Off with the terrace room
Designing every area of the house correctly is a challenge.
How does a good sense towards design evolve? What method facilitates the selection of most appropriate choice? This question should be baffling all of us, the designers, owners and the builders. The fact that we can change the design on the drawing sheet and cannot once it is built instill greater responsibility in us to decide what kind of buildings should get built on Earth. Both the question and the critical responsibility together should make us think over this overarching issue.
There could be varied approaches to achieve a saner end, but avoiding blind repetition of what our elders did could be the starting point. It does not mean we do whatever comes in a mindless way, but be in a position to look at the design challenge deeply, understand the context, analyse the options and then evolve an idea most suited. The issue of internal steps of a house reaching up to the terrace and having a staircase room there could be a case in point.
If we live in a tall building or own a house high up in the city, it is pretty sure that we take our guests up for a “view from the terrace”. But if there are no guests, let us count how often we walk up to the terrace.
For the majority, there is no regular use of the terrace with going there being an occasional activity, may be for checking the overhead tank or clean the rain water pipes. Yet we need to spend much money on the room; finish the walls and floors; provide a door and electrical connections. The invisible terrace door could also mean insecurity, where a thief can work on forcing open the door with no resident being aware of it. What if we could reach the terrace by other means?
External steel staircase
Let us imagine having a properly fabricated external steel staircase from any balcony or common family space of the last floor. It may cost one-fifth of the internal stairs and room; avoids the need for a security door; saves more space for internal activities; leaves the terrace open for gardening, partying or water harvesting and may enable having a skylight over the stairs, lighting up the whole house.
Of course, there are flip sides – need an umbrella to use the stairs when it rains; need alterations to add another floor with internal access etc., which upon little thinking do not appear to be major hurdles at all.
What about those who dry clothes on terrace or use it for some other regular purposes? The external stairs could be walked up by anyone at anytime, hence makes no difference.
Alternatively, following the analysis of the above kind, one may stay put with the conventional internal stairs and the room on the terrace!
Green Sense is not only about building materials and construction technology, but equally about common sense design.