At this Rs 1.5 lakh village home, water comes from air, power from sun
SIRA (TUMAKURU): Imagine living in an affordable home where water for domestic requirements springs from thin air even as the sun takes care of your energy needs.
There is nothing contrived about the low-cost, eco-friendly home built by Englishman Jamie Waltham at a farm in Honnenahalli village in Sira taluk, Tumakuru distrct, which is a three-hour drive from Bengaluru.
Driven by innovation and compassion for the underprivileged, the Englishman’s altruistic gesture is worthy of emulation. In today’s fast-paced world, one seldom has time to spare a thought for others, let alone build a house. Apart from being a concrete symbol of his dedication and resourcefulness, the house skillfully combines affordability, modernity and sustainability. Despite multiple schemes, affordable housing for economically weaker sections is still a distant dream for many in India, and initiatives like these can inspire both authorities and citizens to do their bit.
Standing on a 220 sqft (10.5ft x 21ft) plot, the sustainable house can accommodate six people and is powered by solar panels, besides being equipped by a sewage managing unit and condensing coils that tap water from the air to meet domestic needs. Jamie, 37, who toiled for two months to build the house at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh, wants to replicate it for the homeless in India.
The businessman and former heating engineer from the port city of Hull in East Yorkshire has used galvanised steel for walls, timber for pillars and plywood for partitions, and is hopeful of bringing down the cost to Rs 1 lakh.
“That many developing nations face the challenge of providing basic needs to people haunts me. I have always felt a pull towards India. The idea of people living in huts and tents without toilets disturbs me. I believe the world has enough money to provide basic facilities to all. With all these thoughts running through my mind, I landed in Mumbai in the first week of May,” said Jamie, who’s associated with The United Foundation, a non-profit.
The Briton, who is into organising events like boxing matches and weddings, initially wanted to build a lowcost house for slum-dwellers in Mumbai. But he soon realised that getting land there was next to impossible. That’s when he met Uzair Ahmed, an entrepreneur from Karnataka. “Uzair told me about the farm his family owns in Sira and took permission from them for my project. I first visited the farm in June-end and started building the house in July first week,” he said.
Scouring for materials
Jamie has aptly named the house ‘Zahir’ (sparkling in Arabic), after the oldest person in Uzair’s family. “Procuring the right materials, be it solar panels, inverter or wood, wasn’t easy. I had to make several trips between Sira and Bengaluru. It’s not like England where you place an order and within a day or two, things are in place. Materials are scattered from a small store in Shivajinagar to a big yard in Bommanahalli,” he said.
After adding the finishing touches, Jamie wants to donate the house to a poor family in the village. He then wants to go home and return with volunteers who will teach the skill of building such low-cost and sustainable houses to others. He’s also got in touch with a firm which works on sustainable houses and plans to take up such construction on a large scale.
FLOORED BY DEDICATION
Ramesh K, who works in Uzair’s farm along with his wife, said initially they thought the foreigner was there only to unwind. “He built the entire house on his own. His dedication is commendable. A house of the said measurement calls for an investment of Rs 5 lakh using traditional methods. He worked and reworked on the design to make it as cheap as possible,” he added.
TREAT FOR PALATE
Jamie, a foodie, loves hitching a ride to Sira from Honnenahalli to savour the chicken kebabs sold in the town’s joints. “Falooda, the dessert, is another thing I love here,” said the Briton who has learnt to communicate with locals via gestures and a few Kannada words.