DIY —Glass Mantapa


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You can create a special mantapa for your family deity if you spend a little time and employ a little patience and creativity.

You need to buy 4mm glass and one gross of smallest sized glass bottles (Usually available in shops selling laboratory material), some colourful marbles, a glass marker pencil and a tube of glue. Get the glass cut into five squares measuring. Two of which should measure as a twelve inch square and the other three measuring 10, 8 and 6 inches respectively. Even if you happen to choose some other geometrical shape, keep in mind that the proportion should not alter. Two glasses meant for the base and the dome should be identical in size and the other should become smaller in uniform proportion. Get the edges of the glass ground so that they do not cut your hands while working on them or cleaning them later.

Wash the glass and the bottles in soapy water and allow them to dry and wipe it clean so that the dried up water droplets are not seen. Remember while pasting the glasses one on top of another, the opening should always face upwards. Draw diagonals across all the glasses with the marker. You can wipe the markings off with a swab of cotton after the completion of your work. Mark points on the four ends of the glasses with the pencil so that the point is exactly one inch away from corners of the glass and appears on the diagonal.

Take the twelve inch square glass and paste three glass bottles on each corner and let it dry.
They will form the cornerstones of your relic. Turn the glass over and work on the plain side. Place a glass bottles on each marked point and once you are satisfied with the symmetry glue it on. Place the next four bottles on the previously pasted bottles and repeat the process till it reaches a height of eight inches. They will form the pillars of the mantapa.

Place another glass measuring twelve inches on the four pillars and glue it on.

Once again place the glass bottles on the marked point, check out the symmetry and glue it on continue working on the new pillars till they measure two or three inches
Place the ten inch glass on the newly formed pillar and repeat the process and then place the square glass measuring eight inches and glue it on.

Now you have reached the topmost panel of your mantapa. You can place the bottles all around forming a small corridor on the terrace and glue them on.

You can use your imagination and pile the bottles in several ways to build the dome according to your taste. Usually a pyramid shape compliment a square base  best.

Paste the marbles on the open ended bottles to give it that touch of glamour.

A Mix of Traditions And Modernity


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The Vaidyanathans’ home is a blend of old and contemporary elements. The conventional drawing room has a mix of seating arrangements including a swing. An old cradle topped with a sheet of glass serves as a centre table. Stone walls and red-oxide flooring in one room, all add to the old-world charm of the house,

writes Radha Prathi S

old-world charm Features such as stone walls, a tiled roof and a red-oxide flooring all add to the old-world charm of the Vaidyanathans’ home. Photos by the author

safe colours There is a wide range of low-VOC colour options available in the market. Photos courtesy: jotun india pvt ltdWhen creativity is given a professional touch, it would possibly translate into a house such as the one in Panduranga Nagar in the vicinity of IIMB on Bannerghatta road.Fifteen years ago, the Vaidyanathans decided to build a house of their own and went with the blueprint of their dream home to a young architect. Ideas were thrashed out and they came to a consensus on the design of their home – a blend of old and new practical ideas.

The stone duplex housed in a compound amidst greenery has all the regular features of a typical Indian home albeit differently.

For instance, when one enters the home through the front door, a little aisle offers two paths. Guests on a formal visit will be led to the left which descends into a traditional mittham, (a sunken area with a very high roof or sometimes no roof at all) lending the place an old-world aura with its sloping tiled roof going up all the way beyond the first floor area.

The twin pillars which kiss the roof become the focal point of the room in more ways than one. It serves as an open doorway to the interiors of the home, becomes the display board of two imposing dragons, charms of good health besides lending a sense of grandeur to the area. The conventional drawing room is adorned with a blend of seating arrangements including the sofa, chairs, a swing et al. An ancient cradle with its entire works topped with a sheet of glass serves as an unconventional centre table which can hold delicate artefacts securely denying ready access to toddlers.

