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Want it all? Check out these chic homes that are green yet traditional written by Lavina Mulchandani, published in Hindustan Times. July 7, 2017

A house with walls of mud, lime, cow dung and burnt brick may sound like a farmer&rsquos hut, but it is also a beautiful new two-storey bungalow in Vasai.


&ldquoI wanted to revive the methods of architecture used by our forefathers,&rdquo says Shardul Patil, 27, owner and architect of the house.


He is part of Design Jatra, a firm that uses traditional architecture to make sustainable homes across the country.


&ldquoThe cow dung and mud will help keep the house cool and drive insects away. We&rsquove also used eight different types of wood in the construction &ndash this is a tribal method that prevents one species of tree from being depleted,&rdquo says Pratik Dhanmer, principal architect at Design Jatra.


Architects and builders are following in the footsteps of their ancestors to develop projects that are aesthetic and have less impact on the environment. &ldquoTraditional building practices provide strong fundamentals that are still relevant,&rdquo says Gurjot Bhatia, managing director-Project management group, CBRE South Asia, a real-estate consultancy.


&ldquoThe processes are simple and materials are sourced locally, thus reducing carbon footprint and costs,&rdquo he says.



Green buildings are an ancient concept. The designs prevalent in the ancient Roman and Persian civilisations were green by default, and traditional building techniques across India have tended to be so too, mainly because in the absence of electricity, it was important to capitalise on natural light and air flow.


&ldquoThe stone homes in Rajasthan and Gujarat were temperature regulators on the inside,&rdquo says architect Wasim Noori of Put Your Hands Together, a bio-architecture firm based in Bandra. &ldquoWe cannot use stone as much in the cities because high-rise buildings have to be wind-resistant and lighter in weight, and stone is too heavy and inflexible, so we try to use composites of stone and mud on the walls in the projects that are a few storeys high.&rdquo


Such walls are affordable, can bear the load of the building and keep the indoors cool,&rdquo he adds.


A two-year-old Haware Builders project in Shreevardhan is an example of this. Its 21 villas have been built not with brick but with laterite rock. &ldquoThe rock is locally available, low-cost and insulating, and it also adds old-world charm,&rdquo says managing director Ankit Haware.


Incorporating elements of traditional architecture can even help you get green building certification? &ldquoHaving a courtyard, for instance, increases ventilation and flow of natural light, thus conserving energy and helping your green rating,&rdquo says Mala Singh, chairperson and managing director of PEC Greening India, a green building consultancy. &ldquoUsing fly ash instead of bricks and installing chhajjas or overhang on the edges of roofs and jaalis for natural lighting and temperature control can help,&rdquo adds Singh.


Isprava developers, for instance, added traditional semi-covered verandahs and courtyards to their Goa projects, Villa Verde, Villa Evora and Villa Azul, built over last two years.


&ldquoThe homes also have stone walls and Mangalore tile roofs with in-built ventilation over kitchens and bathrooms,&rdquo says founder and CEO Nibhrant Shah. &ldquoIt made the homes look appealing.&rdquo


One of the buyers at Isprava&rsquos Villa Evora in Goa is Mohan Shah, 29. &ldquoMy home stays cool even in harsh summer afternoons and I get compliments from guests about the haveli feel,&rdquo he says.


Using water-based paints, fly ash instead of brick, and stone wherever possible can also reduce the cost of construction, says Pratik Dhanmer, principal architect at Design Jatra. &ldquoSuch material can be sourced locally, so you save on transport and are not affected as much by fluctuating market prices of construction material such as cement and bricks,&rdquo he adds.