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Redefining sustainable luxury with a universal appeal

Karl Irani

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Sustainability, as a movement, is growing legs and gathering momentum, driven by a critical mass of people responding to a problem, looking outward and then reflecting within. The word has been on every practitioner and marketeer’s lips in the last decade and its elevation from buzzword to lexicon has been propelled by the rise of the conscious consumer.

I strongly believe in the principle: “When we build, let us think that we build forever”, which is inspired by John Ruskin’s 1849 essay The Seven Lamps of Architecture. By using the very best materials today, we can ensure the longevity of our build, and consequently not have to materially revisit a structure and consume more than what we are required to, in terms of natural raw materials or finished products.

Traditional Indian architecture is inherently sustainable, a heritage increasingly appreciated in our present context. This comfort in our roots is fielding a return to Vastu Shastra, an ancient system of Indian origin that translates to the “science of architecture.” A concept bandied about for millennia, only with deeper research did the realisation sink in that sustainability is at its core. Every principle within it upholds vernacular forms, suited to indigenous climate and lifestyle. In Maharashtra and Goa, for example, the south-westerly monsoon deems it prudent not to place windows in that direction. It has broadened my approach to design windows, courtyards, terraces and balconies beyond the aesthetic. Similarly, I’ve come to prefer locally available materials for their ability to withstand environmental conditions whilst imbuing an inimitable quality of timelessness. A tip for hot regions is to refrain from glass, and rather build with stone which remains cool at night. Shahabad stone, for instance, keeps homes in Alibaug at a conducive temperature.

 A similar harnessing of natural resources can be applied to water. Today, water tables in certain areas of India get emptied by March. The ground is parched in eager anticipation of monsoon. Water scarcity has become a global phenomenon, one that can be addressed by constructing minimal hardscape and implementing rainwater harvesting techniques.

A yardstick example for impact can be illustrated by water application on a one acre plot: 5-10% for personal use, 60% on landscape and 25% apportioned to the swimming pool (if one is made). Total average usage is estimated at 1.4 lakh litre for a fairly luxurious property. Rainwater harvesting is a key intervention, the benefits of which are staggering enough to merit its recommendation as mandatory policy. One is able to ensure that ground is treated such that during rainfall, natural tables underground are filled. The construction of a borewell on your plot will assist with adequate flow through the year — an assurance of water security and quality. In addition, pool covers may save up to 15% and showering for even 30 seconds less may save a family 18,000 litres a year. Reusable bottles could save 700 litres a year.

 Where local supply of electricity is known to be erratic, reliance can be inexpensively combated through solar energy. Battery packs to store solar power can be easily facilitated, and even during monsoon, panels produce enough to power a home. They may act as a backup if not the primary source during monsoon.

Farm-to-table, a popular phrase in dining circles, speaks to the cultivation of direct relationships between producers and consumers of food. Although it seems trendy, I see this too as a return to tradition. Bringing this idea home, so to speak, can extend to growing organic fruit and vegetable patches of your own. The nutritional and medicinal value is immense, not to take away from the therapeutic role that a lush garden offers. On an ornamental front, the rule of thumb is native over exotic species as much as possible.

In an age of climate change and epidemiological threats to our immune systems, advocacy of eating clean and keeping healthy is no longer a hard sell. A steady supply of fresh, chemical-free produce is now considered of inestimable value. Composting and waste management seem downright sensible when viewed under the holistic lens of completing a life cycle, and ploughing it back into your land.

As I build in Alibaug I have watched a sleepy town transform into a cluster of villages and a thriving community of around 300 homes today has shed insight on the rapid growth expected in the near future. This acceleration is bound to come with pressure on finite resources and what one considers utilities — water, electricity and sanitation. Pollution, noise and security are among the underlying reasons urban dwellers are choosing to reside further away from cities, in the hopes of improving their quality of life. I see it as a redefinition of luxury itself, as a merger of desire and necessity. In my mind, sustainability will follow closely, its aspirational value bound to rise in proportion to how rarefied an experience it is soon to become. If I had singular advice to offer, it would be to start now — slowly but surely — and thank yourself later.

 The author is the co-founder at Palmore, a luxury property development firm building holiday homes in and around Alibaug, Maharashtra.

Edited: By Ambika Hiranandani

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Environmentally Speaking

Intense rains in Delhi NCR to continue says IMD

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Delhi NCR is witnessing intense rainfall for the last two days and it has brought a noticeable change in the temperature. The rains will continue in the coming days as per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India.
The continuous showers have waterlogged many areas causing traffic jams in Delhi, Gurugram, and Noida regions.
The minimum temperature in Delhi, on Friday is supposed to be 23 degrees and the maximum temperature is predicted to be 28 degrees.
Concerning the waterlogged roads and intense traffic jams, the Gurugram administration issued an advisory asking private and corporate offices to work from home, while schools and colleges remained closed on Friday to avoid the hassle.
There has been a dip of seven degrees in the temperature in the NCR regions, making people feel the chill, especially during the night.
Even the air quality has improved so much in the city, according to the data from the Central Pollution Control Board. The AQI on Friday morning stood at 50, which is considered ‘very good.’

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Massive landslide occurs in Achham district of Nepal; 22 killed, 10 injured

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Due to a landslide in Nepal’s Achham district, about 450 km (281 miles) west of the capital city of Kathmandu, many homes were destroyed and many people have fallen victim to it as some of them are injured and some have lost their lives. Officials said on Sunday that the rescuers in Nepal battled against the torrential rains and pulled bodies from the wreckage of homes buried because of the landslide, and it has been reported that 22 people have lost their lives while 10 have been injured so far.

