India: the First Green-certified Home in Goa Labeled with Gold Rating


PANAJI: Just a few days ago, the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) awarded a newly built house in Aldona its first green home certification for Goa, with its highest (gold) rating. While several of the state’s fine architects have previously experimented with low-impact, sustainable construction, the IGBC award is a landmark achievement for the architect couple,Rajiv and Tallulah D’Silva.

“Green-rating is very documentation-intensive,” says Rajiv. Key elements included using mostly local material with as little waste as possible, an organic root zone treatment system to recycle water, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Other important aspects are rainwater harvesting (in this case a 1 lakh litre tank, and recharge pit that feeds the water table), designing the building around existing trees, and orienting living spaces to make best use of daylight and natural breezes so that electricity use will remain at a minimum. In Aldona, the result of all this effort has been a stunning, airy four-bedroom house (with swimming pool) that is both super-luxurious and super-environmentally-friendly.

But long before there were such ratings-or the IGBC itself-unofficial and unrecognized “green building” was routine practice in Goa. In every village, in every vaddo of the state, stunningly beautiful houses of every size have always been raised on exactly the same principles: using local materials, recycling every scrap of waste, using minimal water and fuel, orienting everything to take advantage of daylight and breezes. These principles are nothing new to Goan architecture, they have actually been a way of life for centuries.

In his landmark essay, “That is not a Portuguese house!” (Semana de Cultura 2008) Panaji-based architect Raya Shankhwalker wrote of “our world-class patrimony of exquisitely nuanced traditional houses, with soaring pitched roofs” describing “scale and proportion so exquisitely refined that it is difficult to find a single badly proportioned period building in the whole of Goa” while decrying the marketplace nomenclature “Portuguese house” as “a deeply ignorant conception of the complex, multi-layered evolution of architecture in Goa”.

Even six years ago-before the rot really set in-Shankhwalker warned of “a crippling wave of destruction of the highly appropriate aesthetic which evolved in Goa over centuries” that is wiping out priceless heritage in favour of “faceless concrete blocks that obliterate the natural scale”.

As every Goan knows, everything has become dramatically worse in the last couple of years: ancient hillsides have become aggressively carpeted with cement monstrosities, thousands of CRZ violations proliferated, and few builders or developers respect heritage, nature or even graciousness to one’s neighbours.

Instead of the regulation needed to preserve Goa’s irreplaceable architectural landscape, there has been absolute capitulation to the real estate lobby, which is tumbling over itself to cash in as quickly as possible.

Forget sustainability, appropriateness, carrying capacity, or demographics-even basic common sense is now totally ignored. Thus 1000-flat complexes in Dona Paula despite no water or decent access, and concrete mayhem spilling from the (also bone-dry) Kadamba plateau right into Old Goa. Thus the criminally approved Ruby Residency that collapsed in Canacona earlier this month.

That highly avoidable tragedy, which killed 31 hapless workers, illustrates a lot of what has gone wrong. Zoning rules allow only three floors, yet five were approved. The town and country planning department raised no objections despite no proper road access, illegal construction in an eco-friendly zone, encroachment on a neighboring property, illegal sealing of a water-source, and building onto a paddy field.

All of the same-and including hill-cutting and CRZ violations-is true of much of the new development that now litters once-scenic sites across Goa. With the full connivance of officialdom, a giant scam of illegalities is now playing out in full view of the helpless locals, one hillside, private forest and paddy field at a time.

It seems like just yesterday that Goans rallied against all odds to reject a rash of SEZs, and defeat an odious Regional Plan. But that blink of time has been enough to embolden the usual suspects all over again-if all projects approved the last couple of years are built, all those historic protests will have made no difference after all.

Few or no Goans oppose development, but a strong majority is opposed to the rampant illegalities being rammed down their throats. There are flickers of a different way possible in the great work of responsible builders and architects like Rajiv and Tallulah D’Silva. It is a stark choice: either their way, or a lasting construction nightmare.


Source: The Times of India

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