If one were to take the passageway to the right from the front door, one will have to pass the pooja room housed in the niche below the stairs. A storage unit has been built just above the pooja room using the space between its roof and the stairs ensuring that people will not have to walk over the sacred area. Another meter down the aisle opens into a cosy dining area which can also serve as the drawing room for the family. This room is punctuated with two aisles, one leading to the kitchen and the other leading to the bath and toilet area. The use of the aisles is noteworthy; their walls double up as shelf areas leading into the functional space. The L-shaped kitchen purposely placed in the frontal region of the house serves two purposes. Apart from giving access to the view of the road and gate leading to the house, it also ensures that oily fumes are not confined to the cooking area, making cleaning an easier chore. The functional area of the kitchen opens into the garden and utility area.

The dining area opens into another room at the opposite end and to the garden besides paving way for a staircase that leads to the first floor. The ground floor is an open house with no doors within the premises sans the pooja and the bathroom.

The large bay windows of the home give more space for seating and also for lighting up the stone walls within the home. The sleek steel window frames makes the place look sleek and one cannot overlook the number of trees that were saved from the axe while making this choice.

That textured look…

In the interests of long-term maintenance, strength and aesthetics, the walls have been tiled with hand dressed granite. The result is a textured look as opposed to the uniform look of a machine dressed surface. The cool Betham Cherla – natural stone flooring complements the walls with similar textured looks and has been acquiring sheen with regular mopping over the decade.

The first floor of the home has a huge balcony with ample view of the ground floor which serves as an open drawing room flanked by two bedrooms.

A couple of steps along the bedroom lead up to a rather large attic area improvised into a little library. The cane bookshelves replete with a fabulous collection can prove to be a delightful world unto itself to a book lover. Unlike the ground floor, the first floor has brick walls, red oxide flooring and provides a lot of personal space to the occupants. The entire home has natural ventilation and lighting and every inch of its space has been thoughtfully used.

Show pieces that adorn the home date to different periods. Curios and artefacts from every feasible material rub shoulders with potted indoor plants and have been placed strategically to add to the ambience of the place.

The most recent feature added to the house happens to be rainwater harvesting updating the house to modern needs. An ideal home and a pragmatic one at that!

Study Room


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Of late, increasingly crowded homes have meant that it is very difficult to accommodate a study room in people’s homes. But then, ‘Where there is a will there is a way’.

Here are a few ideas to create your own den. If you have a guest room in your home, it could double up as a study when not in use. Large balcony spaces and large corridors could also be converted into study rooms if you could place a sliding door or a foldable wooden screen as a small partition to cordon off the place. A colourful curtain with a cheerful print would also suffice as a dividing wall if you think that the noise levels at your home are at tolerable levels.

You could build a few extra shelves to hold your collection of books. If you take sometime off painting the bookshelves at least on a bi-annual basis it will protect your books from attracting silver fish and other insects that may harm your books over a period of time. Whenever you find a little time on your hands, make a catalogue of your books and number them accordingly. Every one in your family will find it convenient to use the books and it will also help you to keep track of your stock and help you from not losing any of your precious books in the long run.

A large study table and a straight-backed chair can prove to be useful when you are making notes or referring to several books at the same time. It is best not to accommodate the computer on the study table as it can prove to be a disturbance sometimes. Besides if two or three people happen to be using the study at the same time, keeping the computer at a different spot in the study room will be helpful.

Throw in an arm chair or two to help you relax as you read for pleasure. The lighting of your study area should be even and should be soft on your eyes. A window in  your study room would be advantageous; if not, you can arrange for a ceiling fan to whirl over your head to keep you comfortable during those hot afternoons when you might doze off.

There are certain ground rules to follow while making use of a study room. It is best to keep the study area as a private area in one’s home, to maintain the sanctity, peace and quietness of the place.

Distracting elements like telephones or the television among other things can be avoided on the premises. If space permits, you could hang up your favourite picture, a thought provoking painting, some nostalgic family photographs which will help you ruminate over various topics when you are not doing anything specifically. A clock and calendar in the den can help you keep track of time.