According to the official data, at least 70 people have been killed and 13 have gone missing across the country in flash floods and landslides this year alone.

The police, military and volunteers are still looking for the missing people in Achham district. Authorities have recovered the body of a fisherman who was swept away due to the landlide and reached the Kailali district due to the overflowing Geta river.

Yagya Raj Joshi, an official in Kailali, said about 1,500 people displaced because of the floods were sheltered in public buildings.

Local media broadcasted images of swathes of farms inundated by flood waters, a destroyed suspension bridge and villagers wading through chest-deep water.

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Light to moderate rain and gusty winds are expected to hit the national capital on Thursday

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Heavy rain lashes Delhi as roads waterlogged

Delhi has seen a marginal dip in the temperature on Thursday morning as the national capital has witnessed light to moderate rain and gusty winds with a speed of 30–40 km/h. This even resulted in an improvement in air quality, which was classified as satisfactory.

The maximum temperature is expected to be around 30°C while the minimum is to be 25°C, which when compared to Wednesday was 33.6°C and 26.4°C respectively.

RK Jenamani, India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist, said a depression that formed over Odisha and moved towards northwest India sent easterly winds with moisture towards Delhi-NCR and led to a three-day spell of rain. He said, “As this depression has moved closer, we are seeing the effect of these strong easterly winds, which has led to an increase in the speed of surface winds locally. The moisture is also leading to cloudy skies, which has led to a drop in the mercury. “

The intensity of rain will reduce from Friday evening, with no rain expected from September 17 to 20.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 63 on Thursday morning at 7 a.m.

The monitoring agency, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, said on Wednesday that the satisfactory level of AQI is expected to last till Saturday. They said, “For the next three days, peak wind speed is likely to be around 14–29 km/h, causing moderate dispersion and AQI is likely to be within the range of’satisfactory’ due to expected light/trace rain spells.”

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IMD predicts heavy rainfall in isolated locations

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In its most recent weather update, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated locations across Uttarakhand, east Rajasthan, West Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, Konkan, and Goa on Wednesday.

The weather service also forecasted isolated heavy rains, thunderstorms, and lightning in Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday, Jharkhand on September 18, and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on September 15 and 16.

East Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of central Maharashtra, and Konkan, as well as Goa, may see rain over the next five days.

On September 14 and 15, the Met Department warned of isolated very heavy rainfall over West Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat, and Konkan and Goa from September 14 to 16. According to the IMD, isolated extremely heavy rainfall is expected over ghat areas of central Maharashtra on September 15.

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UN Secretary pays a visit to the flood areas of Pakistan

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On the final day of a two-day trip to raise awareness of the disaster, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited several flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan.

Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains and glacier melt in the northern mountains have killed over 1,391 people and destroyed homes, roads, railway tracks, bridges, livestock, and crops.

Huge areas of the country have been inundated, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. According to the government, nearly 33 million people’s lives have been disrupted. The damage in Pakistan is estimated to be $30 billion, and both the government and Guterres have blamed the flooding on climate change.

The UN Secretary-General arrived in Sindh province on Saturday before flying over some of the worst-affected areas on his way to Balochistan, another badly affected province.

“It is difficult not to feel deeply moved to hear such detailed descriptions of tragedy,” Guterres said after landing in Sindh, according to a video released by the office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“Pakistan needs massive financial support. This is not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”

Guterres was seated next to Sharif in a video released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, looking out the window of an aircraft at flood-damaged areas. “Unimaginable,” Guterres said as he looked around at the devastation.

In July and August, Pakistan received 391 mm (15.4 inches) of rain, nearly 190% more than the 30-year average. The southern province of Sindh has received 466% more rain than usual.

Guterres stated on Saturday that the world needs to understand the impact of climate change on low-income countries.

“Humanity has been waging war on nature and nature strikes back,” he said.

“Nature strikes back in Sindh, but it was not Sindh that has made the emissions of greenhouse gases that have accelerated climate change so dramatically,” Guterres said. “There is a very unfair situation relative to the level of destruction.”

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Cloudburst in Pithoragarh district, at least 50 houses submerged

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At least 50 houses were submerged in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district after a cloudburst in Dharchula. A person was killed in a cloudburst that occurred near the India-Nepal border at around 1 a.m. on Saturday.

The aftermath and the Kali river in the area were captured on video. Pithoragarh Police shared a video clip on Twitter and stated that about 50 houses in Khotila village had been submerged. The video posted in the post showed the river in full rage.

In another post, the police warned residents against going near the river and advised them to avoid the river bridges. “It is very important to act with caution with the river reaching the danger level,” the post read.

According to Pithoragarh district magistrate Ashish Chauhan, one woman died. Water was said to have entered several homes. Another video shared by the Uttarakhand Police Fire Service showed a house collapsing into the river. Rescue efforts are underway, according to the fire department, the State Disaster Response Force, police, and administration.

Such incidents occur frequently in Uttarakhand, a hill state known for its pilgrimage sites, raising questions and concerns about climate change.

Several other states, including Karnataka and Maharashtra, are also dealing with flooding in various parts of their respective states. Recently, videos from Bengaluru showed flooded streets and helpless residents, reminding us that even metro cities are vulnerable and lack a mechanism to keep the civic system running in emergencies.

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