Official figures state that over 4,077 Green Buildings projects, with a footprint of over 4.53 Billion sq.ft, are under construction in India. And we can see why! They save a whopping 15-30% electricity and water, have a superior air quality, and improve the health and wellbeing of the people in them. And guess what? Not only do sustainable homes save money for you in the long run (through lower electricity and doctors’ bills), but with planning they can actually be made on a tight budget. How? Read on.
Eco-friendly building materials
A sustainable home is designed to make optimum use of nature and natural materials at every stage, right from the planning, to the construction and when people are living in it. Among other things, that means replacing several commonly used building materials with eco friendly alternatives. For instance, the manufacture of cement alone contributes to 5% of the total greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. An eco-friendly alternative to that when you are re-doing your interiors is Eco Cement, which uses far less fossil fuels in making, and happens to be stronger too. Additionally, eco cement reduces the heat absorbed by the structure, which keeps your home cooler.
Another hidden eco-devil in our homes is paint. You probably already know that conventional paint contains formaldehyde, heavy metals and Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs that causes nose, throat and eye irritation, asthma, allergies, headaches, kidney, liver and lung problems, and some are suspected carcinogens. So what choice do you have? Eco paints use natural pigments, often use clays as a binding material and can either be water-based, or use a VOC-free solvent. That means they are healthier for us, our children, our pets and the environment. Over time, they have evolved to be durable, offer good coverage and are steadily becoming competitively-priced.
Local Materials are a great starting point
You probably didn’t know this, but local Indian materials that have been used in our home construction for centuries are actually largely eco-friendly. These materials and techniques are perfectly adapted to the local climate and are easily available nearby. For instance, yellow stone is used frequently in Rajasthan, which reflects the heat from the sun all day, and is a fabulous insulator, so the interiors stay at a very comfortable temperature. That is precisely why craftsmen used yellow sandstone to make Jaisalmer Fort; the interiors stay cooler because of the way it reflects heat and does not allow the sun’s heat to affect the interiors, even though it is situated in the midst of a hot, arid desert.
And have you noticed how skillfully coconut leaves are woven into a thatch roof throughout south India? With the heavy monsoon rains it faces, these roofs are waterproof, dry easily, and do not catch fungus. Since they are barely processed or treated, they do not release harmful volatile compounds into the air. Local materials also happen to be very cost effective, seeing as they are easily available and have skilled local artisans to execute it. But that’s not all; because they are locally available, they don’t demand energy and money for transportation.
Sustainable Second Homes
If you’re actually thinking of building a second home, this is the perfect time to research simple design strategies to make it eco-friendly. Solar panels on the roof could reduce your electricity bill significantly. Setting up rainwater harvesting and using filtered recycled water from the house to water the garden would prevent a lot of water wastage.
Discuss with your architect about various clever little design strategies such as sun path diagrams and passive air cooling methods to help your home stay cool with minimal dependence on electricity. Something as simple as window shade geometry can make a huge difference, wherein direct sunlight is reduced with louvred overhangs above the windows, which still allows enough natural light into the room and much less of the heat. A few strategically planted trees could also function as ‘living awnings’. Louvres or venetian blinds are a great means of glare-control and keeping the heat out while letting in a gentle, diffuse light.
As you can tell, planning and building a sustainable home is a great way to save money and energy easily. With a little planning and creativity, your home can look chic and be healthy for you and your family for years to come.