Nowadays, we can find readymade cabins similar to those found in corporate offices and cyber cafes in leading furniture shops. They are usually made of wood or fibre glass and come with sliding doors with an open top. You could buy one of these for your home and create your own niche.  The price of these cabins can be anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on the size, material and storage space of the cabin. If you can get a good carpenter to work on a similar idea, you could customise the cabin according to your needs and can also get it done for a slightly lower price.

Creating a private space

If you live in a very small home with just a room and a kitchen, you may have assumed that it is impossible to have a study, but then a study room is about creating a private space for oneself.

Lack of physical space should not prove to be a hindrance if you have made up your mind to have a study.

Any corner of your bedroom or living room can be converted into a study area where you can place your study table with an over hanging bookshelf fixed on the wall.

All the members who live in such houses can come to a consensus about using the telephone, television and computer in such a way that they do not come in each other’s way.

Time To Spruce Up


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Maintenance A newly built home is a thing of beauty. Over time, however, some aspects needs attention be it repair or replacement. A few tricks would keep the home functional for a long time, says Radha Prathi

People who live in their own houses will vouch for the fact that it is easier to build a house than maintaining it in a functional manner. Invariably, some aspect of the home always seems to be under repair or in need of replacement.

Plumbing, sanitation, electric connection, water seepage, plastering, colouring -the issues could be of a major or a minor nature, nevertheless they are endless. Constant repairing or re-fitting of appliances and storage items can ruin the walls and render them weak in the long run. Though one cannot profess to find a permanent solution to the problem, a little time, energy and money invested on the subject in the initial stages can prove to be a panacea in the long run. Here are a few tips that can keep your home glowing and functional for a long time soon after construction or renovation.

Well begun is half done! If you invest in good quality material at competitive prices you can congratulate yourself on a project which will last longer without too many repairs. The need for space always seems to increase miraculously as the years pass. Built-in storage spaces are not only compact but also lend more living space, hence ensure to build ample storage space wherever possible, right in the beginning.

Painting matters

When you get your home painted, ensure that you store a little paint in each hue in little airtight containers. You can touch up little scratches and peelings on walls and doors that might occur during shifting. In the long run, a dab of the exact shade of fabric paint can do the trick. When corners of walls chip, or a little damage is caused while driving nails or fitting new appliances use a little M-seal to fill the gap evenly, rub a piece of white chalk over it, to serve as primer and then paint them over as suggested above.

Porches, porticos, balconies, service verandahs and corridors exposed to sunlight, invariably tend to be used as storage spaces. Hence, it is advisable to build some storage space from the ground level up to two or three feet, right in the beginning. The top of these cupboards can double up as seating space. You could also place potted plants on them. This way, the flooring will remain unsoiled and moisture free, besides avoiding cluttering. Make arrangements to trail some creepers along the metallic grill which encloses semi open spaces in your home. This way, you will have access to sunlight and the view outside without compromising on your privacy. Do not wait to grow old to fit railings on slippery corridors and bathrooms to support walking. If they are done right away, your home will be friendly to the elderly and sick through all times.

Electrical fittings like switches and plug points have a curious way of going out of style very quickly. Switchboards in kitchens and bathrooms tend to wear out quickly. Hence make it a point to buy the latest. If you buy some extra fittings, it will be easy to replace them whenever the need arises without making the spot look odd with whatever is available at a later point of time. While using glass for windows preferably use a higher gauge of glass. Use plain glass if you live at a higher altitude and opt for the latest pattern if you live on the ground or first floor, because, patterns on glass tend to keep changing. In case you have to replace a broken glass, go for a contrasting colour or opt for a stained glass painting replacement to avoid a patchy look.

