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With India witnessing rapid urbanisation, its cities are also attracting more people from rural areas. With insufficient accommodation, crores of people are forced to live in slums. Mumbai alone has 55 per cent of its population staying in slums. To address the issue of housing, for millions of people living in inhabitable conditions, marketing professional Manish Advani and architect Jayneel Trivedi, thought of designing an eco-friendly and affordable home, which could provide a sustainable housing model for the slum pockets in cities. Their efforts led to the construction of a house using tender coconut shells and scrap materials, with the support of students from Somaiya Vidya Vihar, in Mumbai.
Construction process of the coconut house
The materials required for building the house include scrap wood, metal and coconuts. It only takes two days to make a structure. Before the structure is built, the coconut shells are collected, seasoned and sun dried for about 7-8 days. This seasoned shell then becomes hard, like wood. It is then used whole or cut to half, as per the requirement, followed by painting and coating. Trivedi explains, “If we do not want an exposed coconut wall, then, we can plaster it with mud. The mud wall, with its cavity, acts as an insulator. This whole process takes about 10-12 days.”
In the prototype coconut house that they built, each wall was designed with different concepts. “One wall – a partition wall – had exposed coconut shells. A second one was a mud wall, where we plastered the coconut wall with mud. A third, internal wall, was a partition wall. The fourth one was a vertical garden wall, built with coconut shells, where one can grow medicinal plants like ajwain, aloe vera, as well as household plants like chilly, tomatoes, beans, etc.,” adds Advani.
Cost of a coconut house
This coconut house is certainly a better option, than the tin sheds that are synonymous with slums and unplanned constructions. Anyone with basic knowledge of construction, can assemble and construct it. The cost for a typical house of 64 sq ft is Rs 15,000.
Advantages of coconut houses
Environment friendly: Coconut houses follow the eco-friendly principle of ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’. The materials used are natural (coconut shells and mud), waste and recycled materials (wood and metal). They are also exploring tie-ups with builders and others in the construction community, on using coconut shell fiber as a substitute for aggregates, in developing concrete hollow blocks.
Natural air cooler: As the house is built from natural material, it provides a cooler atmosphere for its residents.
Energy savings and insulation: As the coconut shells have air cavities, this was used on the roof and wall, to reduce heat and keep the house naturally cool. This served to reduce indoor temperatures by about four to five degrees, thereby, eliminating the need for air coolers and air-conditioners, which consume a lot of water and energy. Advani and Trivedi are also planning to integrate their coconut home with solar panels, to further reduce energy consumption.
Why the need?
Coconut shells, if discarded recklessly, can clog gutters and lead to waterlogging during monsoons. Moreover, water stagnation in coconut shells, can promote the breeding of mosquitoes and contribute to the spread of diseases like dengue and chikungunya.
The fact that coconut shells are hard to compost, is what gave Advani and Trivedi the idea to reuse them, to build houses. “It is a known fact that deforestation has been impacting climate change in big way, across the world. Wood is either used for making furniture or as firewood for cooking meals. If tender coconut shells are dried and used for making furniture, toys and building homes, etc., then, we can reduce the number of trees being cut around the world,” concludes Trivedi.