Sep 12, 2012

Design Process - 1

We are going to be marking the foundation lines for a new project this week and am so excited. Realized that I am more an architect than an interior designer. Interior design projects dont send my adrenaline pumping as much as architecture projects.

My freind asha from ashaan designs has been telling me to log the process of design and construction rather than the result for quite a while now. So am going to heed those words of wisdom and document this particular project, a home for a lovely family in bangalore.

Promise not to omit even the stuff that has gone wrong or the work relationship tensions at site. The whole deal in all its glory and rawness I promise will be broadcast :).

Residential architecture I am discovering is also a lot about managing emotions and relationships with clients as it's their home and it gets very personal for the architect as well as the client. Clashes are inevitable and clients come with myriad temperaments and demands. Every time I feel I have learnt to master these relationships, the rug is pulled from below my feet and I am left scrambling fighting to keep those emotions in check.

In non residential projects almost always the clients are looking at the architect to fulfill functional requirements and make the space look exciting and interesting. Architects are given freedom to come out with imaginative designs and discussions are lively.

On the other hand the home design is so close to a client's heart as its an expression of his/her personality and wealth and it's also very close to the architect's heart as homes can be uniquely designed and so here is where the fun begins.

I used to be of the know-it-all architect frame of mind with the hoity-toity attitude that clients are by default not design savvy. But as the years have passed I have grown wiser and patient :) and realize after all it's the client's hard earned money and they do deserve to have a home they enjoy aesthetically even if it's not considered exciting by architecture standards.

So if it's a project involving traditional architectural elements like heavy motifs and carved pillars/doors, I beg myself out of the project as I would not do justice to the project as I dont enjoy that kind of architecture and there are other architects out there who thrive on such designs. I love rustic, retro and contemporary designs. I would deliver a hardcore modernist and minimalist project without being strained one bit, but now I find those kind of spaces boring and devoid of character. There has to be a couple of elements to offset those grey/black/white spaces with the personality of the residents.

But on the other hand Deconstruction totally excites me as there is so much going on and its difficult for the eye to comprehend it all in a minute. Franklin D Israels work never ceases to tire me. I'm always looking at interpreting his design lines in all my work.

Some pictures of a home near completion below:

Aug 8, 2012

Back after a year

Am back blogging again on my favorite topic "Sustainable Architecture". Last year was spent building our home and supporting my mother in her new cupcake shop adventure.

Everything has stabilized finally and we are slowing coming back to a normal pace, not there yet though.

Our home is still undergoing the finishing touches. Finished about 3 other homes also for my clients, the last 1 year, though sadly only one of them could be called truly sustainable.

Not all the elements of our home are from sustainable materials either, though the design of the spaces have targeted at minimizing any climatic harshness and thus minimizing energy bills.

Will post details and some images next post, coming week.

Nov 25, 2011

Simple Steps Toward Sustainable Lighting

Please welcome Fred Bass - Managing Director of Neonlite International Limited, the brand owner of MEGAMAN®

These days, environmentally conscious design techniques are the foundation of any good new build scheme. However, even in retrofits, there is the opportunity to increase the sustainable credentials of the project by focusing attention on the lighting within the structure. Simple changes in lighting can have significant long-term environmental and cost savings and far outweigh their short-term expense. Here are some snapshots from around the world of sustainable lighting in action:

Dutch Green Home - MEGAMAN® has recently been working with Dutch architects on an eco-home in Soestduinen, Netherlands. The Green Home is kitted out with the latest in energy efficient technology and has MEGAMAN® lighting products throughout from low-heat emitting 15 watt LED reflectors in the wine cellar, 7 watt LED reflectors to distribute an ambient light over pieces of art, to the ultra slim GX53 CFL series that have been used for mood lighting throughout the office and bedroom areas. The efficient and eco-friendly MEGAMAN® lighting scheme is estimated to save the home owner £130,000 over the lamp’s lifetime – the equivalent of ten years. Compared to a traditional lighting scheme, the eco-friendly alternative shall save an estimated quarter of a million kilograms of CO2.

Luxury Hotel Refurbishment - The Altira Macau, formerly Crown Macau, underwent a major refurbishment in 2009 and since this time, the energy efficient measures that were introduced to the hotel’s lighting have been monitored – the results speak for themselves. Thanks to innovative lamp technology from MEGAMAN®, Altira Macau’s lighting now consumes 81% less energy than previously, produces 81% less CO2 and, to date, not one lamp has needed replacing.

