The Podcast here derives a conversation between Chitra and Vishwanath Srikantaiah. Both work in their interdisciplinary firm Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd. focusing on environmentally friendly architecture, water conservation and ecology of our surroundings. It was hosted by the CRDF of the airflow CEPT University Podcast series about Architecture in India. The Podcast compares the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, what effects it had on the daily lives of the people, what social challenges our future faces due to inequality among the people and how we can deal with this by having more environmentally friendly and self-sustaining buildings for a better tomorrow.
Stitch at a time Saves Nine
The two great problems faced by our world even before the pandemic hit our daily lives were inequality among the social and economic incomes of the people and the much darker cloud of climate change affecting our daily lives. As the host rightly pointed out how this even got much worse due to the pandemic and how we can tackle this problem from an architectural and planning point of view where we focus more on the ecological and environmental point of view and less on the aesthetics.
By taking the example of her own house cum studio place San Souci in Bangalore, Chitra explains how we can move towards a more ecological and sustainable approach towards building a structure.
The San Souci home is constructed from stabilized, compressed earth bricks dug from the site. The white-painted half of the two-story house offers good weather all the time, although the yellow area only a few steps away has a little higher temperature. To keep the chamber cool, the ceiling of this section is made of agricultural waste sheets. To provide ample natural light and air, they have prioritized open arches over doors, and the inside air is kept cool even on the warmest days, thanks to basement windows on the ground floor.
The house appears to be a standard structure from the outside, yet it relies heavily on natural ventilation to keep the temperature stable within. There are no air conditioning or fans, and the only one is for their dog. The pair utilizes solar energy to power their home, resulting in electricity costs that are about one-fourth of what they would be in a typical home. The biomass heater acts as a backup for cooking and water heating.
While discussing how open arches help in maintaining regular airflow, Vishwanath said, “The arch distributes the weight of the roof to the walls, cutting down the use of concrete and cement. Arches also ensure continuity of air flow, eliminating the need for more doors or walls in the house.”
Chitra adheres to a few key environmental elements that are both sustainable and cost-effective. Rainwater collecting, composting toilet use, and organic gardening are among the most prominent methods. Rainwater harvesting is accomplished by collecting and storing rainwater that falls on the roof. This saves 1 lakh litres of water every year, which can then be used to wash clothes and take a bath. Drinking and cooking using water from the clean catchment areas in the staircase room. The water in each Bengaluru household’s underground tank is utilized for a variety of additional reasons.
Best out of Waste
This toilet does not require water, and the excrement is covered with ash after each use. In a relatively short length of time, the bacteria on the toilet surface transform it into manure, which is utilized to maintain the rooftop garden. There are two of these toilets in the house.
Using organic manure, they grow practically all sorts of products on their rooftop, from green vegetables to fruits to millets and rice. They water their plants with greywater, which is the leftover water from washing and bathing. The rooftop garden, in addition to attracting insects that maintain the soil on the rooftop healthy for growth, also keeps the home cool. There is also an organic waste converter near creepers that turns kitchen trash into organic manure on a regular basis. So, a simple concept, a lot of hard effort, and the desire to make a positive difference may go a long way toward reconnecting one with nature, ensuring pollution-free surroundings and reducing the reliance on natural resources.
Expression of Future Cities
Chitra explains further that there should be more social interaction between the communities rather than having an introverted nature in the behaviour of our society. We must focus on the ecological well being of our society which drives towards sustainability rather than focusing on short term economic gains which in many cases damage our society. Chitra quotes Saskia Sassen saying “Our Cities need to be third place, neither fully urban nor fully biosphere be an urban place having biosphere capabilities. Imagine a city with Biospheric capabilities and invested with Baker’s philosophy of Frugality”, urging the future cities to be bio-engineered once
The points raised in the conversation between Chitra Vishwanath and Vishwanath Srikantaiah are to be seen as very productive and need to be taken seriously as we have been seeing how the pandemic and the rising climate change is affecting our lives. There is a growing need for us to tackle this problem effectively and find solutions that will work towards the betterment of our society. But, there needs to be a sense of human behaviour and their psychological thinking.
Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed’’. Since then, the n(gr)eed of people have kept on increasing but not equally, one part of people get their food on a single tap on button, but the other travel miles on foot for a bucket of water. The things regarding climate may concern some people where they will not use electricity for one hour in a year, but waste water showering for hours in the bathroom. While another set of people there isn’t any new year resolution, but to have at least two pieces of bread daily for their living. First, the inequality between these sets of people needs to be reduced in order to have the same amount of people think about the environment.
soundcloud.com. (n.d.). Chitra Vishwanath in Conversation with Vishwanath Srikantaiah: Architecture in the Time of Pandemic. [online] Available at: Stream episode Chitra Vishwanath in Conversation with Vishwanath Srikantaiah: Architecture in the Time of Pandemic by Book a Week podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud
Anon, (n.d.). biome. [online] Available at Biome Environmental Solutions
Graham, J., Blanchfield, C., Anderson, A., Carver, J. and Moore, J. (n.d.). Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary Columbia Books on Architecture and the City Lars Müller Publishers. [online] Available at: a-third-space-neither-fully-urban-nor-fully-of-the-biosphere.pdf