Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dress up your COMPOUND

A mural work or a puncturing with geometric patterns will make the compound wall look interesting.

THEY ARE built last and they get the least of attention too. Yes, we are speaking of compound walls. More often than not, the design of these structures that separate the house from the roads gets little attention. In many cases, they develop cracks, thanks to soil settlement, the impact of heavy vehicles movement on the road, excessive tree root movement and so on.
Generally, the trend is to go for shallow `brick-footing', or in some cases, a shallow pile foundation with the structure tied up with a plinth beam. Also, most places in Chennai have clayey soil. The soil expands and shrinks in different seasons, leading to development of cracks.
A good under-reamed pile, 6'0" to 8' 0" deep at 5'0" intervals with a 9"-deep tie beam, could be a better long-term solution. Some times, the trees growing along the compound wall, and the branches or palm leaves falling can break the top of the wall or result in cracks. A good 2"-thick RCC coping, which will cost Rs. 20 per sqft, would prevent the top from cracking.
As for rain water, bill stickers, a rough cast plastering at Rs. 15 per sqft could be done instead of normal plastering (Rs. 11 per sqft). Rough stone facing is also an ideal solution; the cost depends on the stone selected.
The Corporation has introduced an `Adoption scheme', which could help to keep nuisance-making passersby at bay. Under the scheme, house owners can adopt the outside paved areas for a width of 5' 0" to 7' 0" depending on the road width, and create a green patch. For a barren compound with an uninteresting facade to the house, a splash of natural greenary can make a world of difference. RCC planter boxes can be built on top of the compound wall or on the mid-face where small plants can be grown. Creepers and climbers can be grown inside or near the compound.
Along with the compound wall, the gate creates an impression in the visitors' minds. The gate could be of many types such as the double swing gate and the swing gate. But in many urban houses, there is need to accommodate two or three cars as well as two-wheelers. Hence, a foldable type with four leaves or a sliding gate with a small wicket gate could help. This saves a lot of space in small complexes. The smaller wicket gate could be used by pedestrians to walk into the house along the walkway.
So much for the efforts put in to satisfy the visitors. But when the people of the house relax in the evening in the living area or the exterior court, they often find compound wall an imposing feature.
A blank compound wall with no delineation is boring. A mural work or a puncturing with geometric patterns will make the wall look interesting and add to a relaxed atmosphere. Bright exterior colours could also be used.
Also, there are many designer creations for the paving inside the compound wall along the driveways and walkways. Options are available in the form of rough granite, Eurocon tiles, concrete interlocking blocks and bricks. Concrete interlocking RC blocks, which come in grey and cost about Rs. 20 to 25 are sturdy and can be easily laid. They are suitable for driveways and can be removed easily for laying of additional electrical conduits or sewer lines.
Decorative and durable exterior tiles made by Eurocon or Dora may cost Rs. 40 to 50, but are elegant and have a non-slip surface. Brick-paving, using good wire cut bricks (Rs. 10 to 12 per sqft), could be used to create an interesting flooring pattern. Also, paving with natural materials such as Shahabad (Rs. 25 per sqft) and Kotah (Rs. 30 per sqft) could provide some interesting patterns with a touch of coloured Chettinad tiles here and there. A proper paving material could act as a link between the compound wall, gate, landscaping and the building.
(The author is Chief Architect, Murali Architects, Chennai.)

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