Reducing air pollution during home renovations

One of the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution in apartment buildings are home renovations. If not done carefully the dust and chemicals spread through the ducts and shafts and are able to cause damage to quite a few residents. While there is no way to completely remove this unfortunate side effect of home remodeling, there are things that can be done to keep it in check.

Painting walls of an empty room. Renovation house.
TIMING
Whenever possible, work at a time when residents are likely to be out; 9 AM to around 6 PM is a fair window. While it is tempting to maximize working hours, it starts to become disruptive to the other residents.
BARRIERS AND CONTAINMENT
Cover all ducts and openings in the apartment during the process, this will contain the particles and one can control the damage.
Keep containers of paint and other chemicals closed whenever possible. And keep it all confined to as small an area as possible, for example if painting a room, keep the door closed and windows open so that the chemicals aren’t spreading to the other rooms unnecessarily.

Painting supplies

CLEANING
Get the site cleaned every day at the end of the day. Remove debris in proper containers. Also ensure that workers on site, clean their feet and clothes before leaving a site so as to not spread particulate around the area.

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VENTILATION
Keep the appropriate windows open and consider putting a standing fan on site to be able to direct the air out.
STAY OUT
And finally the most basic thing to do, stay away from a work site as much as possible, if inspecting the site make sure work is stopped and the site has been ventilated. Wear a mask whenever you do visit. Definitely keep children and pets far away from site.

Keep these tips in mind when renovating or share them with anyone who is planning a renovation, a little consideration will go a long way to improve the indoor air quality in your building.

How to design your home like a pro

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Interior design is a specialised job and no one can replace what designers bring to the table in terms of combining functionality with design. Still, there is a large section of home owners who don’t have the kind of budget that allows them to splurge on the personalised services of an interior designer.
For those home owners, who deeply care about design but would just like to do up their space themselves, here are some tips on how.
Find Home Décor Ideas online, and break them down into elements
There are high quality home design ideas all over the web, websites like pinterest and houzz will allow you to browse thousands of designs for each room. Start saving the ones you like and break each image down into elements. For example if you like a kitchen image, identify what you like about it, whether it’s the colour scheme, flooring material, woodwork, accessories, lighting, wall tiles etc. this will help you list your requirements.
Map images to products
Carry the shortlisted images to the market and start selecting materials that will help you achieve the final look you want. Show these images to the shop owners and they will guide you.
Room Color Schemes
Pick a colour scheme that best defines your look, once established try and be consistent through different rooms.

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Feature walls
Design feature walls into your rooms. For bedrooms pick the wall behind the bed and give it contrast in colour or consider using wallpaper, for the TV lounge create a wall feature behind the TV and maybe a picture wall in the living room where you can arrange family photos in an aesthetic way. This adds an element of personality to the rooms.

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Lighting
Design the lighting with care, pick rooms where you want to create a false ceiling with embedded lights, decide where you want to add some hanging lights (dining table, breakfast counter, living room)

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Accessories and décor
This is the most personalised part of the process, be picky about the kind of mirrors, decorative bowls, planters and baskets you want to have displayed in your home. Identify the locations and design the appropriate shelves and tables that need to be installed in order to create the look you want.

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Keep these thoughts in mind when designing your own home, if so inclined make some sketches to discuss with your contractor, and we are sure you’ll fall in love with your new home once it’s ready.

Have you designed your home recently? Share your experiences with us in the comments section.

Modular Kitchen Accessories: What to keep in mind (Part 2)

Here’s a few other modular kitchen accessories that you might want to consider when setting up a new kitchen.

Vegetable Basket pullout
A vegetable basket pullout gives you a space to keep all your fresh produce. Things like potatoes and onions will always be kept outside even if you choose to keep the rest in the fridge. Instead of keeping your vegetables in a basket on top of the counter, this just makes your space look neater.

Note: One often has a choice between wicker baskets and stainless steel baskets. While wicker looks nicer, it can be harder to clean than stainless steel. You will also need to choose whether to put a shutter on your baskets or leave them open – a shutter can help keep the dust out and the smells inside.

