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Putting life back into the earth

14/11/2016
At a time when construction is all about the right location and prime time amenities, the few good soldiers who cling on to doing the right green thing, are spoken and written about. R S Ranjeetha Urs elaborates on what one of them Good Earth Orchard is all about.

With the land resource becoming scarce by the day, its price has skyrocketed, leading to a widespread spurt in the growth of urban sprawl. Consequently, there is great stress on the city centres contributing to high density housing. However, by initiating development along the periphery and by creating integrated townships, the problem of thick concentration in city centres can be reduced to a greater extent. Moreover, as the city grows, our senses are abused by noise, dust, concrete, air-conditioned environments, etc. The need for spaces which are green and where the air is relatively fresh and offers sensual relief, becomes an imperative with many and especially with those who are keen on setting up a home. ‘Good Earth Orchard’ is one such discovery in this direction. Good Earth is a team of like-minded professionals in varying capacities, who have been experimenting with alternatives in housing and in creating vibrant, eco-sustainable communities, according to Jeeth Iype, an architect at Good Earth.

As one turns left from the Bangalore-Mysore Road, (just after Kengeri town and the Outer Ring Road intersection), and walks a kilometre inside, one can find Good Earth Orchard on a farm landscape of coconut and sapota plantation. Orchard  is a community of 60 homes on seven acres of land. Twenty-nine houses in the project have almost been completed and will be open for occupation on July 2008.  “Communities who live on the outskirts should be conscious of using and managing their own resources. We at Orchard, manage our own water resources and sewage, through a centralised water supply system and eco-friendly sewage treatment plant. Also, as the name of the project indicates, every household will be encouraged to plant more trees and grow their own food, in their kitchen garden. Moreover, with broadband internet connection to every household, the provision of working from home is made viable. One can thereby, travel only when needed and avoid unnecessary travelling, observes Iype.

Respect to the land
“Greater stress is laid on the environment in our community housing projects. It is the nature, the landscape — that dictates the construction of our houses,” he adds.
“Architecture shares a direct relationship with one’s lifestyle in every region of the country. We talk to the clients about their lifestyle and respect their tradition, and all of these are reflected in the construction of their houses, customised as per their needs,” underlines Iype. “We have employed a lot of recycled wood, timber, Mysore Mathi, Honne, etc, as they don’t crack in the dry climate that Bangalore has and are varnished with linseed and cashew oil. Also, we have used terracotta, natural stones, ceramics and vitrified tiles in the houses. Terracotta helps in maintaining the room temperature and is good for those suffering from arthritis,” he added.
“Human beings have already wrought the greatest damage to nature by their intervention. Hence, at this juncture it is not just enough if we adorn the role of conservationists. We need to be facilitators as well and bring in more biodiversity. For example, if we intend to have a Butterfly park in our project, we cannot create it by merely purchasing a good number of butterflies from the market! Instead, we need to create a biodiversity that can attract and sustain the butterflies. Similarly, we need to create habitats that are conducive for the birds, bats and bees that are essential for carrying the process of pollination. Thus, restoration of ecology forms an indispensable aspect of creating eco-sustainable environs,” validates Iype.
The houses at Orchard are designed in groups of 13 to 18 around landscaped cluster spaces like the glade, the grove, the meadow or along shaded lanes like the boulevard.  The houses in the project are of varied sizes, as the land dictates its construction, elaborates Natasha Iype, an architect at Good Earth.


Taking care of nature
Exposed brick, stone and clay are predominantly used in the construction of houses, as it blends with the nature, is eco-sensitive and easy to maintain. The houses are designed to allow adequate light and ventilation, thereby saving energy. Moreover, the people are discouraged from using ACs. In addition, the eco-friendly sewage treatment plant treats sewage through a series of plants, employing the biological method and the water thus recycled is used for gardening, adds Natasha.
The roofs are ventilated to allow the hot air to escape, so that it keeps the house cool even in high temperature. Also, the bricks used are load bearing, as it is the walls that bear the entire weight of the house and not the pillars, unlike in other constructions. “Moreover, our project is labour-intensive and a lot of effort has gone into supporting the human resource involved in the creation of Orchard. Landscape and biodiversity forms the essence of the project,“ said Stanley George, Managing Director of Good Earth.
In this project the masons and carpenters are given ample opportunity to express their skills and ideas in their work. Instead of restricting their traditional skills, they are allowed to use them in a more relevant and utilitarian mode, with a touch of artistry. As a lot of wood is being used in this project, all efforts are directed towards planting more trees, thus compensating for the trees being cut.
In the present scenario when the land price has reached its zenith, doesn’t the philosophy of cost-effective construction seem futile?
“At Good Earth, we are a team of engineers, architects, landscape artists and other professionals who are striving towards creating eco-sustainable communities. Controlling the price mechanism of the land is beyond our reach. It is a complex phenomenon and needs to be addressed at several quarters, like at the level of the government, BDA, the real estate lobby, etc,” explains Mr Stanley.
It has to be a top-down approach, he adds, wherein the BDA releases the land that is locked-in tightly. Moreover, it (BDA) should allocate lands for group housing and ensure that houses are constructed within a span of two years, instead of the land lying as a mere property investment for decades, against the background of a greater majority of the mass, who are unable to realise their dream of owning a house. Solution to the housing problem in India can be found when changes are made at the policy level, he observed.

R S Ranjeetha Urs

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