Eco-friendly Construction at Surwahi Social Kanha
Sustainable, also known as eco-friendly construction is a way to reduce our carbon footprint on our planet. It revolves around the use of renewable and efficient resources as building materials that help create a healthy environment with a minimal negative impact on the natural elements present around. The efforts are also focussed on reducing wastes thereby helping reduce costs.
Sustainable building materials usually consist of materials like timber and wood that is procured from the forests, brick made from mud, use of recyclable materials, as well as materials that are non-harmful, can be re-used and are renewable.
Alternate or sustainable construction is defined as a living concept and as mentioned by the United Nations Development Program – it is about a system that interconnects the three pillars of civilization – the society, the economy and the environment.
Sustainable and eco-friendly constructions internationally are based on six identified principles:-
- Conservation – Reduce consumption of non-renewable resources like water, energy, natural gas, oil, deforestation, overfishing, land use and exploitation of the environment.
- Reuse – Reuse locally procured building material waste.
- Recycle – Recyclable resources to be deployed while constructing.
- Protect nature – Use local ecological friendly construction raw material.
- Non-toxics – Keep the air clean and pure thereby enhancing the quality of the indoor and outdoor environment.
- Quality – Build quality and energy-efficient structures. This kind of construction deploys ecological sensitive architecture incorporating designs which emphasize sustainable structures.
More and more people are now advocating the use of alternate and sustainable construction methods. It has the potential to lower construction costs; it helps protect and conserve the nature; helps reduce the impact of a structure on the environment, and helps create a clean and strong brand image in front of customers and the public in general. It also paves way or responsible or sustainable tourism.
Surwahi Social Kanha (SSK) – setting an unprecedented benchmark in sustainable construction
SSK is an upcoming homestay on the periphery of the Kanha National Park. The primary vision of the management is to promote sustainable tourism. In lieu of the same, mud-based construction has been largely followed in phase 1 of getting the home-stay ready. Cement and concrete as construction materials lead to higher carbon emissions and deteriorate the health of the environment. Mud, on the other hand, that is a mixture of earth and water, has been used for centuries to build traditional houses, especially in a country like India. Mud has zero embodied energy, is excellent for thermal insulation, generates positive energy and is cost-effective. Mud bricks or stabilized mud block is made from moist soil exposed to high pressure and compressed to make blocks. Since these bricks or blocks are produced at the site of construction, the use of the blocks saves on transportation and fuel costs. They can tolerate heavy rains and snow. The material is bio-degradable, highly adaptable, can be easily produced, cost-efficient and most of all, eco-friendly. The energy consumption for making these bricks is 5 to 15 times less compared to the energy required to make the same amount of fired bricks – as a result, the carbon emission is also 2.4 to 7.8 times less. The carbon dioxide emitted is negligible compared to the poisonous emission during cement production.
Moreover, the focus was also to source locally available products and use them as key elements during construction. For example, black coloured fine clayey soil, called KapamMitti in the local language was collected from dried ponds and has been extensively used in Surwahi Social for plastering or mortaring purposes. From the conceptualization of the project, the owners and the architect team felt the need to involve the local tribal people as an integral part of the project. Involvement of the local people meant empowering them economically too which was one of the conceived visions of the project. From exposing them to newer and stronger methods of construction that was kind to the environment, cost-effective, energy-efficient and blended totally with the backdrop of the forest and their own dwellings to enabling them to use and learn via using smart devices and gadgets, the natives here were given the opportunity to learn new skills and grow, throughout the Phase 1 of the project.
Note of Thanks
Other than the owners, there is one entity and three key personalities who have played a significant role in ensuring that the construction of the property and the overall place is in complete sync with the goal and vision of SSK.
- Mrinmayee, an architect firm based in Bangalore that is revolutionizing the concept of low embodied energy designs in the country. A stabilized soil-block consultancy firm, they work exclusively with alternate methods of construction including stabilized mud blocks. Mrinmayee was formed to provide people with the option of cost-effective and earthy alternatives to building houses. The founder, Dr.Yogananda had his own house built using mud blocks back in the 1980s. Today, the firm works as a mud-block consultant, as a soil testing lab and also helps train artisans and contractors on mud block techniques.
- M.R. Yogananda – a civil engineer by profession, Dr Yogananda did his Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Mysore and later went on to do his doctorate in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science. A propagator of sustainable construction methodologies and techniques since the last thirty years and more, Dr.Yogananda and his team have worked extensively in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India – an earthquake-prone area – to make quake-resistant houses and buildings with his visionary and innovative techniques.
- Shiva Mohan, an architect by profession, has worked day and night to design the minimalist look of the home-stay. He has been actively involved in training the local youth and as a team have delivered the eco-friendly project. Now that Phase 1 is about to be completed, a lot of credit goes to Shiva and his team for working relentlessly in implementing the sustainable concept.
- Chainlal Gautam – SSK’s contractor who has been involved in the project since day one when the first pole fence was placed on the premises. Mr Gautam has worked uncompromisingly for the last seven months in ensuring that the project site faces no shortage of any kind.