Bangalore’s Greenest Homes: Hombelaku, abode of the Kanavis

From handmade mud blocks to skylights that let in a flood of sunshine, rain water harvesting to backyard vegetables and ethnic Warli art – the Kanavi residence in HSR Layout is attention paid to every single detail in the making of a sustainable home and life for its owners.


From handmade mud blocks to skylights that let a flood of sunshine, rain water harvesting to backyard vegetables and ethnic Warli art – the Kanavi residence in HSR Layout is attention paid to every single detail in the making of a sustainable home and life for its owners.

“If you can’t manage the garbage then don’t create it.”

He smiles as he talks about his house and his love for nature.
Plush garden, trees hanging down the gate, bamboo sticks enhancing the beauty of the porch, incredible fragrance of the mud. You would have never felt this close to nature anywhere else.

Hombelaku (the rays of rising sun) – the beautiful Kanavi residence in HSR layout surprises you with its well-blended architecture and disarming, natural beauty. Belonging to Karunaprasad Kanavi, his artist wife Vishakha Kanavi, son Kushaal and pet dog Dhoni, the house is inviting, right from the large vintage bell that hangs outside.

Kanavi’s face gleams as he talks more about his home built by renowned green architects Chitra Vishwanath and Deepak Godhi. The house is built on 50×80 site on HSR club road. Building materials like mud blocks, stones and tiles used for construction are eco friendly and locally available, thereby reducing the cost of transportation. “Our interest and expectation matched with the expertise of the architects,” says Kanavi.

Good earth for a green home

The entire house is made of mud bocks prepared right in the backyard. Vishaka Kanavi, an artist, has filled her home with eye-catching Warli art to give it an ethnic glow.

The use of natural material for construction starts as early in the process as laying the foundation. The earth was filled not only with the mud that was taken out of the ground, but also waste, including plastics and other garbage, right from the site.

The entire house is mud blocked, with the blocks being prepared in an open space behind their house by contractors specially brought in from TamilNadu. A paste was made of fine clay, quarry dust and cement and pressed by a tool to whip it into shape. These blocks were then kept under an open space for 15 days to dry. One or two samples were sent for testing and the approved ones then used to construct the walls of the house.

Mud blocks are costlier than the normal bricks but they are bigger in size  and therefore lesser number of mud blocks were required.

Only two types of tiles have been used in the house; Kota tiles and clay tiles, which are cheaper and also easier to get. The house has big skylights which serve as a major source of lighting during the day time. “We don’t switch on lights from 6 to 6; this is a rule of our house,” says Kanavi.

Switching on the Sun

Thanks to skylights, the residences gets swathes of sunlight through the day. The Kanavis follow a strict rule of switching off the lights from 6 a.m to 6 p.m

“We haven’t painted or plastered the walls. To avoid the heat, we used special Hoordi tiles which also keeps the house cooler,” says Kanavi. During electricity outages, solar lanterns are used instead of  a regular UPS. To save more power, geysers in the bathrooms run on solar energy and gas. Water is pumped once a day, directly to a 1000-litre tank that serves the household.

The eco-friendly family doesn’t use regular desktops; they use laptops to cut down on energy consumption. CFLs are the only source of light in the entire house. “Our monthly electricity bill is around Rs.650-Rs.750. I am planning to cut it down to Rs.600.”

The family doesn’t think it has saved enough on energy. They are planning to go completely solar in next six months. “I am waiting for the cost of solar panels to come down. I will not be using solar as my backup energy resource. I will implement it as my main source of energy in the house,” Kanavi says with conviction.

Going zero with waste

True to the philosophy of cleaning after them, the Hombelaku residence has been segregating waste since the time they moved into this house in 2006. They segregate waste into two categories; dry and wet. Wet waste is used as compost for the garden. Kanavi takes all the wet waste and puts it in one of the pits in his garden along with soil and dry leaves. The mix is left to compost aerobically for five to six weeks without the use of any additives or chemicals. “We dispose off our dry garbage once a week. We buy only when there is a real need for it. Buying less is the only way we can reduce garbage.”

Talking about the challenges faced while segregating, Kanavi tells us that his main concern is with recycling and disposing off the garbage. But now, this problem is also solved as there are many small companies nearby which collect it. “Sometimes I ask these companies infact to give me waste! It is good supply for me to create compost for my garden.Overall, it is a good equation,” says Kanavi, chuckling.

