The Eco House, a sustainable dwelling in Kottayam that breathes and cools itself


Perched atop a hill and tucked into the lap of bucolic terrain of Kottayam town is The Eco House or the eco-friendly house, which is a sustainable dwelling system based on one-of-its-kind architectural design.

A climate-responsive structure, we witness here Kerala's traditional architectural nuances galvanising into the most modern and minimalist style that is at once sustainable and energy-efficient. The earthy hue makes it a cosy and welcoming abode that casts a 'Deja Vu' spell on a new visitor.

The owner, KM Pattassery, a Kottayam native, while initiating the project with Amrutha Kishor, founder and principal architect, Elemental, had placed only two demands in particular. One was a secluded silent living area in a corner away from the homely bustle and the other a car park at a spot not visible from the entrance. The rest of the features that were to follow were definitely mind-blowing but had never seen to have experimented anywhere in this part of the globe.

Only when the structure was complete and the family started living there had they come to experience and enjoy the comforts of all the terms like sustainable living, energy efficiency and climate responsiveness.

Being close to nature, climate and tradition were at the core of the design theme. Every inch of the dwelling exudes these aspects laced with an aesthetic finesse. The site was found and acquired after a long and enduring search and the structure has been oriented to obtain the optimum advantage of position. The designer has ensured that the ecosystem, the natural terrain, the flora of the site and so on were not tampered with.

The facade of the single-storey structure virtually forms the first segment of the mansion that dons a slanted roof with Mangalore tiles. The extended shade of the roof gives additional cover and provides extra cool to the interiors. The wide and large windows add magnificence to the structure. The double-layered roof has an air cavity in between the concrete ceiling and the truss work above it. All these factors keep the house cool and help the dwellers do away with air-conditioning even during the peak of hot and humid summer days.

Meanwhile, the large windows and well-angled structural patterns keep the interiors adequately illuminated during the day. Meanwhile, The Mangalore tiles paved on the truss work lend a traditional charm to the house.

The next segment of the building is a two-storied structure that houses the bedrooms, library and kitchen. The staircase that ascends upstairs is a masterstroke and a delight to watch. The sidewall displaying bare burned bricks hosts an array of souvenirs, curios and trinkets.

There are four bedrooms, a private living area, a dining cum living lounge, a library, a party deck, a kitchen with a tiny courtyard that admits air and sunlight in the 3800 sqft house.

Above all. literally, is the wind tower on top of the staircase, functioning like a centralised exhaust system that blows away the hot air inside the house and keeps the interiors perennially cool.

The dining-cum living lounge is elaborate and ravishingly luxurious. Replete with aesthetic elements and decor props this is the area where the family members love to gather and spend the leisurely hours. The awesome dining table, chairs, the chest, the ottoman table, the swing, the shelf all exude a local flavour as they are procured locally or made with materials available in the region.

The deck adjacent to dining-cum living area is an enriching view. Basically meant for large family gatherings on occasion, the space is ideal for children to play run and for elders to ramble.

The garage-cum-parking area is conveniently positioned behind the building and has an entrance into the house connected by a ramp as well.

The pathway to the house in the front yard is stone-paved. The wide verandah fringed by garden plants and the turfed courtyard would be the most liked place where the children and the elders would love to gather and while away time in the evenings.

The turfing has been developed using buffalo grass. It is the natural species found in the place. However, it took some time and effort for the turf to grow to its present level. According to Amrutha, exotic species like the Mexican grass were opted out as they would require extreme care and caution for maintenance and are quite expensive too. While the local species require less attention once they are grown and enhances the natural beauty of the environs. Turfing is preferred over floor tiles for the courtyard as it helps rainwater seep into the ground itself.

Fencing has been opted instead of the compound wall as it reduces the cost drastically. As part of the sustainable building option that cuts cost as well, the fencing is a wise option as it has the advantage of having a view of the other side.

The stone art for embankment that extends along the roadside has involved an artist to shape the stones and that manifests how far the builders have gone towards pursuing the aesthetics of 'elemental' architecture.

Project Facts

Owner: K M Pattassery

Area: 3800 sqft

Location: Kalathipady, Kottayam

Architect: Amrutha Kishor, Elemental


Photos: Justin Sebastian

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