Installing water harvesting system and solar heater at the outset can help in retaining the strength of your walls in the long run, for these installations require some extra plumbing which can cause damage. Child-proofing your home If you have small children at home, it will be a good idea to tape sandpaper or some light coloured wallpaper along the vacant walls of your home or the children’s room for about three feet from the floor. The kids can create their murals on them without stressing you. They can be retained or removed according to your convenience. Buying a couple of extra latches, padlocks, handles and knobs in the same design that you have chosen for your home can have an unpredictable way of coming in handy at a later date, without causing abrasions to your woodwork and also without sticking out unceremoniously.

New Code For Buildings


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India has put forth a National Building Code which is being enforced on all builders and land developers.

Fire protection and safety installations are the key concern of NBC, writes Radha Prathi S
Nature has a way of taking a toll on life and property when man expects it the least. While it is easy to blame it on carelessness, lack of planning, congestion and deforestation among other reasons for disasters, it is imperative for man to take stock of the situation and do his best to overcome the problem.                                                                                                                                                          Fire accidents are among the worst natural disasters. History stands testimony to the fact that great libraries like the ones in Alexandria, Egypt or Chicago, USA were vulnerable  to fire, and caused huge losses. The list of the great fires that have been maintained is unbelievably long and fills one with a sense of horror.

Architects have always considered the possibility of a fire accident whenever they have launched prestigious projects. Palaces, public halls, museums, hotels, theatres and libraries are generally provided with an emergency fire exit and also have fire hydrants of the period at handy points to prevent an accidental fire from spreading. In spite of all possible caution, fire accidents do happen on and off and disrupt normal life.

Fire fighting techniques have come a long way over a period of time. Today, we have technology to aid us in fire fighting. We have electronic smoke detectors and temperature change detectors which could be fixed in buildings in order to set off an alarm in the case of a fire. The market is flooded with fire-hydrants that are easy to use and increasing competition in the area has kept the prices nominal and has prevented many investors from burning a hole in their pockets. Fire exits, also known as emergency exits, are carefully constructed using non-inflammable material and non conductors of electricity. Builders across the world are trying to substitute inflammable material with non-inflammable ones wherever possible and are trying to incorporate as many fire safety facilities to a large extent. India has put forth a National Building Code (NBC) which is being enforced on all builders and land developers.

Fire protection and safety installations which form a key part of all constructions are the key concern of NBC. Technological advancements, increased use of electric and electronic products, poor city planning and a lack of green cover has inspired NBC to involve itself in the act of protecting the assets of the nation.

Several NGOs and private bodies have stepped in to assist this government policy by sensitising citizens about how it is important to protect their buildings from a possible fire and also how to react in the event of a fire. Fire protection professionals, project managers, consultant engineers, facility managers, insurance surveyors and security officers have been roped in to aid their challenging task.
Several firms such as Bangalore based Firepro Systems, Siemens, Gunnebo, Cardax and The Fire and Safety Association of India (FSAI) have been on their toes to assist the NBC in their respective capacities in its venture. The metros are a major cause for concern to the NBC more than ever before.

FSAI’s seminar

The authorities have realised the need to educate and sensitise people in fire management. It is with this intention FSAI hosted a seminar on Engineering a Safe and Secure India: Responsibilities, Challenges and Solutions to discuss the various dimensions of security problems. MC Mutthanna, who chaired the seminar on fire fighting said that he hoped more people would become aware of various methods of protecting themselves from the possible havoc that a fire can wreak.

Chairman of the Technical Committee Liaqut Ali Khan said a number of measures have been taken by NGOs to reduce the excise duty on safety products which may be active, passive, fixed or mobile as the case may be so that more people have access to the facilities.

The Karnataka State Fire Services which has been rated among the best in the country is of the opinion that the effectiveness of safety quotient is based on the importance given by builders to NBC.

The engineers who are working on fire safety products acknowledged that India still needs to have a concrete structure in place to propagate and formalise the approach to managing fire and safety systems. Anandraman, an engineer working on the project, said efforts are being made to make the fire dousing techniques suit Indian conditions.