Since the start of the refurbishment, over two thousand MEGAMAN® lamps have been installed in different areas of the hotel and, with a lamp life of over 10,000 hours for its dimmable energy saving lamps and 25,000 hours for the company’s LED lamps the frequency of re-lamping throughout the hotel has been greatly reduced.

Why LEDs? LEDs typically last 30,000 to 50,000 hours, compared to roughly 1,000 hours for incandescent light bulbs, and use 80% less power than halogen equivalents. Although the initial investment is higher, LEDs are more cost efficient over their life-time. They will last many more years in normal use and use 80% less power than incandescents thus saving a significant amount on electricity bills, many times more than the difference in purchase price. With LED technology constantly improving, the age of LEDs being viewed as ‘specialist’ has long passed. As with The Green Home in the Netherlands, MEGAMAN® LEDs and CFLs offer significant environmental benefits, and being flexible and multiuse, they offer significant saving on the ever-increasing electricity bills of today. For more information, visit our website at

About MEGAMAN® MEGAMAN® is a respected and successful global brand that leads in designing, manufacturing and distributing innovative, eco-friendly, energy saving lamps. Offering over 400 different products to 90+ countries across the globe, MEGAMAN® has been built on the ability of its lamps to deliver substantial benefits to a wide range of customers while improving quality of life and conserving the environment.

Fred Bass, Managing Director of Neonlite International Limited

would be worthwhile to also visit

Nov 16, 2011

Affordable Housing for the Green-Minded

Guest Post From Brittany.

Being green is no longer a privilege of the wealthy. Stony Brook Apartments in the Hybla Valley of southeastern Fairfax County, Virginia recently saw a $33 million dollar renovation, at no cost to its current residents. This investment was made in the name of saving the environment, but doing so in an affordable way. It was funded by a collaboration between the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) (which developed another 25 affordable housing developments in the region), the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VDHA) and Capital One Bank. This project shows that it is possible for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, to make a change for the greener, cleaner, and better future of our planet.

Consisting of 204 individual apartments in five mid-rise brick apartment buildings, Stony Brook makes a big impact. One of the ways that the apartments' energy requirements are met is with the installation of newer, more energy efficient appliances. For example, energy star refrigerators use 75% less energy than older models. New dish washers and clothes washers not only decrease water use, but clean the clothes more efficiently at the same time. Heating water is one of the top energy consuming activities in a household, so designers installed a solar hot water heater, further cutting consumption at least fifteen percent. Even small details were important, such as the use of energy efficient light bulbs. In addition, bathrooms were equipped with low flow toilets save precious water.

The apartment complex also contains a new community center, which was built with the same parameters as the apartments, as well as a green roof. It is dedicated to improving the lives of its residents by offering classes in English as a second language, computer skills, job search training, education right up through PhDs, and financial literacy, as well as after school programs for children. That's the idea behind places like Stony Brook, after all—to help people get back on their feet, without hurting the environment.

The changes have all been well received by the residents, many of whom are foreign immigrants, mostly from West Africa. Many of these immigrants are especially interested in the conservative efforts because of their home countries, where frequently no such measures are taken to protect the environment. The community also engages its teen residents through a group called Teens Going Green. The teenagers travel around their community, talking to their fellow residents about recycling and other ways to help the environment. By helping to educate people, they are making a big impact, and hopefully learning habits that will stay with them throughout their lives.

There are major benefits to being ecologically green, and the developers of this community wish to showcase the results so that they can be recreated throughout the nation, and throughout the world. Unfortunately, they foresee a decline in investments such as this one, as the national government makes cuts for federal housing budgets. This means that there will be much less money to build affordable green housing developments like this one. It is truly unfortunate because more often than not, improvements to energy efficiency also mean financial and economic savings for residents. After all, using less energy means that energy bills will be lower. All told, the renovations save both the environment, and residents' pocketbooks, making it ecologically and socially friendly.

With commodities such as clean, fresh water becoming more and more rare, it is vitally important to make all attempts to conserve our precious natural resources. Using less energy will lower the burden on power plants, in turn lowering our output of pollution and greenhouse gasses. Even making the smallest changes, such as changing out normal lightbulbs for energy efficient ones, can make a huge difference. While there is an initial investment to making such changes, it is only for the better interest of our own planet and future generations. Housing developers would do well to follow the example of Stony Brook Apartments.

