Where nature gets too close to home

by Monday , July 20 2015 16:30

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'Chaman', the house that Architect Biju Balan built at Malamparambil in Kozhikode is a beautiful home, which smells of nature in every little corner.

A house that was built in a limited space on a small budget, Chaman has proved that a platinum rating is not always mandatory for a house to follow stringent green building principles.

The house measures a total of 1500 sq. ft. in a 4 cent plot. The Municipality records show only 1000 sq. ft. and the rest is the inner courtyard in the house. This also happens to be the major attraction here. After leaving the space allotted as per law around the house, the remaining comes in the interior. The rectangular plot appears with an arrow shaped portion jutting a little forward. The outer wall on both sides doubles up as the walls of the house.

A house of strings and creepers

Like a scene out of a dream sequence, Chaman is entwined with lovely creepers and strings of flowers. The plants in the courtyard spreads out over to the roof along the walls of the house. This makes the interiors of the house cool and pleasant. The important thing here is that the view of the house is not obstructed with a compound wall or a gate in the front. The boundary of the house is marked by a lawn.

From the exterior, the stairs lead to a welcoming living room. Tempered glass on the walls lets in ample light into the living room. The floor of the living room has been built quite low than the ground level. Built-in seating arrangements and bamboo pillars gives this room a lovely feel.

From the living room, when you step into the interiors, a sea of green awaits you. A mango, guava and rose apple orchard and red Lotus plants grow in the Nadumuttam or the inner courtyard that separates the living area from the private area. The lotus pond, coffee table and the open puja room set in this area refreshes the mind and body.

The dining area, kitchen and the bed rooms face the courtyard and this helps in brightening and cooling the rooms. The master bedroom is located on the ground floor. There used to be a well on this plot and this has been retained in the design of the house. The well comes in between the kitchen and the master bedroom. The portion adjacent to the well has been converted into a bathroom, complete with a small swimming pool for the kids. The pool area can also be easily seen from the work area. A grill has been given on the roof above the pool to let in light.On the top floor, there are two bedrooms with attached baths. A spectacle here is the wall of tempered glass on both sides of the stairs. Having rooms around an open courtyard are sure to get people apprehensive about the security factor. Special iron grills surrounding the portion of the master bedroom and stairs solves this issue effortlessly.

In line with nature

Every little aspect of the construction of this house was in line with nature. A major highlight is that everything could be reused. Most of the construction was done using granite blocks. Sand, along with cement, helped in the binding. Each of the stones can be removed and recycled for future uses. The resin of the cashew tree was used to polish the stones and to keep away insects.

Instead of artificial paints, traditional lime paste was used. The flooring was done using wooden planks, clay floor tiles and Kota stone. The doors and windows uses wood that can be recycled.

The house faces towards east and hence during sunrise, the entire house is bathed in the golden morning rays that come in through the tempered glass walls. The courtyard too helps in giving the home a bright and airy feel. The lower section of the windows can be opened separately to let in the cool breeze. The rain water gets collected in the well, located in the courtyard.

Hassle-free maintenance is another top factor about ‘Chaman’. Even the plywood cupboards of the kitchen or bedrooms are left as it is without any toxic coating of paint or polish. The entire process of building Chaman to what it is today, has in no way affected mother earth. Minimal wastage, minimal toxicity and minimal burden on the planet, Chaman is an ideal home in every respect. For this reason, the house has also been nominated for a national level award constituted by AAA.

The remnant pieces of plumbing pipes were cut apart to form a vertical garden on the walls of the inner courtyard, which boasts of a vegetable garden with tomato, eggplant, chillies and spinach. The practice of praying by sitting on wooden boards on the floor, goes back to quite some time back, and this is reflected in the open puja room.

The pool is adjacent to the master bedroom and so privacy is taken care of. A window of the work area faces the pool and this keeps the kids in the radar of grown-ups.

Architect speaks

Was there any specific reason behind selecting such a plan that is in line with nature?

The traditional Kerala style of building used to be in harmony with nature. Every house was almost another part of nature itself. But sadly, modern houses are not suitable for the climatic conditions of our place. They don’t make good use of natural lighting, ventilation or air circulation. Chaman is an attempt to bring back the useful aspects of traditional building practices.

How have you used nature in this house?

All rooms get ample light and air. The water level in the well is maintained by channelling rain water and raising the ground water level. All materials used for the construction are 100% ecofriendly and natural.

Have Vaasthu principles been incorporated?

According to Vaasthu science, the rays of sunlight have the power of destroying bacteria and germs in the atmosphere. This is required for all the rooms and not just the kitchen. The placement of the house in the east and using glass walls in the front room was to distribute the light evenly to all rooms. All the basic rules of Vaasthu has been followed here.

Architect: Biju Balan, Laurel Designs, Calicut(architectbiju@gmail.com)

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