New Green Rage: Pinewood


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There is a demand for pine wood from New Zealand. India’s indigenous supply of softwood has dwindled, which makes importing wood the next best option, reports Radha Prathi S

Green buildings and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification are the buzzwords in the realty sector today. Architects, building material suppliers, builders and interior decorators are leaving no stone unturned to find eco-friendly, renewable and sustainable materials to complete their projects.

The latest “green” product in the realty scenario happens to be the “super soft pine wood” from New Zealand.

This wood which found its way from the Monteray along the Californian coast to the Kiwi island way back in 1890 took to the land like a duck takes to water. The wood proved to be a blessing in disguise to the natives of New Zealand and Australia who found the material extremely supple and strong, and fulfilled their building and furniture needs.

Better than conventional hardwoods

Because the trees have the capacity to grow fast and are ready for harvest after 25 years, it became an added advantage against conventional hardwoods which would take more than half a century to mature.

Over a period of time, the new pinewood from the family Pinus Radiata became a byword in the world of construction. Apart from being used for building lightwood houses running up to four storeys, the wood could be used in brick/stone buildings for interiors, windows, doors, frames, mouldings, stairs, cabinetry and bench tops.

Right colour, weight and strength

Pinewood has proven itself to be the right wood for furniture, kitchen cabinets and office partitions because of its light colour, weight and incredible strength.

Pinewood’s implausible success in the world of construction has taken it across the globe and homes in USA, China, Middle Eastern countries, Philippines Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia in one form or another.

The growing demand for renewable and sustainable pinewood gave birth to a number of pinewood farms in New Zealand, which was soon approved of by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). For the uninitiated, this organisation makes sure that the earth is not denuded of trees without ensuring that another crop is maturing to make up for the loss of cut trees besides carrying out several other duties with reference to forests of the globe.

Tony Johnston from Lumber link, New Zealand pointed out that FSC had certified their pinewood farm which made it a credible source of building material that meets LEED standards of green buildings. Ever since the certification, the export value of pine lumber increased in leaps and bounds. The demand encouraged a boost in pine farming which runs into more than two million hectares of land.

This step has not only reinforced the sagging economy, but has also automatically contributed to the environment by preventing soil erosion and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

Softwood supply in India dwindles

Today the magic of pinewood has reached the shores of India. Cliff Fuller, the Trade Commissioner from New Zealand observed that pine wood from New Zealand would find a great market in India, for the economy of the country seemed to be strong despite the global recession.

Moreover India’s indigenous supply of softwood happens to have dwindled, which make importing wood to be the next best option.

The fact also remains that India does not have any FSC protected forests as on date to provide a steady supply of legitimate wood that is necessary in the realm of construction. Siddhartha Bhargava, the Business Development Manager of Trade and Enterprise, New Delhi, remarked that because wood is the only renewable building resource and has the capability to replace building materials like steel, glass, cement and sometimes even stone to a large extent, the Kiwi pinewood with its FSC certification will turn out to be manna from heaven to Indians who can import the same at reasonable rates.

Using wood in construction or building homes out of wood in mountainous regions is not a novelty to Indians. Yet the lack of renewable local wood is making us turn to pinewood as a suitable substitute. Architects and builders are toying with the idea of using the wood in different capacities.

As of now, they have found it an ideal material to make cases and moulds into which concrete can be poured to shape pillars, shelf plates and any other piece of construction that needs moulding.

Posts and poles made from preservative-treated pine have also been put to use to support workers to work on the exterior portion of the building.

Keeping Air Pollution At Bay


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Energy recovery ventilators, fitted to ACs could help keep indoor air pollution under check, notes Radha Prathi

Office spaces and homes would do well to have energy recovery ventilators and pollution meters fixed to their ACs. Photo: Modccon InteriorsMost of our cities are punctuated with yoga and pranayama schools where students are taught to breathe evenly and watch their breathing habits in order to overcome all their problems related to their health and general well-being.

Despite having learnt the art of breathing well, the urban citizen does not have a fair chance to exercise his knowledge on the subject for he lives in a positively polluted world.

