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A whiter shade of green
At Sanjeev and Nanda Khadke's bungalow, the near-absence of fans and air-conditioners is hard to miss. The setting is neither a cloud-caressed hill, nor a wind-swept farm, but the heart of Pune's urban squeeze. That makes the breezy freshness of the interiors somewhat of a puzzle. Light fixtures are few and far between, yet the place is bathed in light. The house is no mansion, but it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by a sense of space. Within its serene walls awash in white, one discovers a sprightly green home.
For one, it has four wind towers - common in traditional Persian architecture - that catch the prevailing wind and channel it into the house. Fountains below the towers help cool the air before it blows indoors. The hot air inside rises through the bungalow's double-height atrium to power the motion of extractor fans seated atop two of the towers. A study by college researchers has revealed that the temperature inside the house is consistently 4 degrees Celsius lower than that outdoors.
Another highlight is that the walls and roof slabs are made of hollow concrete blocks that reduce the use of energy-intensive materials such as cement and steel by 25 per cent. This idiom of construction, pioneered by engineer Vishnu Joshi, rids ceilings of projecting beams, allowing more space inside without having to add to the floor height and consume that much more material. Besides, the hollow blocks provide insulation from the outside heat.
Harnessing natural light and wind is at the core of the design. The glass roof of the atrium lets in lots of light, while giving residents a view of the sky's changing moods and colours. When those colours bounce off the white walls, the interiors come alive. The bigs windows with solid wooden shutters - grills are conspicuously absent here - consist of two parts that can be opened separately as required: the upper windows help the rooms become balconies during the day, while the lower windows with wooden louvres allow ventilation at night without compromising on privacy. Bathrooms too have generous skylights and are served with solar-heated water.
The 4, 000 sq feet, six-bedroom house designed by Pune-based architect Girish Doshi embodies the simplicity that the 54-year-old family patriarch, a spiritually inclined government officer, liked the most about Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. "I believe richness comes automatically when you embrace nature in its originality, " he says.
For many years, the Khadke family - the couple and their four children - lived in a 300-sq feet, two-room tenement in a wada (traditional multistoreyed residence in Maharashtra comprising groups of rooms arranged around an open courtyard). "Life back then was all about sharing everything with the 25 other families in the wada. We were used to having people around us, " Khadke says. The family subsequently moved to a 700-sq feet apartment, but tired quickly of closed-door living. "We wanted a house that had the openness of a wada, but gave us privacy, " says Khadke.
He says that although their bungalow is nearly six times the size of their apartment, their use of electricity has remained unchanged.
Sure, the family needs outside help to keep the house clean. Also, at times, summers get too glary and winters too chilly for comfort. But they aren't complaining. "Nothing can take away from the everyday delights of living with nature, " Khadke says.
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