Essence of eco-friendly homes
We have to minimise the damage to nature and convince ourselves about alternative design approaches.
We are going through a time when most people have no time, as such it is imperative that we not only have elaborate essays but also brief pointers towards eco-friendly architecture. We know that every construction can happen only after some destruction; as such theoretically architecture cannot be sustainable. It’s equally true that the need to construct is a valid human activity.
As such, all that we can do is to minimise the damage to nature and convince ourselves about alternative design approaches. The following could be good starting points to that end:
Minimise manufactured materials: Do we know why brick overhead water tanks have given way to plastic-based tanks? These manufactured tanks need to earn profits for everyone from producer to retailer, hence get aggressively marketed, despite the resources they consume or wastage they cause. In contrast, no one markets brick tanks, instead face wrong propaganda against them, resulting in a slow death. Every manufactured item has the same story – they eliminate the natural, local materials and consume scarce resources.
Reduce embodied energy: This term refers to the sum total of energy that goes into a material right from sourcing raw material to its execution at site, or more seriously, finally being returned to nature.
By quantifying the data from all materials and construction energy spent, one can quantify the embodied energy of the building itself. The lesser the embodied energy, the more eco-friendly will the building be.
Explore nature: Building with nature is same as building with natural air, water, light and space. Maximizing them, not by artificial means using electricity but by passive means, would directly reduce resource consumption. This would minimise greenhouse gas emissions which is the major cause behind climate change.
Design effectively: Efficiency and effectiveness have no substitutes in architecture, for they pay back in daily comfort, save on electricity bills, create multi-functional spaces, assist in life cycle maintenance and many such others. Unfortunately, not everyone prioritises plan making, so a good plan should precede all other applications of eco-ideas.
Controlled costs: Cost has a complex relationship with sustainability, where the lowest cost may not be the most sustainable idea. Vitrified tiles are cheap, though they have high carbon footprint. Thatch roofs have lowest embodied energy but demand high maintenance. However, cost has much do with energy consumed and we need to take appropriate decisions for each context.
Perfect the innovations: With hundreds of ideas being introduced everyday, the construction sector is abuzz with excitement, but we do not know how many of them will perform well. Without giving the existing ideas time to err, correct, revise and evolve as a perfect solution, we discard them. Perfecting them is more important than innovating new ones.
We can list many more, however solutions are still hazy. Each one of us needs to explore options towards a better and safer future.