The ever growing concrete buildings, traffic situations, industries and factories dotted all over the city are contributing generously to the poisonous content in the life giving air that we breathe. If at all man chooses to practice his newly learnt skill within the premises of his air conditioned home he cannot be assured of breathing pure air.

ACs, coolers do little

Today man has chosen to opt for air conditioning in his residence, office and public premises to beat the heat and lack of adequate ventilation. Though air conditioners and coolers do their job well and keep the temperatures at pleasant levels it is evident that that do little or nothing about free circulation of air. Invariably people who happen to spend most of their time in air conditioned premises breathe the stale air because circulation of fresh air is cut off almost entirely.

Research has revealed that breathing musty air can make man susceptible to a number of ailments like headaches, dizziness, eye and throat irritation, shortness of breath, nausea, drowsiness, fatigue and memory loss in the short term. Those who spend longer hours for several years in air conditioned premises can be affected by fatal diseases related to lungs and contract asthma and lung cancer. Random tests in various premises both domestic and public in the contemporary era have revealed that indoor air happens to be 40 per cent more polluted than outdoor air.

Presence of formaldehydes, radon, asbestos, volatile organic compounds, from solvents, paints, varnishes and carpets among other things contribute to the pollution which result in rampant proliferation of bacteria, viruses and fungus in the premises.

It is a matter of irony that  the man who chooses to keep outdoor pollutants like sulphur, nitrogen di oxide, carbon monoxide and high pollen counts traps himself indoors in air conditioned premises ensuring that he is insulated against outside air without realising that air inside conditioned space can be substantially more hazardous than outdoor air.

Indoor air quality vital

It is high time that man started paying attention to indoor air quality as most buildings are opting for air-conditioning due to several practical reasons.

Many buildings are spending huge sums of money in making their buildings friendly in terms of temperature, humidity and odour without paying attention to indoor air quality.

Findings reveal that there has been an increase of 15 per cent in terms of asthmatic ailments which is directly related to poor indoor air quality.

Buildings situated amidst vast amounts of greenery with good ventilation systems are certainly the answer to the problem. All the same one has to taken into consideration the practical difficulties of translating such ideas into action. We must accept the fact that air conditioning systems have come to stay but we can certainly do something about stepping up the indoor air quality system.

Pollution meter

DRI-Desiccant Rotors International Pvt.Ltd. a multinational company based in India has been working on this subject for almost a decade now and they have come up with palpable solutions to overcome this problem. The company has come up with a carbon di oxide sensor a machine which helps to calibrate the carbon di oxide and other pollutant levels in any given premises.

This instrument which looks like a wireless telephone sets the stage to make suitable corrections and improvements in the indoor environment at reasonable prices.

ACs fitted with energy recovery ventilator

The designers of this ‘pollution-meter” have looked into various aspects of the new standards and the increased awareness set by eco-friendly green buildings besides taking care of older buildings which have been fit with air conditioners. The instrument also helps them to gauge the ventilation load. After the preliminary step of gauging the quality of air an Energy  Recovery Ventilator (ERV) is fit as an additional component to the existing air conditioner in order to cleanse the air by accelerating the circulation of air at a reasonable pace and price.

The ERV is a common accessory to air conditioners across the world these days. The desiccant coated energy recovery wheel, which slowly rotates between its two sections to facilitate the conditioning of indoor air supply and the distribution of outdoor air from the atmosphere to indoors, has proved to be a boon to freshening indoor air.

Fitting ERVs to air conditioners is picking up in India. It has paved way to new industry by supplementing to the air conditioning needs of the people. The constant increase in closed or sealed areas with inadequate or no ventilation of any sort has prompted the need for this new venture.

The plush office complexes, BPOs, call centers, software complexes, malls and most residences will do well to invest in this accessory at the earliest.

The capital and operating cost of ERVs is a trifle on the higher side at the moment, but there is a very good chance of the prices plummeting down as entrepreneurs see the demand for the product and work on optimising the role of ERV besides cost effectiveness giving a breather to unwholesome breathing conditions.