VegiBasket1
Source: Howdens

VegiBasket2
Source: 3plModularKitchens

Kitchen Pantry Unit
Pantry units come in a few different variations, and generally are in the form of a tall pullout with multiple shelves. The advantage of a pantry unit is that the things lying in the back of your cabinets become easier to reach, as opposed to needing to pull out all your jars in front to access the ones behind.

Note: Given the tall nature of these cabinets, you’ll still need a stepstool or a small ladder to access the upper shelves.

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Source: Hettich

PantryUnit2
Source: Hettich

PantryUnit3
Source: Hettich

Appliance Garage
Appliance garages are becoming popular in India nowadays. They can be thought of as small cabinets on your kitchen counter to keep your appliances plugged in, and pulled out whenever you want to use one. There is usually a shutter on the front of the cabinet, hence the use of the term garage.

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Source: Houzz.com

ApplianceGarage1
Source: Houzz.com

Drawer systems
Drawers come in many shapes and sizes in your kitchen. You can use drawers for cutlery, pots and pans, grains, flour and much more. They are often referred to as tandem boxes.

Note: The larger of these tandem boxes have weight capacities, so its important to figure out what purpose you’re going to use your drawer for. Also keep in mind that the pictures your modular kitchen company will show you usually show divisions/compartments in these drawers, but those attachments need to be purchased separately.

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Source: Hettich

DrawerSystems2
Source: Hettich

If you missed the first post in this series click here Modular Kitchen Accessories Part 1

All You Need to Know About Rainwater Harvesting in Delhi

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Our team had a chat with officials at The Rain Centre, R.K. Puram and Force, the NGO that has partnered with the Delhi Jal Board to implement rain water harvesting in Delhi, to get clarity on what actually needs to be done.

For those unaware of the problem and the mandate, we request you to read through our previous blog:Introduction to Rain Water Harvesting.  Rain water Harvesting has now become mandatory for all residential houses that are 500 sq. meters and above. There are 2 rules to observe here:

  1. It is compulsory and there is no way you can shy away from implementing a Rain water Harvesting System if your house is 500 sq. Mtrs. or over.
  2. You need to construct an underground water storage tank connecting all the drains on the roof. You may construct more than one if all the drains cannot be connected to one. The formula for the storage tank is as follows:

Rooftop area (in sq meters) X 0.8 (this is the runoff coefficient. Basically it is believed that 80% of the rain water runs off and can be collected) X 0.025 (as it is believed that Delhi receives an average rainfall of .25 mm per hour).

 

This formula will give you the volume of the rain water harvesting pit in Cubic meters. This volume will be calculated from the lowest part of the inlet pipe, to the top most layer of the filter media of the ground water recharge pit. Here again, it is recommended that you build a recharge pit and not a mere storage pit, though the Delhi Jal Board doesn’t mandate the building of a recharge pit. However, it is recommended, so that the water keeps percolating into the ground and doesn’t overflow much.  The point to note here is that the Delhi Jal Board hasn’t specified any set dimensions for the pit/pits as long as the total volume of water collected is basis the above formula.

 

Delhi Jal Board Roof Top Definition for Rainwater Harvesting

A rooftop is any area that is exposed to rain, and from where water can be collected.  So, any terrace or landing exposed to rain water will be considered a roof. Currently, the Delhi Jal Board has only come out with a mandate for Roof Top Water Harvesting, so if you aren’t just looking at complying with the policy, you could also collect surface level water.

 

Rainwater Harvesting Recharge Pit Filtration

In case you plan to build a ground water recharge pit, it is suggested you add the following filter media in the specified layers so that the water percolates slowly and is purified in the process:

Layer 3: Brick Bats

Layer 2: Bajri/Gravel or Coarse Charcoal

Layer 1: Sand

 

You could also merely use Jute bags, but you would have to change them every year, as they would disintegrate. The point to note here is, that the thickness of the filter media needs to be 80 cm.

 

If you plan to build a mere Storage Tank, you would need to build a concrete floor for the tank as well. In this case, you will need to keep track of the overflow as well, during the rainy season.

 

Rainwater Harvesting Storage Tank Overflow

To manage overflows, one needs to ensure that there is an over flow pipe. This overflow pipe needs to connect to the garden in the house or an open area where the water can be absorbed. It should definitely not connect to the sewage system of the house or the mcd drains; else, it will get wasted. If you have a borewell in the house, you could also connect the overflow pipe to the borewell.

