A house doesn’t need a fan

The bare bricks in the picture form the principle material in this newly built boutique hotel Sengal House

Says architect Saketh Singh, the founder of Play Design Studio situated at Auroville in Pondicherry. To him, all a house needs is a 'design'

Saketh, the world is seeing such unsettling times with respect to the health of its people. Does the architecture of a house have anything to do with the health and well being of a person?

It’s not even a question! A house built with good ventilation and lighting impact the quality of air one breathes as well as the state of mind. I live in Auroville which is away from the city and has open space; we barely have faced any health related issues that the pandemic has brought.

So yes - Architecture matters.

I recently read somewhere that the houses with cross ventilation are good to prevent the new variant of coronavirus from impacting the inhabitants. Really?

Well, cross ventilation is always good but whether or not it will prevent the new variant of the virus from affecting us may not be quite logical. There are various reasons why people are contracting the condition.

What are some essentials that a construct must have?

The design, like I have been saying, is the essential most aspect. Then comes the materials used to convert the design into a real structure.

The design of a structure must respond to the local climate. And must vary from region to region. The climate is taken into consideration for various reasons — Say to ensure that the load on power usage is lesser, to have water consumption stop at a necessary amount, etc.

The material must go well with the climate. Say, glass houses do not make sense in a city like Hyderabad. Therefore, building material with respect to the region is an essential.

Finally, the design and material must collaborate to allow the elements of life such as natural light, ventilation, and sufficient open space.

If these are the essentials - light, air, open space - why do then most corporate office constructs are closed, dark spaces? That ensure that the employee inside wouldn’t even know what phase of the day it is! It is always evening in those cubicles.

Well, some giant brands like Google have the principles of design in place. But most companies don’t follow ideal design because it is easier to maintain non-ideal designs. See the climatic conditions vary - sometimes it can be too hot, at times too cold. So for a company to maintain a design built of natural light and air can be expensive.

The initial investment is high in sustainable constructs, which is why the company constructs include artificial ventilation such as air conditioning system, forced exhaust system, fans etc.

But how can one live without a fan?

A well thought ideal design doesn’t need a fan. There are lots of old houses which do not comprise a fan and instead rely on the construct. Say, the right thickness and material of the wall can help keep the house cool without a fan.

In the beginning you said, architecture/design matters. Do give an example of a design that you have carried out that matters.

We have been working for some six years on a CSR project for a German company Zwilling Foundation that has commissioned us to design a training center for physically challenged women. So here, the design follows a barrier-free approach given the special condition of the inhabitants. Some elements include - a setup that is wheel-chair accessible right from the façade of the center, there are ramps at the necessary areas, the bathrooms have the right elements, there are grab rails and handrails at the right height, etc.

You can clearly see why design matters.

It’s a space that talks about conscious living. Attached is a store that houses conscious products — https://www.ataasii.com/