Dream home at low cost
An eco-friendly building uses less resources, local materials, and low power. So, it becomes a cost-conscious project.
For a fresher, discussions on sustainable buildings can be a total confusion. We dine at exclusive restaurants housed in celebrated green-rated hotels; we stay at famed eco-friendly resorts paying many thousands per night and we pay many crores to buy luxury apartments marketed for their sustainable designs. None of these places exhibit any kind of low cost ideas and are so costly; only the rich can afford them. Possibly, there is no connection between cost and ecological concerns! Those who connect them could be wrong.
The reality is otherwise. An eco-friendly project would by default use less resources, local materials, earthy constructions, natural ambiences and low power. So, in principle, an eco-sensitive project also becomes a cost-conscious project.
Unfortunately, people with good incomes do not wish to quit their comforts and luxuries, yet our ecological crisis demands that we be more sensitive to nature. As such, we need ways of retaining our carbon footprint, even while claiming a lifestyle that demonstrates our love for nature and sustainability. This contradiction apart, for the true lovers of nature and earth resources, there are many ways to achieve a balance between cost and ecological concerns.
The small farm house built by Dinesh Shastry near Bengaluru demonstrates many paths to lowering the costs. Being an owner-designed and built house, charges of architects, engineers, contractors and builders were saved. Of course, the construction team had to learn about alternative eco ideas, to avoid mistakes and cost overruns.
Minimising high cost materials such as steel, cement, aluminium and glass became mandatory. This reduced transportation costs, besides time for coordinating their procurement. Hence, the structure got the foundation packed with local boulders, walls had farm soil rammed between simple shuttering and roof was built as a curved vault with local bricks. Construction techniques matter as much as materials, both of which have to be context specific.
The house plan with simple two-staggered rectangles, creates verandahs and backyards with maximum shared walls which are parallel, hence simplifies roof spans. All water and sanitary connections are along one line to save on chambers. Typical woodworks for doors and windows can cost up to three times the wall costs, so they are replaced by perforated clay jaalis, but care has to be taken to ensure adequate air and light. Avoiding plastering and painting saves much money both during construction and over its life time. Much can be saved by disciplined schedules, efficient sequencing of tasks, labour management and controlling wastage.
All these ideas are already known to experts and proven across time, besides which many more ideas are being explored. Every idea cannot be implemented everywhere. So, let us keep our eyes open, learn from each project and try to reduce cost for the next project.