Catching every drop

Soap water that comes out of the washing machine is recycled to flush tanks and the garden.

The house is high on water wisdom. “I am proud that I don’t have any bore wells. We use only rain water even for drinking as it gets purified by Forbes Designa water purifier system. I feel like the rain water is purer than the drinking quality water we get.”

The green house has an efficient rain water harvesting system. Rain water after filtering goes into the sump and is used for household purposes. Grey water of the house is recycled into the flushes and used to clean the car. “My two major pending plans are – to power the entire house on solar and reuse and recycle all our grey water. Right now I am just using the waste water coming from the washing machine and the kitchen.” Currently Kanavi uses 600-800 litres of recycled water per month.

Green in my backyard

Kanavi prepares the compost for his garden on his own.

Adding to the green vibe of the home, plants and vegetable abound in the 2000sq feet garden space; the long list including Tulsi, lemon, mango, coconut, kadi patta etc, and medicinal plants like Amruth balli used in treating illnesses like jaundice and diabetes. This plant is even used to treat cancers and liver disorders. Mostly vegetables like okra, beans, coriander etc. are produced during the rainy season only.

Contrary to popular belief that sustainable homes are costlier, the Kanavi house has been built at  a 15% reduction in cost as compared to a normal house with no plaster, paint or cement being used. Most materials have been sourced locally or were made right in the backyard.

Kanavi beams with pride as he gives me a tour of his house and tells me more about how the family lives sustainably.“The garden is my favourite space in the house; I spend most of my time here,” he says. It is harder to get labour for this kind of construction, but in the end the complete cost of construction is 15 percent cheaper than the normal costruction. “But, once you get used to sustainable living you won’t like any other fancy house,” he says.

His artist-wife Vishakha Kanavi has added to the beauty of the house with her Warli paintings and other creations, creating a personal stamp that blends with the pleasing interiors of the eco-friendly home.

Karunaprasad with his wife Vishakha and dog Dhoni at Hombelaku.

When asked about what “Green means to you”, this is what Kanavi had to say:

“For me green is life. My whole thought process and activity is around green. Whatever helps me in conserving natural resources is green to me. Whether it is RWH or using solar or my plants and waste management, it is everything.

We need to care for the environment. We have to conserve water and electricity, it is a must. Rain water harvesting is also a must. And if you can’t manage your garbage then don’t create it. Whenever I see people littering the streets I ask them to take it back to their place and dispose it off responsibly. Use BBMP services for disposal of garbage, why throw it on streets?” he finishes.

Hombelaku is located at 22nd cross, 17th main, 3rd sector, HSR Layout, Bangalore.

Contact Karunaprasad Kanavi at- kckanavi@yahoo.co.in

Bangalore’s greenest homes is a series on beautiful homes that have been built on strong sustainability principles – from natural building materials to efficient light and space design, water harvesting, off-the-grid energy energy, eco-friendly decor and furniture. And a lifestyle for the residents where less has meant a lot more. 

 This series on Bangalore’s greenest homes has been done with the support of ZED Habitats – the largest green  residential developer in India today, and a leader in pioneering building technologies and management systems.

This piece is a part of ‘Paint Your Green‘ campaign for World Environment Day to “Bring Sustainability Home.”


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more

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  • Gourav Nayyar

    Very Good, We have to learn alot from Kanavis. I wish i should get a chance to have a look of this house.

    • Karun

      You are welcome to visit the house. Send me a mail (kckanavi@yahoo.co.in) to fix up the time.

  • Kannan Kasturi

    Hi Karun, Just saw this. Amazing! And to think that all these years, I have not even visited your house. Hope to visit next year when we move to Bangalore and learn a few things ( we are planning a cottage in Coorg and I have been thinking on the lines that you have already implemented!)

    By the way, what happened to the Himalayan trek idea? Interested in joining me on a trek through Spiti’s villages later this month?

  • architectsb

    Creating green spaces has not been a new concept at top Bangalore Architects – See more at: http://www.ashwinarchitects.com/green-front-elevations-architects-bangalore

  • Well this is nice information you have shared out here.

    http://megavenues.com/city/Bangalore