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.”