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Down To Earth

10/11/2016
On the outskirts of Bengaluru, Palmgrove by GoodEarth offers respite from the frenetic pace of life in the city. Melding gracefully into a charming vista of swaying palms, it attempts to rebuild our fractured ties with nature.

To foster an interactive relationship  with nature, the landscaping scheme eschews a highly manicured look .

Over the last few years, sustainability has steadily moved from the ambit of alternative practitioners to the mainstream. Long before all this attention, GoodEarth has addressed sustainability concerns with a vision that not only aims to craft ecologically responsible buildings but ultimately aspires ‘to create a society which is environmentally sensitive, economically sensible and socially secure’.

Located on the outskirts of the city off the Bengaluru- Mysore Road, the firm’s housing projects exude an appeal far more alluring than the extensive list of low or no-carbon features it offers. Their holistic designs take into account factors that resonate  deeply with  the  human   spirit,  crafting  beautiful environments  that foster communion  with nature and encourage healthy interaction between the inhabitants of the community. PalmGrove, one of the organisation’s  latest developments, was built on a site that was originally a coconut and areca nut plantation. A community of 46 homes, the project is set among swaying palms within eight acres of gently terraced terrain.

The houses at PalmGrove are designed along a slope in four clusters around landscaped courts. Delineated by lanes flanked by palm trees, the clusters are distinguished  by landscaped  features which include undulating grass mounds,  streams and ponds amidst the subtle scent of herbs, flowers and exotic plants. Spaces are designed with children and elders in mind so that their joy in the biodiversity of nature is not compromised.46 homes, the project is set among swaying palms within eight acres of gently terraced terrain.

Retaining much  of the original topography, the layout was devised to reduce the paved areas and incorporate many of the existing trees in the landscaping. Houses take on the unique terraced character of the landscape and are built on multi-levels. Spaces within the homes are efficiently planned and the area wasted in circulation is saved by reducing the number  of walls. light  pools are created through a play of single and double height spaces. Maintaining a low density for the houses, the carbon footprint of PalmGrove is greatly reduced by utilising less than the maximum permissible area allowed to build. As a result, the use of material resources is reduced, ensuring a lesser burden on the land.

A combination of energy-efficient and locally-available materials used for construction of these homes helped in reducing  the transportation and manufacturing cost. Burnt brick, which has excellent load-bearing properties  and minimises the use of steel and cement, has been used extensively in this  project. It’s a material that breathes and helps keep homes cool. Stone,  another locally­ available material with excellent insulating properties and  aesthetic beauty is  featured extensively in the building facades. Today, building with  stone is a craft that is slowly disappearing with the increasing dependence on factory-made synthetic materials and GoodEarth aims to revive its use.

Homes are designed along a slope in four clusters around landscaped courts with different themes. 

Wood, a warm, intimate material has  replaced  high  energy  consuming steel and aluminum  for doors and windows and is used even for floors in some spaces. Rather than using precious forest trees, recycled wood-from  houses that were demolished, from packaging cases, and from plantation timber-was used wherever possible. Wood and clay have been primarily used for the floors-materials that offer better insulation and comfort than synthetic floors and also age beautifully. The roof is insulated using a double layer of concrete and cellulose bitumen sheet thus creating a lighter form and less use of concrete. The paint used is distemper,  which is lead-free and low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

All the homes are designed to offer adequate natural light and  cross-ventilation. Large windows, wide verandahs, air channels to release hot air, and thermally conducive materials reduce the necessity for artificial light and ventilation. Rainwater is harvested and the ground water recharged through well spread out percolation channels across the property.

Rina Sen, a resident, recalls the participatory nature by which the architects designed her home, remarking  that it always felt like interacting  with family rather than a corporate developer–one of the many  reasons  PalmGrove manages  to nurture  an intimate sense of belonging within the community.

Geeth Gopinath, Photos by Mallikarjun Katakol for Design Today Magazine

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