After researching on green buildings for a while, we had decided to check out COSTFORD, an institute founded by the Gandhian architect, Laurie Baker in Trivandrum, Kerala. Sajan, the chief architect, looked at me and said, “I was expecting someone who is around 50 years”. But he quickly warmed up to our story and said his reasons to stick with a non-profit though he could make much more money with his own practice were pretty much the same as ours. He then sent me to the Center for Developmental Studies (CDS) designed and built by Laurie Baker to look at its architecture.
I went around CDS and heard many stories about Laurie Baker. A civil engineer accompanied me around and explained to me their method, purpose, time, costing etc which are lucidly captured in this hand-written manifesto by Laurie Baker. For an elaborate version, check Rural House Plans.
I met three amazing architecture students interning at COSTFORD: Omkar, Ulka and Anju. We spent about 2 hours talking about simplicity, service, alternative life style and all such good things in the context of building green buildings. In spite of peer pressure to get into prestigious architecture firms or launch lucrative private practice, these three students had developed interest in the environmental and social aspects of architecture and had chosen COSTFORD to intern with. Wish we had this level of awareness and concern when we were 20.
I was sold on COSTFORD and asked Sajan to design our home and a community center. He told me that he would involve the interns too in conceiving the design. So far so good. I returned to my village which is an overnight’s train journey from Trivandrum.
Distance, lack of staff, a not so sophisticated communication process and some personal issues added up to COSTFORD taking a month to present the first design. But having seen the quality of their work, we decided to go ahead with them.
Update: We started constructing the house in January 2009 and finished it in March 2010. We constructed a 1500 sq ft main house and a 500 sq ft guest house and a 1000 sq ft (50ft x 20ft) all purpose building for community work. Since finishing our house, we have shared our lessons and experience with many people and five of them have constructed an eco-friendly house in spite of our warnings :). We are in the process of writing a detailed white paper on building an eco-friendly house in India. Hope to finish it by end of June, 2014.