. This not only provided abundant natural light into the dining area but also allowed the southern breeze to cool the central spaces. A new balcony was added to the master bedroom as well.

All existing doors, windows, and frames were re-used, avoiding the use of new wood. This not only helped them cut costs but also ensured that traditional, good quality wood was retained. The central wooden panels of window shutters were replaced with glass. A folding partition using wood salvaged from the existing house, with the addition of frosted glass, formed one wall of the second bedroom in lieu of the existing brick wall. This allowed for the room to be opened out into the dining/living areas as needed. All kitchen cabinets were also fabricated from the salvaged wood.

The mosaic flooring was replaced by Athangudi tiles and Cudapah stone, giving a traditional touch to the home. Use of hand-made Athangudi tiles not only encourages local artisans but also offers a more cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to contemporary tile flooring. Roshini’s selection of the traditional tile design for the flooring added a quaint charm to the home. Traditional Mangalore tiles were used for the roof of the car shed as well as for new sunshades for windows. Precast jaalis added interesting patterns to the building façade. The exterior walls of the newly constructed portion were built using hollow terracotta blocks which are twice as insulating as regular fired bricks.

Heat-controlling glass was used for all windows which reduces heat ingress by 20 per cent. The roof slab was protected with XPS insulation which cuts down 75 per cent of the heat falling on the roof. These interventions protect the interior spaces from the weather conditions outside and keep them cool.

A 1.5 KWp grid-connected solar photovoltaic system was installed that offsets energy consumed in the house. This system allows for electricity to be fed to the city’s power grid even when electricity is not consumed inside the house. LED lights and energy-efficient fans also contribute towards significant energy savings.

All water closets are dual flush, and they reduce flush water consumption by 60-75 per cent. Grey water from basins, showers, and washing machine is directed into planters with Indian Canna - a plant that purifies waste water through its root zone. This water is then re-used for landscape watering. Roshini’s interest in gardening and active involvement in setting up the waste water treatment system ensured its effective functioning.

The home did not have an access to the terrace, so a new stairwell was added to ensure the terrace space could be effectively used. Built-in benches and trellis for creepers set up by the owners on the terrace provide a charming space for outdoor dinners with a lovely view of the sea.

The old dwelling has received a new lease of life as an aesthetic, comfortable and eco-friendly home. The success of the project was in large part due to the owners’ interest in sustainability as well as their personal involvement in design and implementation decisions.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 5:16:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/A-%E2%80%98green%E2%80%99-transformation/article14560396.ece

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