 

Delhi Rainwater Harvesting Penalty

If you decide to ignore or procrastinate implementing rain Water Harvesting in Delhi by September end, then your Delhi Jal Board Bill will increase by 50%. To avoid this penalty, you need to implement the above, and share the design of your storage tank, as well as a top view design of your entire plot, specifying the plumbing, to get clearance. This letter, along with the aforementioned designs, needs to be sent to the revenue department of the Jal Board. As soon as you send this letter, you wouldn’t be liable to pay any penalty, and can get is waived off by showing a copy of the same to the collection authority or specifying the same on the Delhi Jalboard helpline numbers.

 

Even though the penalty will be waived off as soon as the letter is sent, random checks will happen at a later date, to ensure that you have complied with the policy.

Tips on Being Considerate Towards Neighbours During Renovations

noisy neighbours

noisy neighbours

We all live in a closed society, amongst neighbours, and are interdependent on them. It is therefore, extremely important for all of us to ensure that we care for our neighbours. Many a times, we ignore our neighbours’ convenience while constructing and renovating our homes and offices. This isn’t really unethical, but being considerate would certainly go a long way in building a relationship with your neighbours. Here are a few tips on how you could be a bit thoughtful and integrate your neighbours’ conveniences while planning your project:

1)    Inform your neighbours’ about your renovation project and the scope of the same, weeks in advance. Say, you are planning to change the tiles of your apartment along with other things, the neighbours below should know about the dates when the same would happen, so that they can plan accordingly.

2)    Discuss the work schedule you have in mind, with your neighbours. They may have guests on certain days, or may have a baby or an elderly person at home who needs to be shifted out during the process. Some people may work in shifts and may find it inconvenient if your construction work takes place on certain days. Try and accommodate their needs as much as you can, and be extra sensitive if you have a baby or an elderly person as a neighbour.

3)    Share your contact details and that of your contractor, especially if you plan to shift out during the renovation process. This will communicate to your neighbours, that you will lend a ear in case they face any problems during the construction process.

4)    Let your contractor know how important the convenience of your neighbours is, to you. Ensure he addresses any concerns they have, especially those related to seepage, cleanliness, the work schedule, and the parking areas used by construction vehicles and the contractors etc.

5)    If your renovation process causes any damage to their premises, ensure your contractor tries to rectify the same, without charging them.

 

6)    If possible, invite your neighbours for dinner once your project is complete, so that they get a chance to see your new home/office.

All in all, try putting yourself in your neighbours’ shoes and make your renovation process as seamless as possible for them. If you cannot reach out to them for whatever reason, ensure that you don’t schedule any renovation that would result in excessive noise (demolition, marble work etc.) before 9.30 am, and post 8pm. If you can, also avoid the afternoon nap hours as well.

That said, some neighbours are never happy no matter what you do, so don’t fret over them excessively.

Home Office Ideas in Small Spaces

Work is no longer a 9-5 ordeal, and we often tend to bring back things to do. As a result it’s important that we have our working nook in the house so we can isolate work and personal space as much as possible.

 

  • The room under the stairs: The space, the famous Harry Potter lived in, can be well utilised to carve out a fancy work space. If you are a space optimiser freak, you could also build a cabinet in the staircase.

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  • The landing between the stairs: This usually is the most under utilised space, as it is used more as a pathway between the rooms. However, this space could be used to build an unobtrusive work area with a table built in within a cabinet, and a chair.

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  • Folding tables in cabinet: Tables take a lot of space, but a book shelf with a folding cabinet can really cut a lot of space while creating an office like nook, when one wants to work or transforming into a library of sorts, otherwise.

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  • Table extentions in bed side tables: You could create a small laptop extention in your bed side table, if you end up working into the night.

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  • Having sleek and nifty work tables allows you to be more creative, as they can fit into any space and concept. Such tables can in fact become an essential part of your living room or bedroom, adding more layers to your rooms and your identity.

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Hope these little space optimisations and furniture innovations help you create a small office space at home.  For more such tips, stay tuned.

 

Renovation before the Monsoons

monsoon home

While many people curse the monsoons for stalling construction, the rains prove to be a good test of the quality of the construction.

