House in the Shadows / Zero Energy Design Lab
House in the Shadows / Zero Energy Design Lab
The House Under Shadows, a double family residence integrated in Haryana, presents a nature-inspired design, close to net zero, which reformulates the idea of ”India-modern” and enables sustainable living.
Located in the historic town of Karnal, part of the NCR (National Capital Region), House Under Shadows is a 1672m² residence nestled in the shadows of daylight.
The client’s brief called for an expansive two-unit residence for two brothers and their families that characterizes sustainable living in the bosom of nature and be openly guided by design to find the rhythm of movement and activity within the home. In response to this, the house merges two one-story units through a common facade and a seamless flysheet that creates a sense of visual cohesion through its horizontal accent. The architect had a zero energy approach to vision and the design was inspired by the proximity and architectural elements of a lavish hotel in Karnal – the ‘chowk’ and ‘chhatris’ of Noor Mahal which are elements derived from the traditional Indian “havelis”. This in relation to the extreme weather conditions in northern India which led to the integrated design of the south-facing double residence.
Design and planning
The design takes shape with a common entrance space embraced between two boxes that represent the two units, following a process of mirroring thereafter and throughout. The units are pierced with two rectangular chowk-inspired courtyards, each in the form of swimming pools that act as heat sinks. This is balanced by immediate overhangs that run the length of the units, protecting the internal and external walls with shade; the overhangs also allow transitional spaces through. Cantilevers and courtyard areas facilitate social cohesion and seamless movement between spaces which takes away the sense of confinement usually felt within walls.
The layout of the large units accommodates interior spaces that are naturally lit and through-looking, with night spaces (sleeping spaces) facing south-west and day spaces (living spaces) facing north-east. In other words, the bedrooms have glazed north-west windows that allow for minimal heat and glare, creating an oasis of calm in which to relax, while still providing a wide view of the landscape outside. The living areas are sheltered from the harsh south-western sun and open onto the courtyard to allow plenty of natural light in. The other areas include the kitchen and utilities, the bar, the powder room and the servants’ quarters with the vertical circulation element – the staircase positioned centrally on the southwest side. The first floor houses a bedroom with toilet, a living room, a bathroom, a pantry, a store and a multipurpose room. The design of the multipurpose hall is inspired by the raised “chhatris” and domed pavilions found in traditional Indian architecture.
Sustainable strategies and double roof
The central courtyard with the swimming pool is surrounded by stone clad walls that provide mass insulation and vertical greens that avoid the heat island effect. The pool acting as a heat sink absorbs heat during the day and releases it into the night sky, reducing net heat gain. The radiant heat of the body of water participates in the process of photosynthesis of the surrounding vertical greens by evapotranspiration. An aesthetic perspective – the perimeter walls make a beautiful reflection of the body of water. The green landscape extends vertically inside and horizontally outside the built footprint.
The highlight of the design is the ubiquitous parametrically designed flysheet that overlaps the vast footprint of the dual unit structure to create two individual units that allow privacy while coming together into a cohesive residence or an ingenious double roof structure. serves the purpose. A solid wood roof and a large pergola run the length and width of the house. While the wooden roof acts as the main envelope of the house, the ubiquitous pergola has many aspects; It constitutes a Voronoi pattern – the pattern observed from the trees, branches and leaves of a forest towards the sky from a human scale which casts shadow patterns and filters light accordingly. This contrasts with the geometric pattern that cuts the fluidity of the house.
The Voronoi patterned flysheet is made of FRP (Fiber Reinforced Polymer) made by numerical modeling using parametric parameters, placed on site under a large MS primary frame that transfers weight through the steel columns. This pergola reduces direct and diffuse solar radiation by 50%. The organic shadow pattern is dynamic with the diurnal and seasonal changes experienced in the house casting a fleeting play of light and shadow in the interior spaces. The pergola also allows the underlying wooden roof to be used as a semi-outdoor space above the house, providing panoramic views of the green and lower areas of the neighborhood, while revealing the scale of the roof.
The addition of the canopy of the roof resulted in a 50% reduction in direct and diffuse radiation. This has led to an equally large consequent reduction in heat gain and cooling loads, making the design both durable and energy efficient. The roof material has a minimum heat transfer value of 0.4, further preventing the penetration of heat into the built structure. The annual cooling load fell from 76 kilowatt-hours per square meter to 53 kilowatt-hours per square meter, indicating a reduction of 20%.
Palette of materials and architectural details
An eco-friendly approach to design is evident through the use of local materials with low embedded carbon and neutral tones that allow heat reflection, reducing mechanical cooling loads while creating a visual lightness in elevation. The walls are dry clad with Gwalior mint stone to improve thermal mass performance and create a unique finish. In addition, a leather finish on the stone is provided to render a natural texture on the stone. A natural wood ceiling lends a warm feeling to flowing open spaces and glazed interiors. The overall aesthetic is enhanced by the use of solid Indian wood to showcase the continuous, seamless roof awning. While the windows are made of aluminum glazing and extend from floor to ceiling to make them invisible, the interior furnishings and artwork are all cohesive with the earth’s palette of textures and colors. Since the design requires a specific height-to-door ratio to stay true to the scale of the entire project, the pre-polished Indian veneer doors are assembled on site.
The House Under Shadows is a premier near-net-zero family double residence that redefines ‘Indian-modern’ by drawing inspiration from the elements and self-paced models of the vernacular and nature like Voronoi who downplays energy consumption throughout. The playful dance of shadows within the spaces truly captures the essence of the short “sustainable life in nature” and the finesse in the execution of the design.