Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Flexibility in planning

Our plan should give us ample room to carry out changes at any given point of time.

WHEN WE expect our garments to last a couple of years, our automobiles for at least a couple of decades, shouldn't our houses last for at least a couple of generations, braving the rigors of growth and change. Growth can be both internal and external, affecting the macro and micro planning. Anticipating the growth changes and future requirements would ensure suitable planning for a building that would last for two generations at least.
External changes mainly occur due to urban development and planning. Most of the services and facilities that we use, like the roads and sewage lines, have been planned and laid way back in time. All these roads have been laid and re-laid over and over again because of wear and tear. This has resulted in the rise of the road level remarkably. The sewer levels though have remained the same,resulting in the site levels being lowered from the road level. As a result, the site gets flooded by rainwater. This can be solved by keeping the site level raised two feet above the prevailing road level. So, even in the case of the road being re-laid, the site would remain above the road level. Similarly, when it rains, the streets' main sewers or nullah gets blocked. As a result, there may be a reverse flow into the toilet. Keeping a high plinth would solve the problem to a great extent. Ideally a 1'6" to 2-foot high plinth from the site level is recommended. Flexibility in planning is the key if we were to address the needs of future additions and alterations. With growth and changes happening all the time around us, it is wise to be prepared for adjustments, so that there is always scope for modification.
Some aspects important to the changing lifestyle have been dealt with in the article. A car park, for instance, might take up some valuable space, but a few years down the line, when the children grow up and have their own cars or two-wheelers, dusting the car-parking portico neatly tucked in would be more than handy.
Some conventional planning practices have seen the ground floor bedroom as the guest bed, which would barely be a 11' x 11'. When the master of the house gets old and immobile, it is then that one realises that the ground floor bedroom could have been planned to accommodate the ageing parents, with a more comfortable 16' x 11' size.
Similarly, space planning could be done for a spare room, which can be built later.
As time moves on, the home office concept seems to be getting a more secure place, with professionals opting to work from their home. Some use it as a semi-office space, and as a kids study room. Some use it as an official living room. The most suitable location for such a room would be the mezzanine level between the ground floor and the first floor.
Kitchens have come of age, but the hi-tech gadgetry is still not affordable by all. As people get more health conscious, the prices of some appliances like the electric chimney seems to be plummeting. A provision for installing a chimney should definitely be taken care of. Toilets should be planned to accommodate bathtubs later, as in most houses, when you plan to install one, the room dimensions might not allow for the same.
With the IT boom comes the opportunities abroad too. For the safety of the aged living at home, proper planning needs to be done for the ground-floor privacy, with the access of the first floor staircase from the outside with an external staircase or a staircase from the exterior foyer. This would also give some sense of companionship and sharing with a neighbour right in your campus.
Maximum utilisation of the resources has become essential due to lack of resources and the population explosion. Hence to plan for the worst, some important features have to be provided in each house. Lack of underground water is a common nuisance these days and apparently it is going to get worse. Hence, water would be transported from some place to the houses through tanker lorries. An underground sump would become very essential in that case. As the sump is most often below the ground level, ideally choose a place close to the building.
Additional safety measures like rainwater harvesting could be deployed to raise the water table. It also improves the quality of water (in case of salty water) over a period of time. In larger residential set-ups, a community water recycling plant can also be set up for treating water, which could be used for gardening and water closet flushingArchitectural implications are many when it comes to remodelling, additions or alterations. Contemporary trends have seen a tendency to break away from conventionality. Blending the old classical and colonial styles with the new age materials like steel, glass and acrylic have resulted in some stunning architecture, elevating the onlookers and the users equally.
(The author is the Chief Architect of Murali Architects, Chennai)

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