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  • Testing the Waterproofing: Monsoons are the best time to test your waterproofing without having to fill up the basement or the roof with water, manually, to test the seepage. You can easily check for leakages and see where the water is seeping from and take corrective measures.

Roof-drain-system

  • Testing the plumbing and drainage: While building, it’s important to check if the water is draining right and if the roof is slanting correctly. It’s important to check that the water doesn’t collect anywhere and then alter drainage, accordingly. Monsoons are the best time for such tests. This is also a good time to test the drain pipes and check for blockages.

wood swelling

  • Woodwork: wood tends to swell in the monsoons, hence it is a good idea to wax or oil the wood before the rains arrive. In any case, the wood may swell a bit, and it is important to cater to the same, before fixing the same in the house.
  • There is usually a gap between the floor and the door, through which rain water tends to get in. Monsoon is a good time to check this and build a mount or add a rubber contraption to the door to stop the water from entering the house.
  •  Walls: Monsoons are the perfect time to check all the interior walls, especially those in the bathroom and the kitchen, for any spots of dampness so that if there are any cracks these can be repaired and waterproofed right away.

Do take care of these three factors, while planning your renovation project.

5 Cool Gadgets to make your Home Greener!

nest

toto glass toilet

1) Toto Washlet Toilet

Who would have thought that a toilet could contribute this significantly to environment conservation! From manufacturing, to distribution and use, it conserves biodiversity, lowers carbon dioxide emissions and water usage and promotes waste recycling. One of the most intriguing parts of this toilet is a warm water faucet with pulsing and oscillating modes. Other features include a heated seat, automatic flushing, an energy saving timer, and a water saving dual flush system.

droplet2

2) Droplet Sprinklers

Water sprinkler systems for the garden are known to waste a large amount of water! The droplet sprinkler is one of a few solutions that’s helping cut that wastage significantly, and also saving energy by combining robotics, with cloud services. It is known to reduce a garden’s water consumption by as much as ninety percent per year. All one needs to do is to attach it to the water supply, set it up using your smartphone, and then configure the device on the Droplet website to tell the system about the plants you have. Their vast data network takes over and tells the sprinkler when, where and how much water to sprinkle.

ecomise

3) Ecoisme

Ecoisme is a single sensor, intelligent home energy monitoring system that tracks the energy consumption of all devices in your house. It then gives you recommendations on reducing energy usage. What’s fascinating is that it claims to be able to alert you about things like forgetting to close your fridge door, or leaving the iron on. Ecoisme was crowd funded through Indiegogo and is currently under development. I’m sure its being eagerly awaited!

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4) Nest Smart Thermostat System

The Nest is one device you’ve probably heard or read about at some point. Typical thermostats are built within devices like air conditioners, and require you to manually program them to adjust the temperature each time. They, however, cannot sense people around. The Nest uses sensors and algorithms to understand who and how many people have entered or exited the house, and automatically adjusts the settings for you. So you’re no longer left worrying about whether you’ve turned off the AC or heating when you leave the house. Thus saving you money while offering plenty of convenience.

water pebble

5) Water Pebble

The pebble is a little stone that you place in your shower, and it helps you reduce your shower water consumption. It starts by baselining the amount of water you are using, and then day-by-day helps you bring down the usage by training you to use less water. It can bring you down to one third of your normal usage, thereby saving a fair bit in time.

While most Indian homes are probably not ready for all these devices just yet, we hope you enjoy reading about some of these cutting edge consumer products in the energy space. We can only hope that some of them hit our markets soon.

How to Reduce Your Electricity Bill by 25%

Energy Efficiency
With all the hullabaloo about Green Tech and Energy Conservation, carbon footprints, and all the smart and geeky sounding jargon, we decided to take some baby steps and speak to Arjun Gupta, about how he helps conserve energy in commercial buildings. What came out, were a bunch of interesting data points, insights and tips.
What Made you Start Smart Joules? 
 
Arjun: Quite Simple. The fact that we end up wasting at least 25% of energy consumed because of inefficiencies, saving which, would not only make energy available to those who need it most, but also save money for building owners and eliminate the need for constructing additional power plants.
So How Do You Actually Help Save Energy? What, in Layman Terms, Do You Do? 
 
