Harnessing the five elements

Floors, walls, columns, beams, roofs — these five components form the superstructure of a building. Eco-friendly materials can be used in all of them.

Choice is yours: Think differently while designing a house

There are five elements and multiple techniques, in various combinations, that can lead to an eco-friendly and cost-effective building. In a lighter vein, these ‘panchatantras’ are floors, walls, columns, beams and roofs.

Of course, windows, plastering or fittings also count, but are not listed separately since they get clubbed under these main headings. In a conventional building with moderate final finish, these five components are together termed as superstructure, accounting for one-third of the total cost.

Alternative ideas may not save much cost at this stage, but the superstructure offers varied options towards eco-friendly materials and earthy constructions.

During the finishing stage, by using judicious materials and techniques, we can also achieve cost reduction. However, the green sense emerges from the totality of the building, from foundations to the final finish.

Over the years, our firm has worked with walls built with plastered cement blocks, normal brick, exposed wire cut bricks, laterite, stabilised mud blocks, aerocon light-weight blocks, exposed besser blocks, hollow clay blocks, coursed size stones and random rubble stones.
Likewise, the construction methods also offer options. Rat trap bond, composite walls i.e., walls with different materials in its two sides, curved profiles, short walls not reaching up to roof, non-load bearing walls, jaali or perforated walls and such others have enabled us to experiment with and experience from a wide range of walls.

Imagine having a choice of more than 20 types of walls, created by varied permutations and combinations of materials and construction! Yet, unfortunately, most constructions limit themselves either to bricks or cement blocks. Choice by itself is not important, if we do not know how to apply them.

The challenge

Being appropriate in a given context is the challenge, where choice should lend itself towards an informed decision. The decision cannot be based purely on cost or climate, but on a rightful prioritisation of project requirements. To that end, it is important to be able to assess the applicability of the options.

During the wall construction, there are multiple ideas for lintels, openings, shelves, lofts, chajjas, niches and such others.

Over the coming weeks, let us examine the wall options individually, understanding their potentials.

We are not limited by options, but by their applications. To that end, it is important to be able to think out of the box.

Accordingly, there are more than a dozen homes designed by us in Bangalore today, including that of U.R. Ananthamurthy, which have an open well, saving the money payable to the water board and saving the water for the city.


Posted on July 17, 2010, in fundamentals. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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