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Sun, water access set Rajarhat house code

The government has formulated a new set of guidelines for construction of buildings at New Town in Rajarhat.

The guidelines, touted as the first of their kind in the country, are being described as “energy efficient” and “eco-friendly”. They have been formulated by the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco), the nodal development agency for New Town, with assistance from the state-owned West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (Webreda), Tata Energy Research Institute and some academic institutions.

The Union ministry of non-conventional energy sources has taken interest in the state government’s efforts to evolve a novel way of constructing houses and sanctioned a grant of Rs 1 lakh in January for formulating the energy-efficient guidelines.

The guidelines are being given the final touches by a committee, comprising representatives from Hidco, Webreda and the other organisations. They will be made public by the end of this year, when the government begins to distribute land to individual plot-holders, cooperatives and housing societies. Already, over 5,600 plots, ranging between two cottahs and 120 cottahs, have been allotted in New Town.

Hidco officials said those who follow the guidelines will get a 20 per cent discount on the development fee during sanctioning of building plans. They feel an “intense awareness campaign” about energy-efficient buildings is needed before the guidelines are made statutory.

According to Hidco officials, buildings should not only be energy efficient but eco-friendly as well. “A typical home in this New Town will be designed from the beginning taking all possible advantages of available sunlight. The building will use traditional design techniques, keeping in mind the local climatic conditions and adopting solar-passive architecture. For example, the building should remain cool during summer, so that the need for electrical air-conditioning is minimised,” an official said.

Webreda director S.P. Gan Chaudhuri said the basic idea behind formulation of the guidelines is to construct a more energy-efficient structure, without compromising on comfort. “It is all about how to utilise sunlight at an optimum level and make maximum use of available water. Even though it will cost about five to six per cent more to construct such a building, the government will give a 20 per cent rebate on the development fee,” he added.

According to the guidelines, a building should have a “solid wall” to the west, as the sun beats down more fiercely in the afternoon. The staircase, kitchen and toilet should be in the west and the east, so that “the living part” of the building gets “lesser sun”. Other recommendations include insulation of the east, west and south-west walls and roof, use of double-glass windows, reflective paints on outside walls, especially the east and west walls, low-light-absorbing materials inside the building and a roof garden for a cooler roof.

As far as construction techniques are concerned, the guidelines suggest a “rat-trap bond”, which means placing the bricks with space in between, creating air gaps in the wall, which prevent the heat from entering the room. Also, the guidelines recommend a plantation and green area around the building, presence of a natural or artificial waterbody to the south or south-west. These suggestions are applicable only if there is the option of having a plantation or waterbody.

“Some of our recommendations are suitable for big housing complexes. But many will be applicable for individual units as well. An individual willing to follow our guideline will have to take the help of a capable architect,” admitted Debashis Sen, Hidco managing director and special secretary to the housing department.

Hidco is “enthusiastic” about implementing the guidelines and is hopeful that the government will soon make them statutory by incorporating them in the building rules. “We are setting a standard under the authority given to us for developing New Town. We expect to be adopted by all municipalities and corporations,” said Sen.

Gan Chaudhuri, too, maintained that such energy-efficient and eco-friendly building guidelines should be adopted by builders everywhere.

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