BCIL has been pioneering green solutions way ahead of the times. Nearly 25 years ago it was the first of such residential enclaves, Trans Indus, to the south of Bangalore that was not just a trail-blazer but continues to stand testimony for how such deep-eco initiatives should be mainstreamed to inspire elements that go to make urban sustainability.
Here is a pictorial offering of design and execution elements features and elements from the work on zero energy developed homes [ZED] on about 2 million Sq feet of such homes.
These bamboo floors are expensive but ecologically friendly. Bamboo is grass and so very high on ‘rapid renewable’ value. The floors last long, come in fine textures. The energy consumed in their making [embodied] is low. Downside is that they come from China, and transportation cost offsets the lower embodied energy cost.
The trick to any housing colony is to keep as many of the spaces breathing, and porous. Concrete surfaces don’t help percolation and charging of the shallow aquifers.
Small water bodies or ‘mirror pools’ lower the microclimate temperature, while adding to the aesthetic. Very small low-energy pumps that are solar-powered ensure that the water is aerated pretty regularly, and avoiding risks of the pool becoming a cesspool for insects.
Barring a 3-meter road made of debris for sub-grade preparing, the entire stretch of roads in a 25-acre campus serves as an example of letting lands breathe. Turfed roofs make for natural, cool spaces with the grass being offered moisture, not water, with a sprinkler system that is low on cost and on energy.
This open air theater was made in a common area of this campus called ZedEarth in north Bangalore that was a dump for construction debris. We raised the mass of debris [to the foreground left] to make for the top deck, and flattened the part that now houses the stage. The natural stones that retain the edge, and the seating stones were from out of construction waste materials on the campus. This open air theater hosts shows with a 140-seater capacity. The acoustics are so good that we don’t need mikes.
Every home can sport a water body, if you have the luxury of an independent home. And in an enclave that hosts 140 of them, we are then talking of as many water bodies which add to the cooling of the micro region. Bangalore, where this enclave is located, used to be for centuries a plateau of lakes, until the mass reclaiming of lakes that brought the number down from near-600 lakes to a bare 80 today.
Luxury homes with a blend of earth tones, the leafy green exterior that serves as a second skin to the home and keeps it cool, the columns that are a charming combo of stone and metal for the pergolas…. Nature plays a significant role in such ecosystem design.
The cascading set of sloping roofs with options to grass them [with relative low-maintenance], the tiled roof option and another westward-looking roof that supports the solar power panels are part of the plan. The vegetation around the home and in the entire ZedEarth campus of 20 acres helps cool the microclimate while keeping the campus verdant.
These biowalls are an invention at BCIL and Zed homes that are 10 years old! We were pioneers on most such features in India. Today you see the metro’s big fat concrete columns sporting these vertical green features. A biowall is inexpensive, makes for a nice thick fence between neighbors, and yet does not seem hostile. When they say, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ they did not anticipate these warm and innovative features of this kind at ZedEarth.
Soft shades of brown, furniture to richly complement the colors, storage spaces that emerge from the walls without proclaiming, a blend of the outdoors that are inviting and yet insulating from the bustle of the outside … With a bit of maintenance, and some additional cost at the beginning, to secure floors that are in solid bamboo or to get an elegant set of backless seats with a dining table that is muted and subtle in appearance is part of the design culture that we strive for at Zed homes.
The warm natural stones that are polished and edged in black granite, the stone columns that could easily have been those monstrous concrete columns…. each of these make for a ZedEarth home that is so unique, striking in the language they speak, and the unique character they represent of a home with a conscience, and not just another faceless, synthetic ‘villa’. This blend of traditional knowledge and contemporary engineering sets apart each of these Zed homes.
This award-winning luxury villa at ZedEarth has been the toast of many interiors professionals. While it sports a rich look, every piece of furniture is ‘forest-free’ with no timber logged in any forest; the floors are of bamboo [which classifies as grass, not wood, and offers some of the finest durable finishes on floors], the walls are in a combination which is Zed’s own innovation with no cement and sand used at all; the corners are softly turned like in old bungalows; the lights are LED’s working at a fraction of energy cost of any conventional lighting system … Words cannot describe the experience of a new-age home that is future-proofed.
