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Bringing the outdoors inside

DNMUM360217 | 3/26/2016 | Author : Ajay Agarwal | WC :953

It is advisable to use ambient conditions for ventilation and lighting along with plants and other features to recreate natural landscapes in courtyards, on balconies and rooftops
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How can architectural techniques and concepts be used to maximize existing spaces within residential buildings in cities like Mumbai?
It is one thing to create the space; it's another to determine what to do with it and how it will benefit residents. The green belts and parks in the residential development should have easy and convenient access to all the residents. Lot of trees, shrubs, gardens, water bodies should be included to give the feel of nature to the residents, that too within their premises in the otherwise crowded cities.
Also, some amenities should be provided on the rooftop of the buildings, which will provide the skyline view to the residents. Even if the size of their flats is small, they can still enjoy these luxurious things, which are otherwise only for big private villas.
In a metropolitan city like Mumbai where each and every sq. ft. of FSI costs the consumer, proper layout-planning is very important for architectural techniques and concepts to maximize the utility of the residential spaces.
In terms of designing the following things can be done
• Reducing the internal wall thickness, instead of walls built from regular bricks or blocks which make the thickness of 4-5 inches, use the precast wall panels which will give the thickness of 2-3 inches.
• Avoiding or minimizing the passage area in the flat, design the entries of the bedrooms via the dining area.
• Open kitchen can be proposed to give the apartment an open look between the living/dining and the kitchen.
• Between two bedrooms, instead of a wall, wooden wardrobe can be designed that can be used from both the sides.
• Niches in the wall can be created to give an additional depth to the room.
• Foldable furniture concept can be used in a smaller size apartment for maximum utilization of space.
• Storage in terms of drawers below couches and also stairs.
• Make the rooms multipurpose by adding fewer walls.
• Use glass partitioning where possible to increase the visual length of the room.

Why are the ‘open plan’ layouts becoming popular? What type of occupants would you advise this for and who should avoid it?  
Open plan is becoming popular these days in the flats as it makes these different spaces to combine together and make it look a single bigger space.
Visual connection is much better in this type of planning. It also helps to have better light and ventilation for the area. In urban metro cities where the nuclear family concepts are in trend, concept of compact studio apartments are in demand where maximum time at home is spent in common areas like living room and maximum time of the working ladies and home maker ladies are spent in the kitchen and living room concept of kitchen semi attached to living room is very functional and practical.
This type of planning is advised for smaller flats as it will help to maximize the available circulation and movement is much better in this type of plan. This planning is advisable for nuclear families or working couples.
This planning is not recommended if the unit size is much bigger and occupants like the spaces in a very formal and traditional way, and also do not wish their kitchen to be visible from external areas. It is also not recommended for big or joint families.

What are the ideal materials that can be used within an apartment to provide partitions and privacy without reducing light, ventilation, etc.?
In recent years, in bigger cities of India the cost of the residential units is going higher and higher. To overcome this challenge, sizes of the units have been compromised. This has led to smaller houses. Designers have come up with alternate ideas to make these spaces look bigger.
Using a lot of glass in the solid partitions makes the visibility beyond the enclosure and gives the feeling of extra space. External glazing can be of bigger size to connect to the exterior which also helps to overcome this issue. For internal partitions, glass blocks and wooden partitions with patterned openings in it can make the space look bigger.
Proper use of semi-glazed sliding and folding partitions with some louvered panel can provide separation at the same time provide light and ventilation. Wooden partitioning can be used where privacy is needed as this can also be sound proofed but this will restrict light.
Buildings that integrate nature are good for people, nature and energy conservation.
These are buildings that use ambient conditions for ventilation and lighting, and use plants and other features to recreate natural landscapes in courtyards, on balconies, on roof tops, and on surrounding land, improve the psychological well-being of the building occupants and can also provide habitats for wildlife in urban areas. If buildings can provide these features to the occupants, they will surely feel that they are living amongst nature.
Sit-out area can be created inside using artificial grass flooring with some indoor plants and dry landscaping can create dramatic outdoor feel inside.
Designing rock garden with water pond and fountain.
Ceiling painting with LED lights to have night sky effect with stars.
Developing lawn and plantation in open balcony or terrace connected to the flat. Where there is a shortage of horizontal space, vertical garden can be created.
Glass room is another way to make you feel closer to nature but it is subject to availability of space, which is less in Mumbai City.
An important factor while planning the above is to consider the if flat size is adequate to accommodate the furniture, moving space and any other element one plans that are mentioned above.
The author is Chairman, Geopreneur Group and Geopreneur Design Studio

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