About the Author:
Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

Jun 30, 2011

Before & After: A Compact Green Kitchen Renovation

Image Courtesy Green Nest on Apartment Theraphy

A lovely kitchen renovation that can inspire anyone on a budget to go "Green" from Apartment Theraphy.

Jun 7, 2011

Green Construction for Healthy living

I am priveleged to introduce "Taylor Dardan", A dedicated green advocate who believes that green living and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand. He is a recent college graduate and an aspiring writer. Taylor has kindly offered to post an article on the topic. Read on below:

"Green architecture and home designs produce buildings that consume lower energy, water, and limit the use of traditional construction products. Using “green”, eco-friendly reusable materials, these types of designs use long lasting and non-toxic materials as well as promote the recycled use of materials. The “green” building concepts incorporate construction and maintenance with designs that decrease water and energy consumption as well as general cost.

A general focus of green architecture is for the project to work in unison with the surrounding environment, using natural materials that are easily recycled and grown, to maximize the efficiency of the building. This aims to reduce wastes of energy and materials, as well as the dependencies on traditional fuels and energies. The lesser dependency on these traditional resources also helps to reduce the risk of potentially fatal health issues like leukemia, asthma, asbestos exposure, and many forms of cancer. All of these afflictions have been associated with fuel emissions, and can drastically been reduced using newer alternative technologies. Environmental influences are premeditated as well. Buildings themselves are often oriented in a certain direction in order to take advantage of natural resources like sun orientation and wind. When possible, buildings are even built using surrounding materials from the site itself. For instance if a new structure is being constructed in a wooded area, wood used to from the trees that were cut down to make room for the site would be used as part of the building process.

To reduce environmental impacts of green structures, there are several options. Wastewater from dishwashers, washing machines, and other sources can be used for toilet and lawn water. Rainwater collectors are also used for a similar purpose, collecting rain water for many general water uses. A healthy environment often refers to a healthy life. As a vital natural supplement of wellness, clean water is vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and having clean air ensures the reduction of pollutant, chemical fumes and vapors, mold, fungus, bacteria, toxic gases, viruses, smoke, and other outdoor pollutions. With the wealth of benefits that come along with having a clean environment, it’s easy to see why green building is such a positive alternative. Consistent with rising energy costs, energy efficient design and engineering makes sense on multiple levels. Coal and oil reserves are depleting fast, and demand has continued to grow. The costs of fuels have increased operation costs worldwide and have led to fragile instability in the economy. As a solution to alleviate this problem, as well as improve general health on personal and environmental levels, “green” technologies, design, and building should be an essential option throughout the future.

May 23, 2011

Reuse for convenient indoor watering

Re-nest on Apartment theraphy has come out with a sweet nifty article on some practical measures to reuse to water indoor plants. The reader's comments on the post are also a worthwhile read as there are some good ideas in there too. Over to Re-nest

Mar 14, 2011

Solar or Nuclear

What has happened to Japan is heart rending especially considering how focused and diligent, the country is on flawless technology, production and construction.

The sea just came in and swallowed many years of hardwork and diligence.

What is most distressing of all is the nightmare they continue to face from those many nuclear plants that were their source for electricity. Cant help wondering how justifiable is it for modern soceities to choose such volatile and hazardous sources of fuel.

Really, what are we banking on ....that there never will be any natural disasters or that if there are- we can control, tame, build to resist them. Haven't all natural disasters proven otherwise!!..Yet we continue to ignore and forget these incidents and push in and stretch and rationalize everything in terms of the benefits, volumes, money, common good etc etc.

Can't help thinking that if 40 odd years back, we had focused on harnessing the "no side effects" solar energy placed freely by our darling Creator ,Japan would'nt have been in this nuclear mess now. Yes, those unfortunate homes and people that were swept away would have been lost for ever but those who survived could have picked themselves up and confidently build their lives again instead of worrying if the worse is yet to come.

What do you say?!!!!

Mar 2, 2011

Upcycling, Recycling- Is this just a Fad, a Fashion statement or for REAL people

Recycling, Upcycling, Retrofitting, these terms have become the rage now. Most sceptics consider this to be a passing fad, nice concept etc etc.

But honestly do you think so?

I feel it's here to stay and for reasons other than "being sensitive to the planet", "avoiding wastage" etc etc. How do I put it in a nut shell, I'm runnig out of short sentences but my head is brimmimng with the excitement of it all. Let me try.

