By Marina Correa
Photography: Bharath Ramamrutham; courtesy Malik Architecture
Built on a thickly forested site at Alibaug, this weekend home is an exemplary model of sustainable living right from the choice of vernacular architecture and materiality to water harvesting and site treatment. In fact, only exposed patches on the site were chosen for construction thereby minimizing intervention to the natural topography…
The concept echoes a deep understanding of vernacular construction techniques; albeit, interpreted within a contemporary vocabulary. For instance, thin steel plates sandwiched between slender wooden planks have enabled larger spans as well as the ability to pick up roof loads, explains Kamal Malik, principal architect, Malik Architecture about the composite structural technology used. This has also scaled back the usage of wood.
In order to reduce the carbon footprint, four main materials viz. stone, wood, clay tiles and fly-ash blocks are chosen; provisions for natural light and ventilation are carefully articulated and energy-saving, low-cost LEDs take care of artificial lighting.
In a similar vein, use of fly-ash cavity block walls have resulted in reduction of both, cost and materials (amount of bricks and cement used); lowered foundation costs; offset temperature fluctuations and become a readymade conduit for electrical work.
Traditional methods such as water bodies have been used for leisure as well as cooling, while deeply shaded verandas and semi-outdoor spaces, repeated throughout the design balance indoor-outdoor spaces. For instance, a straight flight of steps inspired by the stepped wells of Gujarat lead one to the subterranean Hamam, where a circular opening of light around the slab allows natural light to enter the pool below, while a water body atop the circular ring provides thermal insulation.
In furtherance of natural conservation, ring wells, stormwater drains and 20 short bores aid in water harvesting that yield a whopping 34,500 litres per day!
Besides planting local flora that ensures minimum consumption of water, site levels are maintained to avoid losing top soil and flow of water through gravity; making it a project that brings pleasure as well as fulfillment of purpose to its homeowners.