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Innovators- Building a Greener World

TIME after a global search for Innovators building a greener world has selected the Good Earth Team as one among four innovators globally and has featured us in the TIME magazine US edition.

Bangalore may be India's high-tech heart, but in one part of its leafy suburbs, there's a group of environmentalists trying to get back to the garden. In 2003, husband-and-wife architects Jeeth and Natasha Iype, working with Stanley George, a civil engineer, designed the Good Earth Orchard homes. Each of the 60 projected houses, now in various stages of construction, will feature slate and wood left in a natural state, without toxic waxes and finishes. Sewage will be treated in tanks that process waste without harmful chemicals. Household water will be heated by solar panels, which is expected to reduce electricity use--and electricity bills--30%. And whenever possible, local building materials are used, which reduces the need for gas-guzzling trucks to transport things from far away.

But the subtlest eco-friendly feature may be the verandas that open from each house onto a large, grassy courtyard shared by the entire community. The hope is that the shared space will encourage shared environmental awareness. "Building green homes is easy," says Jeeth. "Building green communities is incredibly difficult. You have to convince a group of individuals to buy into the same ideologies."

Most Indians still live with several generations in a single home. But as the country grows richer, a burgeoning middle class is moving into Western-style single-family homes, which use more energy and resources per family. The Good Earth team is trying to provide India's élite with green homes that meet their rising standards but provide space that is still in some ways shared. "Communities make sense in India, given our history of joint-family living," says Natasha. "We are simply trying to re-create what we had."

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Putting life back into the earth

At a time when construction is all about the right location and prime time amenities, the few good soldiers who cling on to doing the right green thing, are spoken and written about. R S Ranjeetha Urs elaborates on what one of them Good Earth Orchard is all about.

With the land resource becoming scarce by the day, its price has skyrocketed, leading to a widespread spurt in the growth of urban sprawl. Consequently, there is great stress on the city centres contributing to high density housing. However, by initiating development along the periphery and by creating integrated townships, the problem of thick concentration in city centres can be reduced to a greater extent. Moreover, as the city grows, our senses are abused by noise, dust, concrete, air-conditioned environments, etc. The need for spaces which are green and where the air is relatively fresh and offers sensual relief, becomes an imperative with many and especially with those who are keen on setting up a home. ‘Good Earth Orchard’ is one such discovery in this direction. Good Earth is a team of like-minded professionals in varying capacities, who have been experimenting with alternatives in housing and in creating vibrant, eco-sustainable communities, according to Jeeth Iype, an architect at Good Earth.

 As one turns left from the Bangalore-Mysore Road, (just after Kengeri town and the Outer Ring Road intersection), and walks a kilometre inside, one can find Good Earth Orchard on a farm landscape of coconut and sapota plantation.

 Orchard is a community of 60 homes on seven acres of land. Twenty-nine houses in the project have almost been completed and will be open for occupation on July 2008.  “Communities who live on the outskirts should be conscious of using and managing their own resources. We at Orchard, manage our own water resources and sewage, through a centralised water supply system and eco-friendly sewage treatment plant. Also, as the name of the project indicates, every household will be encouraged to plant more trees and grow their own food, in their kitchen garden. Moreover, with broadband internet connection to every household, the provision of working from home is made viable. One can thereby, travel only when needed and avoid unnecessary travelling, observes Iype.
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