Interiors can be game-changing if the designer decides to work with materials that are ‘responsible’ and ‘eco-friendly’. This elegant kids’ room has the floors, the stairway, the furniture … all of it with non-forest timber. These are treated bamboo solid floors. The timber on the stairway railing, the treads and the bedsteads are treated acacia or rubber wood built to last. If you peer closely enough at the staircase, you will see the ingenuous drawers that children can use for keeping things. The window pelmets, the study desk, even the light fitting is in designer non-forest timber.
This campus in the bustling upmarket Whitefield parts is the poolside at TZed Homes. The tiered natural contour on the far side makes for an informal open-air theater; the pool is chemical-free; the rich green of the turf conceals an elaborate and compact network of boulder-filling at the sub-surface that acts effectively to avoid inundation. The entire area was scooped out from the level of the top of that tree at centre-stage, and the massive quantum of earth was used to make 550,000 blocks that were used as building blocks for the entire apartment complex of TZed Homes. Conceived in 2003, the homes were handed over about ten years ago. The campus has organically grown to be one of the most coveted apartments in India today.
Open air theaters in concrete with no respite from the dreary, synthetic feel of cement is not our cup of tea at Zed and BCIL. This seating that can host 300 people in the rich, informal ambience of the 500-residents community of TZed Homes in Whitefield, Bangalore is another example of blending ecology and human needs.
The silhouetted setting with the poolside as foreground is a charming club side amenity at the hugely acclaimed TZed Homes in Whitefield, Bangalore. The curved roof with wood surface for the roofing is a world-class design that adopts the traditional filler-block roof design for this roof surface in teak wood. In Centre of pic, look hard and you will see a large awning in a filler-block light-weight material above the library at this Club side.
Manicured lawns are not often a thing of beauty. A soft fence with plants that grow vertically and lend dense underbrush while offering visual demarcations between homes is part of such design that lends soul to a home’s exteriors. A balance of hedge, plant and tree species is hard to achieve but with some patience it is possible. This slice of another Zed campus of BCIL avoids hard landscaping, soaks heat and makes for a micro-climate cooling.
Children and play areas are central to most Zed creations. And to sensitize young minds to reuse – recycle, we bring in subtle elements of design that aim at fun and games yet use material like old tyres and other material that are recovered from old material.
Interiors of a home are as crucial. Often I have people who tell us, ‘But we have a small house, what can I do with it?’ Design is never to do with size of a room. In this case we have had the luxury of a larger bedroom. The choice of furniture, the light fittings, the floors, the bedside tables and lights…. little things can add a deal of value.
India’s Green Homes Pioneer and Mentor
Dr Chandrashekar Hariharan is an economist who turned to business in the mid-1980s. He has presided over projects on water, energy and green buildings for over 30 years. He is chairperson of Biodiversity Conservation India, known as Group ZED (for its ‘zero energy development’ homes), with nearly 5000 homes under way in the next five years, all of them with near-zero dependence on city civic infrastructure for energy, water and waste. The company is currently doing 2 million sft of signature homes that are ‘grid-free’.
He is a key player at the IGBC’s national initiative to expand India’s green footprint. He is on the Board of Governors of ATREE, one of the world’s top 20 Environment ‘think tanks’. He has served as Advisory for the Karnataka Urban Water Supply Development Board on a plan for sustainable water management for 27 towns in Karnataka. He is also on the board of 3 other ‘green companies’.
He is also Trustee at The Alt Tech Foundation (altechhub.org) which is spearheading an ambitious program for green online education with Carleton University, Canada, as partners, that aims at certifying 100,000 engineers/architects/MBAs as Eco-Professionals among a host of other program oriented to help India’s transition to a low-carbon economy.