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Homes with a ‘conscience’

FEWW or Food, Energy, Water and Waste constitute the major recurring expenditure in the balance sheet of an average house owner. These are consumables that one either imports (food, energy and water) or disposables that one exports (waste). If someone could grow/produce them locally in an urban home or dispose of the waste onsite, much of the cost of living could be brought down. And it carries an environmental bonus too.

Given our dependence on the centralised power grid, water supply system, grocery stores and garbage collection system, this does not seem to be even a remote possibility. After all, how can one unplug oneself from the power lines, water supply or garbage collecting carts?

But residents in at least 5,000 homes in Bengaluru have been successful in considerably detaching themselves from these centralised services. All these residences were built by ZED Homes, a company that provides a sustainable lifestyle with less strain on the environment and natural resources. The acronym ZED stands for Zero Energy Development.

Drop in power demand

ZED Homes constructed around 400 such residences sprawling over five lakh sq. ft in the first decade of its operations. The second decade saw such homes springing up on a million sq. ft. Into its third decade now, the company is building ‘green homes’ on nearly four million sq. ft. These structures require no BWSSB connection. They are RWH-compliant and recycle wastewater. Any deficiency is compensated by shallow borewells. Every home produces 1,200 to 1,400 units of solar power annually, thereby curtailing dependence on BESCOM by two-thirds of the requirement. Several home appliances have been redesigned to consume less power. Waste is locally composed and used as manure within the premises.

Innovative designing

In the words of Hariharan Chandrashekar, Chairman of the group, ‘ZED Homes are homes with conscience’. He says the occupants of these green homes have seen a drop of energy bills by at least 40% and a massive 60% reduction in demand for freshwater. Energy conservation has been achieved by innovative designing such as use of thermal insulation material, flooring with natural stones, designing homes along the axis of wind circulation, vegetative cover for the buildings, etc. These have ensured a 4 to 5 degree drop in indoor temperature on an average summer day.

Onsite solutions

The urban world today covers only 3% of the entire landmass of the earth. But it consumes 75% of the natural resources. In India it currently hosts 31% of the population and produces 65% of our GDP. But these cities run on water brought from distant rivers, power from remote hydroelectric stations, fuel piped and pumped from ports, and timber and sand sourced from forests and hills that erode due to wind and rains. For instance, the BWSSB charges Rs. 9 for 1,000 litres of water for its consumers. But it costs the Board Rs. 83 to pump the same quantity of water from the reservoirs of River Cauvery. Water is of course, free. What we actually pay (or do not pay) for is the cost incurred on transporting it from the source. Hariharan says much of the cost of power, water and food is actually the cost of carrying it to urban households. If homes could develop these ingredient locally through solar panels, recycling of wastewater, rainwater harvesting and by use of natural materials in construction, living could be made sustainable.

(The author can be reached at maqsiraj@gmail.com)

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 6:52:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/homes-with-a-conscience/article8536998.ece

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