Try eco-friendly methods to overcome severe summer heat inside homes

The rate at which the temperature rises in Kerala every year is a matter of serious concern. Representative Image: coffeekai/

This summer, Kerala has been sweating profusely in the unbearable heat. The mercury has soared to more than forty degrees in many districts. The local administrations have been issuing warnings, urging the people to stay indoors during the daytime. It must be noted that Kottayam has recorded the highest temperature in recent days. An architect once shared an incident when a client approached him to prepare the plan for his new house.

The client owns a plot near the busy Kottayam town. It has tarred roads on three sides and concrete buildings on the backside of the plot. He wanted to build a house in the contemporary style, with no sunshades. Meanwhile, he wanted a glass pergola in the living room and a glass wall in one of the bedrooms too. He even suggested a dark brown shade which he found after browsing the internet to be painted on the house.

The architect was helpless after hearing the ‘dreams’ of his client. During the summer, the heat that emits from the tarred roads would blast the structure from three sides. Besides, the dark brown hue absorbs more heat into the house. Meanwhile, the glass pergola and the glass wall would play their part and invite harsh sunlight ‘abundantly’ into the interiors.

The architect desperately tried to make the client understand that his home would be nothing but a concrete kiln that would roast the people who live in it. He even showed him a few examples of such houses. However, the client was adamant that he wanted these features. The architect drew the plan as per the client’s wishes and the construction began. Six months after moving into their brand new house, the architect got a call from the client. He said that it was incredibly hot inside the house if they switched off the air conditioner. Now, he was calling to enquire whether it was possible to install a truss roof without affecting the ‘looks’ of the house.

The real problem here is not the contemporary design, glass walls or the brown hue. These features do not ecologically suit the location or the lay out of the plot.

Interestingly, Kerala follows the most trending styles in house construction in the country. From the elaborate Arabic style to the chic European designs, Kerala has seen them all. However, people fail to recognise the environmental changes that had happened here in the last decade while building their homes. So, there are hardly any features in these houses that could effectively combat these changes.

In the olden days, the summers here weren’t too hot. You could easily beat the heat by sitting under the fan for a few minutes. The hot winds that were seen only in the Gulf countries have now become a common phenomenon in Kerala. Instead of finding ways to effectively tackle the heat, we still give importance to attractive features and luxurious amenities.

The rate at which the temperature rises in Kerala every year indicates danger. The dry and hot weather is likely to continue for some time. So, it would be a great idea to include features that provide comfort to the persons living in the house.

Before beginning the construction, a study about the ecological scope of the plot should be conducted. The position of the doors and windows and the structural layout of the house should be determined only after understanding the amount of sun shine that the plot receives and the direction and intensity of the wind in the area.

Studies show that the infra-red index of the sun light that falls in Kerala has been increasing every year. The infra-red rays that enter the house along with the sunshine would definitely increase the heat inside the house.

Even while including pergola ceilings and inner courtyards, you should consider the heavy rainfalls and the harsh sunlight that these features would bring in. A talented architect or an experienced engineer could smartly include these features by ensuring comfort and aesthetic quality.

Do not hesitate to ask the engineers or the contractors to consider the ecological scope of the plot before preparing the plan. You should ask them about the various features that have been included in the plan to maintain an equilibrium between the sunlight that enters the house, the air circulation and the temperature. If you are interested, you could also try eco-friendly construction methods that help in keeping the interiors cool to a certain extent.

Unique construction styles that effectively prevent high temperature inside the buildings should be adopted. Including truss roof above the concrete roof would prevent the hot sun rays from directly hitting the structure.

The designs that do not have sun shades is not suitable for plots that are open and are surrounded by other concrete structures. Louvers, small windows or jali walls ensure excellent air circulation inside the house.

Installing an air conditioner in a room in the house is not going to solve the problem of extreme heat and rising temperature. As everyone doesn’t have the financial means to install split AC units or centralised air conditioning, it would be better to adopt eco friendly construction styles that would naturally reduce the heat inside the house and offer comfort. The author is a consulting engineer at a well known company based in the Gulf.

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