Recently we were asked to develop a model for a low-cost, sustainable house, which would help families in Bangalore, India become self-sufficient despite having no land to farm. The modelling is now complete, and we’re keen to see the plans move into the prototype stage.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
A local community group in India, called Growing Walls, is leading The Village House project. And as the name of the group suggests, the houses they hope to see built will feature external walls with a difference. The walls of their Village Houses will support abundant vegetable and herb gardens.
The idea is for these gardens to help sustain not only the family occupying the house but the neighbours as well. With the gardens up and running, they would all be able to share in the harvests and sell any surplus in local markets.
THE JONES NICHOLSON CONTRIBUTION
Jones Nicholson has given time and expertise to the fledgling project, ensuring that from an engineering perspective the design will be structurally, functionally and culturally sound.
The team involved set out to design a dwelling that would be low cost and self-sufficient in vegetables, water, eggs and energy. The model supports 60 metres of garden around the walls with no land outside the house footprint required. The cost estimate to build each house is certainly low - between $6,000 and $7,000.
Each house would comprise of an 8-metre x 6-metre concrete structure with a terrace roof. The planter boxes would ‘wrap’ three walls, one of which would also contain a custom designed 4,000-litre rainwater tank for drinking and other uses.
The terrace would accommodate an area for drying clothes and a chicken coop, with a 1.00-kilowatt solar array installed on the roof of the coop. A composting bin could also be positioned on the roof.
In addition to the usual opening windows, there would be side panel windows between planter box layers. Air flow into these panels would be ‘filtered’ through plant stems and leaves. All the family need do is hand water, weed and harvest the gardens.
GIVING AND RECEIVING
We were all impressed with both the enthusiasm of the team involved and the final result. And we’re determined to keep contributing to projects like this because the benefits are so far reaching. We’re sharing our knowledge and skills, but we’re also learning in the process - and contributing something of real value to future generations.
The next step is for the Growing Walls team in India to bring our model to life and watch it grow (pun intended).
The hope is that local builders, village chairmen, and perhaps the State (Karnataka) government will champion this inventive and cost-effective concept.
We’re also willing to vary our designs to encourage local schools to take advantage of the model. Educationally, the concept would have flow-on benefits throughout the school curricula, especially for primary and junior secondary students.
The families involved in the Village House project will not only be maintaining and harvesting the gardens; they’ll also be developing knowledge and experience in micro-agriculture, marketing and saving. Equipping students with that same knowledge would clearly be hugely beneficial.
Author : Greg Chambers