Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Putting it all together

Just half a ground of plot, and further tied down by the directional compulsions of ventilation and vastu? Architects can help you bring in the much-needed space for better utilisation.

URBAN land is scarce and very expensive. An urban land for a house site may be a preferred option but when built, as much as one third or one half of it is not utilised because of poor planning and the compulsion to meet the demands of ventilation, vastu requirements and bylaws.
These demands can be met without compromising on space by taking recourse to various architectural features such as French windows and French doors (lowering the normal window to the floor level). By varying the width of the side open spaces, one can create small courtyards for greenery. Courtyards could be utilised for outdoor seating, family interactions, and outdoor puja.
The norms and rules laid down by the CMDA is a major concern when planning small sites. For maximisation of built-up area, minimum possible `setbacks' are mostly preferred. This seems to provide a spacious house but in reality results only in an unplanned clutter of spaces.
What would you do when you have just half a ground plot and are planning to build the house? How can you make your house look good, a little something special? Here are some solutions and ideas.
In small plots with less than 30 ft-width, the rules permit complete usage of `setback' on one side by just providing the front, rear and one-side setbacks.
Client interaction with the architect in the design process is the most important part of the planning. Proper designation of spaces can lead to a compact arrangement, unhindered by other activities happening around. For example, in a dining room arrangement, when a specific area is marked for the dining table and the position of the door and windows around that area is planned, the actual requirement of that room could be minimised.
A house, as conceived by most of us, is planned in two levels; rather a split-level concept could produce interesting spaces and better utilisation of areas.
The staircase landing is a good area for that purpose. The usual landing — 6'0" x 4'0" — could be expanded and made 6'0"x 8'0" and be utilised as a study room. This way the children stay closer to the living areas and a multiple utilisation of spaces occurs. A mezzanine level room allows for the space below to be used for multiple functions such as landscaping to parking to storage areas.
Large openings are crucial when building a low-rise structure as the nearby buildings would block the lighting. French windows and French doors could be an ideal solution for this problem. Atrium lighting in the staircase area is also an imaginative solution. French balconies, a small space on the first floor could add a lot more elements to the house.
Lighter pastel colours for the walls and flooring could be thought of as well. This would enhance the space. Natural stones such as Kotah, Shahabad, Jaiselmer yellow marble are not only durable but also economical. These are mostly unused in this part of the world.
Elimination of typical sunshades and adopting features such as recessed windows could produce an enhanced character to both the interior and the exterior.
The terrace area is an underutilised space in most cases. The headroom can have a small laundry/utility or study room. Also an extension of it can have some landscape to serve as a nice weekend relaxation area. The terrace landscape not only serves as an eye candy but also provides for thermal insulation and shading.
Also, we could look at materials like hollow blocks or `hooridi' hollow tiles for the walls as well as the roof slabs to enhance the thermal insulation inside.
The architect plays the important role of blending all these factors and elements together.
(The author is chief architect, Murali Architects, Chennai)

No comments: