URBZ PILOT HOUSE
Rehabilitation without destruction
SHIVAJI NAGAR is a resettlement colony planned in the 1980s. Houses here are built on small plots, measuring 10 x 15 feet or 12 x 15 feet (1 ft is 0.3 m). Urbz had to build two independent floors in place of an old one-storey house on one such plot for Pankaj Gupta, a resident of the colony. He wanted to rent out the upper-storey rooms. Since the colony is on marshland, Urbz built its foundation in accordance with local construction methods. Since the water table is high, it used water from foundation pits and soak pits for curing rcc (reinforced cement concrete) work. Materials salvaged from the existing building were used to build the new one. All these ensured optimal use of resources and reduced the construction cost.
Since the plot size is small, attention was paid to optimise space, allow ventilation and penetration of daylight, and ensure solidity of the structure. But municipal norms regulate construction activity in slums. One such norm required Urbz to limit the height of the building to 14 feet on the front side and to 16 feet on the rear side. But how does one make such a diminutive space habitable for two families.
To overcome the challenge, Urbz restricted the ceiling height of the ground floor at 8 ft. This reduced the height of upper storey house to less than 6 ft in the front. But its sloped roof allowed ample head space on the rear side. To keep the upper-storey house well-lit and well-ventilated, the roof, made with tin sheets, was split into two and were laid in a way that one portion of the roof shaded the other with a gap of 1.5 ft. Since tin sheets get heated fast, thermocol and ply sheets were used under the roof for insulation. Coffer slabs were used as ceiling of the ground floor on an experimental basis. To save on concrete, locally available earthen pots were used as filler material in the slabs. This reduced the overall cost of the roof by ` 2,000, while creating an interesting design that helped the owner save ` 80-100 per sq ft on false ceiling.
The house was completed in 2014, but could not find any takers due to its diminutiveness. On paper, the vertical compactness made ergonomic sense, but in reality it could not satisfy people’s psychological need for head room. Gupta decided to increase the height of the overall structure to improve its livability. He could easily do it as the original design provided for future expansion.
URBZ LOCATION Shivaji Nagar, Govandi, Mumbai COST Approximately 12,000/sq m INNOVATION Ensured ventilation, daylight penetration and storage space in houses built on a small plot. To reduce construction cost, coffer slabs and earthen pots were used to build the ceiling