Sunday, 24 August 2014

Smart living, Sourabha-style "Let Nature work overtime for you"

Smart living, Sourabha-style
Let Nature work overtime for you!

It was just another empty plot in Vijayanagar in Bangalore until it was turned into a glorious Nature-fed home. Its sustainable style continues to inspire green warriors

When ‘Sourabha’ is described as an environmentally responsible house, it makes me more than a little proud!
I was working on renewable energy concepts like solar water heaters, solar lighting and wind energy at the Karnataka State Council for Science & Technology when my wife Suma and I began actively planning our dream home.
We listed our needs — light, air and water — and we hoped, rather greedily, that Nature would fulfil all of them!
We wanted small ponds inside and outside because the moisture would keep the air cool. We wanted fish, tortoises and aquatic plants in these ponds.
We knew that painting the roof white would keep the house cool. But we spent sleepless nights worrying about how NOT to get the white dirty!
We pored over studies at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on heat sources and learnt that the major heat sources were the roof and the southern and western walls. So, we decided to move the living room away from these walls and plan the bathrooms or store room in this direction. Architects Sudha and Jayashree translated our dream in to action.
Armed with all this research, we launched ‘Project Sourabha’ in 1995 on a 40x60 plot in Vijayanagar.

We were certain that rainwater harvesting was the answer to our water requirements, even for construction. Yes, the house was built using harvested rainwater. We built the storage tank and recharge system first and harvested rainwater on the open site.
We sourced exterior paint — in bright white — that wasn’t harmful to rainwater harvesting but would last for 10 years at least and keep the house cool.

We studied the wind direction and planted a neem tree on the north-eastern side and a copper pod tree on the south-western side of the house to keep dust and pollution at bay. We planted betel leaf creepers and plenty of medicinal plants in our garden. On the terrace, we planted the Plumeria tree as it is a perennial. It has lovely white flowers and bright green leaves. It is commonly called ‘temple tree’ and grows wild in Bangalore. It is hardy and doesn’t require regular watering! We kept huge earthenware on the terrace which quickly became noisy bird baths. 
Magic with rain
Rainwater was channeled to three applications:
* Rooftop rainwater harvesting
* Rooftop rainwater channeled to recharge groundwater
* Percolation in the garden to recharge groundwater.
Eighty-five per cent of the rainwater that falls on the roof was channeled to the northern side of the house and allowed flow into a tank of 4500 ltr capacity, built on the ground floor roof. A PopUp filter and a stabilization tank, specially designed, filtered the roof water before storing it. The overflow of this tank was allowed to run down through rainwater pipes on the wall to an underground sump of 25,000 ltr capacity, built under the portico at the entrance of the house.

The excess rainwater was diverted to percolate into the ground through a system of percolation tanks/ infiltration gallery (4 used plastic drums interconnected and buried underground with their base cut open) to recharge groundwater.
The remaining portion of the roof water (15%) was allowed to rundown through rainwater pipe on the wall and a PopUp filter, installed at the ground level, filtered suspended and floating material.
Relatively cleaner water, after filtration, flowed to an underground sump of 10,000 ltr capacity, built under the car park (garage). Sump 1 and Sump 2, together with total capacity of 35,000 ltr, were interconnected and the stored rainwater was used during the non-rainy days.

Not a single drop of rain was allowed to go waste.
Till date, we have no Corporation or Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) water connection.

Clean and safe water is available round the clock, all through the year. The quality of water is also periodically tested and is found to be good.
Our drinking water comes from a process I developed myself using silver foil, but more on that you can find in the link:
Our electricity consumption is 80 kWh (units) a month.
During the day we get fabulous natural light. We have skylights, which allow sunlight to pour into the house. The light-coloured walls reflect the natural light. We do not use expensive curtains. Instead, we have ‘green curtains’ - creepers and palm fronds that block the view but keep the air circulating really well. We have solar lighting and solar electricity.

Forget air-conditioners, we do not use fans in the house!
The best part of living in ‘Sourabha’? Well, my wallet is safe! I don’t have any bills to pay apart from property tax!

So...... You want to be with NATURE and its resources, you can make nature to work overtime in your house (but do not abuse)! And also save money...