With increasing environmental concerns, residents in metropolitan cities are not hesitant to spend a little extra to own a green and eco-friendly home today. Those who already have a lavish home are also looking for avenues to create an eco-friendly environment at home to give back to nature.
Here are a few important points to be kept in mind while making a green home:
Structure: AAC or autoclaved aerated concrete blocks should be used for the external walls and fly ash bricks for the inner walls since both of these are natural insulators of heat and are produced from industrial waste.
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Orientation: The plot’s longer sides should be North-South oriented so that the house receives diffused natural light and not glare from direct sunlight. If not, then there can be East- and West-facing windows, which should be either double-glazed or have a chajja or balcony covering the windows sufficiently.
Openings: Windows should be placed maximum on the North side so that there is maximum light and minimum glare from the sun. If that's not possible, then one can place the windows in the East and West directions by making the balcony’s projection in such a way so that it shades the window and allows diffused lighting.
Preserve rain water: Rain water should be collected from the terrace and balconies for a harvesting tank. Excess water can be sent to the ground through bores, for raising the underground water level. Waste-water from the bathrooms and kitchens should be chemically or organically treated and reused for gardening and car-wash purposes.
Waste management: Sewage should not be released directly into the municipal lines. Installing a sewage treatment plant on site does the first level of treatment. After the treatment, the water is sent to the municipal treatment plant where it is treated further. Additionally, kitchen waste can also be used to produce natural compost with a vertical composter. This reduces the overall garbage from the building and provides natural compost for the garden.
Use old building material judiciously: Reuse materials from old buildings such as old chowkhats, bricks etc. in non-critical areas.
Energy: Most of the energy consumed in India is to keep buildings cool. This can be avoided if the envelope of the building is insulated so that it gains less heat. Insulations in the walls and roof, for example, by using earthen pots in the slab, help reduce heat gain. Solar panels and solar heaters can also be used for this. Light fixtures can be changed to LEDs and CFLs for less energy consumption.
The terrace: The roof of any building gets the maximum heat. Insulations in the flooring, such as vermiculite, can be used. Reflective mosaic tile flooring helps reduce the heat gain effectively. Landscaping on the roof is also helpful.
Water bodies: You can add water bodies in some form at home to manage the building's micro-climate. Water bodies on the terrace can help in evaporative cooling.
Others: Driveway and roads can be lined with plants or trees to keep them shaded. Consider local plants, shrubs and trees for this. All electrical appliances being used should have a 5-star rating, as they conserve energy.
Apart from all these, maintaining such a house is also important. You need to keep it efficient and sustainable so that it does not lose its promising green qualities. For example, the solar panels used for generating electricity should be cleaned every week to remove any dust that could have accumulated on it. Dust reduces the efficiency of the panels to generate sufficient electricity.
The rain water harvesting collection tank should be checked to see if all the layers are correctly laid. Dirt, if any, should be removed from time to time. Sewage treatment plants also need regular checks. The septic tank should be cleaned and the necessary chemicals should be added regularly. Other minor requirements would include regular cleaning of the white tiles or mosaic on the roof.
All these small efforts contribute a lot towards creating an efficient green home and require just a little bit of attention. The country is moving towards a developed status, so a conscious effort is the least all of us can do. Just like the dynamic technological developments we see each day, environmental concerns also need to be addressed with the same level of importance.
The author is founder and principal architect of Design Consortium
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