But before I do that let me present some eye candy from Design Sponge and Cottagehill. Design Sponge has painstakingly collected a large collection of Upcycled Pieces made byyyyyy...... professional Architects & Interior Designers like me ;)


NOOOOOOO, just people who were inspired.

Images from Design Sponge, Cottagehill

A whole world has opened to all those yearning to be creative but lacking the materials, machinery, tools that are available to larger businesses. By recycling, the creative home dweller is able to capitalize on the frame work that the larger businesses have made and convert old pieces they are bored with into very indvidual statements of art using tools available to the average home owner.

This is not just "Living Green" but most exciting of all, has caused each person's creativity lending ideas to another person and so on akin to a chain reaction. So we have now creativity and ideas expoteniating at such a rapid pace that it is impossible for larger businesses to match or keep up as there is much variety and indviduality which is otherwise called "customization" in the business world.

So what do we have now?!!

We have a huge burgeoning handmade market by young married couples, dads, moms, sisters, brothers selling either lovely very creative, indvidual upcycled goods or DIY Books. Many are hungrily devouring these and creating their own in materials they are comfortable working with.

If the term upcycling had not become the "Fashion" thing, hand crafters would have shyed from selling creatively upcycled goodies.

And so now:

-We have such a variety of handmades as every one is pushing their creative minds.

-Unused Stuff we have around the house is used to make exciting pieces. We are now looking at our drab furniture pieces with renewed excitement and hope. Now we can retrofit our pieces to something really personalized and groovy, without shelling out all that money we really dont have.

-We dont have to go hunting around for materials and frame works that most likely will not be available to us or possible for us to build with using our limited skills and tools.

-Wastage is reduced and we are "Living Green"

And the part that takes the cake, "The satisfaction of creating."

Hope I've inspired you !!!!

Feb 9, 2011

Going Solar for Homes - 3

Gulp, still not keeping to the “Post a blog on every Friday” resolution. Not giving up! Soon, I ‘ll be this diligent blog-a-writer….Ahem......

I just came back from visiting one of my “in-progress” projects at Chennai. I’m really excited as the fab. owners are really keen on the sustainability aspect and asking for more. I was sort of not pushing too many ideas on them for fear of being bullish. But delightfully, they’ve been asking for more sustainable features in their home designs. We are even thinking of pushing back grey water into water closet cisterns, this is kinda new for Indian homes though quite popular in the west.

Last time, we talked on the economics behind going solar in an Indian home. According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), building construction and operation represents 70 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy use, 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 40 percent of raw materials used, 30 percent of waste generated, and 12 percent of potable water consumption here.

This is in tandem with what, someone said (not sure where I picked it from),

The “true” cost of a home is not only the purchase price, but the amount that it cost to also operate and maintain every month."

So though the initial costs seem high for an average home owner, the monthly savings on electricity bill would be on an average of 1000Rs/month, working out to Rs12000/yr (savings will increase every year due to spiking electricity fares).

Let me get you in onto the latest solar news. I am hearing that the Indian government is going real serious with solar and intends to use every home roof top in future to generate electricity to meet commercial requirements during the day. Electricity will be purchased from the owners during daylight hours and returned subsidized in the nights. I am hearing that from March 2011 all apartment builders are mandated to use solar to generate current to meet a fair percentage of the demand.
While the commercial building industry has taken great strides towards streamlining the construction process and producing greener buildings, residential construction has a long way to go.

Now coming back to – “How and where does one install the Solar panels and it’s accessories?”

The panels take up quite a bit of space. For an average home with substantial solar dependency, we are looking at a roof space of about 200 SFT. There are 2 ways of installing the panels depending on the roof type:

Flat Roofs: The panels would have to be raised and inclined on a framework so as to have an incline sloping down southwards for maximum exposure to the sun.

Pitched Roofs: The panels to be laid flat on the roof incline sloping down southwards for maximum exposure to the sun. The is the best possible method as the panels can gain benefit from the existing slope and form an indigenous part of the roof design.

NOTE: Care to be taken that no shadows fall on the panels.

The battery to be placed in close proximity to the panels and housed in a 5’ X 6’ shelter that could be in masonary or plastic/wooden casing with plenty of air circulation to prevent overheating. Interestingly for the the prudent and DIY lovers there is plenty material available on the net to help with making a home made solar battery. One video here