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Nature meets Innovation

Nestled in the paddy fields of Kochi, Kerala, the Amalgam Residence combines modularity and sustainability. With multiple challenges conquered and solutions crafted, this residence evolves with its inhabitants.

In the quaint suburban town of Tiruvankulam in Kochi, Kerala, sits the Amalgam residence. Situated on a 0.2 acre plot, the house offers an unobstructed view of the paddy fields surrounding the area. The house, designed as a composite structure, incorporates vertical green spaces and planter boxes to make it seem like it is being cuddled in a forest.

The Brief
Delving into the details of the brief, Eby Sunny, Chief Architect, Studio PROMADA, says, “An unobstructed view of the paddy field from the residence was a requirement from the client, which was also the intention behind the selection of the site. The building is divided into a transparent hemisphere and an opaque hemisphere. It is a composite building with a conventional core for sleeping quarters and privacy for the family.” Not only that, climatic factors are considered, with the thoughtful use of air scoops which ensures air exchange without puncturing holes on the surface of the building. “To ensure privacy”, Sunny adds, “Vertical green spaces were added on all sides of the house to provide a translucent effect. The building elevation will evolve with plants which implies that the building grows with its people in time.”

Navigating Challenges
One of the major challenges that Sunny recounts was transporting the crane to the construction site due to road limitations. Additionally, during the hoisting process, there were difficulties caused by electrical lines crossing the road, which obstructed the crane’s operation. Apart from this, he says, “Another noteworthy challenge was the public’s resistance to accepting the building as a residential structure; they were sceptical about its nature and perceived it as more of an industrial building.”

He further elaborates that the design phase of the project extended longer than anticipated. In addition to addressing some design challenges, the studio was also in the midst of obtaining a patent. “There were instances where we had to demolish and rebuild concrete columns due to our commitment to precision, leaving no room for even a centimetre of deviation. Additionally, a significant challenge arose from the need to complete electrical and plumbing work at each stage of construction for the integrated whole.”

Though faced with numerous challenges, the plates and members were carefully embedded during installation. Prior to being transported to the site, gusset plates were already in place, and meticulous planning ensured a smooth assembly process without any complications.

The design phase for the residence consumed 1.5 years, and an additional year was dedicated to interior design. “While cost efficiency wasn’t optimal, primarily due to the absence of established practices in our region, the incorporation of steel construction proved advantageous. It mitigated issues commonly associated with traditional civil construction, thanks to the smooth execution facilitated by steel,” he says.

Modularity
The building was envisaged as a composite building where the advantages of both conventional building techniques were explored. The advantage of a composite structure is that the core of the building remains the same as that of a concrete structure but areas like the balcony, canopy, planter pits, shading device, and exterior skin, can all be altered while maintaining an open plan and the building can be modified in the future in line with the requirements of the client.

The Amalgam residence only had one balcony in the front when the design process was initiated, but towards the end, the requirement for one more balcony arose. Sunny adds that this was easily done due to the usage of steel frames. “The members used in this particular building were ‘X frames’. It is part of our studio’s patent in which the frame has a hollow core, allowing us to carry all the service lines through the centre. Junction boxes connect all the members because no welding is done on-site. Every member was cut to the required sizes which were welded, premiered and painted from Coimbatore and within a day’s time, everything was riveted together and hoisted to the decided positions.”

Interestingly, the studio also practices techniques wherein the grid forms the basic design for any structure, making it easy to manufacture the required sections elsewhere and ensure that all sections fit perfectly. The off-site manufacturing also allows the studio to effectively manage construction timelines, spot errors and mitigate the same in an efficient manner.

Elaborating on the manufacturing process, Sunny says, “The manufacturing process was overseen by Mr. Manikandan from Coimbatore. He handled all aspects efficiently and transported the materials to the construction site. The only challenge encountered was that our vehicle was quite large, so we had to transfer the materials to smaller vehicles for the final delivery to the site.”

 

Material Matters
With extensive experience in pre-engineered building, the studio is of the firm belief that steel is the future. The structural steel sections were manufactured in Coimbatore, transported to the site, and assembled spontaneously using cranes and hoisting machinery. There was no welding of steel on site; it was welded elsewhere and riveted on site.

Placing an emphasis on self-sufficiency and sustainability, the residence uses porotherm bricks to reduce heat and increase passive cooling. Elaborating on the signature design element of the studio, Sunny says, “The air scoop is strategically incorporated to naturally cool the interior spaces, eliminating the need for mechanical ventilation systems. We also ensured proper louvers and openings to facilitate the stack effect, further reducing reliance on active cooling methods.”

Additionally, a solar panel system has been installed on the roof, capable of meeting the entire building’s energy needs. Passive filtering units have been placed throughout the house. These filters, custom-designed, play a crucial role in passively purifying rainwater and other drainage systems. Moreover, rainwater harvesting tanks, with rainwater overflow units, are ingeniously integrated with the pool.

Quote
“This stands as the most exemplary case in my knowledge to advocate for modular construction. Given that we hold a patent in modular construction, both the building itself and our practices align with this category. Throughout the project, we remained mindful of the modular building principle, ensuring that every single element employed adhered to this concept. For instance, the junction boxes used in the steel construction offered us tremendous flexibility to expand the structure as needed. Furthermore, we have the potential to enhance the compression strength by doubling the X frames. Consistency is key, as we’ve applied the same grid used in the interior design of the residence.”
– Eby Sunny, Chief Architect, Studio PROMADA

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