Arjun: Smart Joules took birth with the realization that most companies prioritize running their systems at any cost, rather than optimizing their energy consumption to maintain the desired service levels. Even if companies know how to save energy, they typically lack the financial and/or human resources to be able to implement energy saving measures. That’s where Smart Joules comes in. We offer 360 degree solutions when it comes to saving energy. From evaluating energy requirement vis-a-vis consumption, to monitoring wastage, to evaluating the areas where wastage could be reduced, and installing our perceptive energy optimization systems, to financing the project, we do it all.
How Much Do Companies End Up Saving, Month on Month?
Arjun: Well, they end up saving minimum 15% and 25% on an average. For our customers, that means Rs 10,000 or more every day. Smart Joules charges a fixed percentage of the savings for a fixed period of time, typically five years.
How Does India fare, Basis International Standards of Energy Consumption?
 
Arjun: If you look at the Energy Performance Index of commercial buildings, India stands at250-300 kWh/sqm/yr, where as the international standard is around 150 kWh/sqm/yr.
So we are lagging far behind. 
Arjun: Yes.
Do you have any simple tips on how we could catch up? 
 
Arjun: Of course. Not going into the basics, using LED Lights etc…The first place to look is blocking air and water leakages, improving operations and following proper maintenance procedures. Keeping an explicit building energy manager within the maintenance team will go a long way, and will more than pay for the position. Low cost solutions such as painting the roof-tops white, or using reflective paint on the exteriors, helps in reducing air conditioning load. Importantly, using less Glass, in a country like India, helps remarkably. Glass wall exteriors end up creating a Green House effect, dramatically increasing the Air Conditioning costs.
In fact, Super Efficient Buildings can cut electricity costs by more than half.

Planning to Go Solar? Get Your Questions Answered Here

Green planet earth with solar energy batteries installed on it

Solar Energy is one of those amazing solutions to a perennial and growing problem, and even though many of us want to adopt it, the dearth of information and relatively high installation costs kill the urge in the crib.

Our chat with Kanika Khanna, broke a lot of misconceptions regarding harnessing and suing Solar Energy. To give you a little background, Kanika has done her Bachelors in engineering from Delhi College of Engineering (DCE), and her masters from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has worked with Cummins in the US, in the manufacturing sector.

Q: Hi Kanika, It’s great to have you enlighten us about Solar Energy, and how we can harness it. To begin with, what are the pre-requisites one needs to bear in mind when planning to install a solar panel?
Kanika: Well, all you really need is a Electricity connection and a roof that you own. Typically, a panel generating 3kw of energy requires 250 square ft of shade free space. But if that’s not available, you could build super structures or solar pergolas,for the panels.
Q: How does one calculate how much energy should the solar panel generate, to bring down the electricity costs significantly?
Kanika: We follow a few thumb rules here. Typically, from my experience, a 3Kw panel reduces the bill by roughly Rs 3000 per month. This typically helps you break even by 6 years. A 5 Kw system, similarly, helps you break even in less than 5 years. Since a solar panel system lasts for at least 25 years, this turns out to be a huge saving, as solar energy becomes free for the customer after he breaks even. The savings depend on the electricity tariff in your city. For example, Rs. 10.41/kWh is charged on the top slab in Delhi, so if your bill comes around Rs. 6000, you could save about Rs. 2500 on it. You could infact look up Sunkalp.com’s calculator and feed in your pincode, consumption, and rooftop space, to get an idea of how much you could save. 

Q: Wow, this is pretty interesting! What if I don’t use as much energy as I generate, or I need more at night? What happens then?
Kanika: Most of the systems installed these days, are linked to the grid. So, if you generate more energy, you could reverse meter it back to the grid and earn credits. These credits could be used to take electricity back from the grid when you need it. You will of course, be billed only for the balance.
Q: Is it possible to have a home in India completely running on solar energy?
Kanika: That will still take some time. Solar energy is a good supplement to your existing source, though, since the systems installed these days, offer grid synchronous voltage and frequency. This basically means, that solar systems, these days, connect to the regular electricity grid. So, even though it cannot be the only source of electricity, it can bring down costs significantly, as it costs only about Rs. 4-5/unit.