Stagger the walls, get shade
This style is appealing, and the building elevation improves
When we discuss eco-friendly architecture, the main public discourse appears to focus on alternative materials and construction, with some attention paid to ecological factors. Equally important considerations like cultural dimensions, lifestyle fit and owner aspirations have taken the backseat. It’s possible that these parameters are more abstract, which require deeper professional applications not possible in every building project especially in smaller places. However, in most cases, simple changes in our design methods are also not attempted.
Many mail enquiries in recent times have referred to an existing building performing rather badly, where the major reason could be the design itself, creating a rectangular box with heat sink instead of a breathing home. We may introduce a few options for day light or displacement ventilation, but the larger ecological problems with the building would continue. As such, there is a need to re-look at design approach, before we go on to roof or sunshade details.
Traditional village homes should surely be among the first teachers to take lessons about ecologically comfortable house designs.
Look how compactly lined up they are, ensuring most walls being under shadow, often cast by the neighbouring building. Our cities promote completely detached buildings where walls tend to receive direct solar light, hence radiation and heat.
To ensure our walls are shaded, either we grow large trees around or work within our own walls.
Laurie Baker had experimented with folded walls, primarily to give thinner walls better strength, wherein the wall goes little inside, then outside and again inside. The final form is not a straight line, but a staggered one. The outside projected part shades the wall part moved inside!
If we extend this concept into the plan of the whole building, we can imagine an otherwise rectangular box having rooms either jutting out or pushed in. So, the box-like form of the building disappears!
Of course, setting the building out and constructing the foundation will not be along one line, which a traditionalist may oppose. However, see how each room gets windows at two external walls, essentially needed to create indoor air movement.
The building elevation improves without spending more, for the staggered form is generally more appealing. The small pockets created by varied setbacks take beautiful house plants.
This would mean the side setbacks would have varied widths compared to what the local byelaws stipulate as a standard minimum width. By having this depth of setback around or more than 6 feet, we can locate a small private home garden within.
Now the rooms around this garden could face it, have all the windows open towards this “our own little space” instead of looking at the neighbour’s direction.
Even if the neighbour builds close to our building with very little gap between the two structures, we are still ensured with light and air, for this garden works like a light well and wind catcher.