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This House in Kottayam is Based on the Philosophy of Critical Regionalism

The Eco-House by Elemental

Built on the philosophy of Critical Regionalism, this house upholds the character of traditional Kerala architecture using undisturbed white walls, Mangalore-tiled sloping roofs and proportions inspired from old palaces of Travancore.

The Eco-House at Kottayam is tailor-made to suit the lifestyle preferences of a family of four. Built to accommodate modern amenities, the design of the house was conceived considering what the spaces would feel like to an end-user.

Being ecologically conscious, the clients wanted a house which responds to Kottayam’s hot and humid climate. Numerous passive cooling strategies have been implemented to match the home’s tropical surroundings.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental

Critical Regionalism

Critical regionalism is a philosophy that preserves local architectural identity, retaining its functional features and meeting global standards.

With white walls and Mangalore-tiled sloping roofs with proportions inspired from the old palaces of Travancore, the Eco-House upholds the character of traditional Kerala architecture.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental

During the initial discussions, one of the requirements the client had put forward was that they wanted a structure which is modest on the first glance. From the gate, the Eco-House looks humble. The series of airy spaces that follow come as a surprise!

The Eco-house in elevation contains only functional elements. A minimalist take on Kerala architecture, the Eco-house has simple and neat workmanship.

Site & Orientation

The Eco-house is located at the top of a hill. The site was excavated by the previous landowner disturbing the eco-system. Our project is a conscious attempt to restore it in the best way possible. The undisturbed peak of the hill which is on the South edge of the plot comes to advantage in our design- it blocks the extreme rays of noon sun that fall on the structure limiting solar heat gain. The house has been oriented to maximise wind flow from the bottom of the hill.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental


Being located around 700m from the main road, the site has a certain amount of privacy as it is. The client wanted to make sure that this was enhanced. Unlike in most houses in the region, the garage is located at the back of the house. Now an onlooker on the first glance wouldn’t be able to guess whether someone is inside the house or not!

Picture Courtesy: Elemental

Space Segregation

The spaces in the Eco-House have been separated into public spaces at the east end and private spaces at the west, with semi-public spaces in the middle. The client loves to entertain. The spacious main hall which opens out into the deck was designed with this in mind. With a dedicated inbuilt audio system, the space is ideal to host a party! Being avid readers, the cosy library on the first floor was made to suit the client’s taste.

Coupled with snug furniture, the well-lit spaces of the house creates a warm atmosphere for its visitors. An ideal space to enjoy the good things in life with good people, it promotes a Hygge way of life.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental


The Eco-House has four bedrooms with attached baths and dressing areas. With all the wardrobes going up to ceiling height, each of the bedrooms has ample storage space. Like the bedrooms, the storage space in the kitchen has been optimised. The inbuilt ovens and fridge give the space a tidy feel. With an opening into the kitchen courtyard, this space is well lit and ventilated at all times. The four bathrooms and powder room with clean white tiles have strips of printed tiles to add a pop of colour.

Each bathroom follows a distinct theme. The neat wood-finished staircase is constructed with a metal stringer beam to give the space a greater sense of volume. A double-height display rack adjacent to the stair which is visible from both floors, allow the client to exhibit their favourite possessions without creating clutter. The eco-house is built with burnt clay bricks. The limited amount of concrete used for walls makes it thermally efficient. There are no false ceilings in this house. With well, pre-planned, electrical systems, the raw form of the structure is enjoyed.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental

The roofs of the structure are made of concrete. Most of the roof is covered with trusses with Mangalore tiles. This creates room for airflow above the concrete roof providing effective insulation against the heat. The clay roof tiles are left exposed without any coatings. The naturally growing moss on these tiles adds to the aesthetic. The natural finish of the Mangalore tiles optimizes its insulating capacity.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental


Good day-lighting is one of the prime features of the Eco-House. There is not a single dull corner in this house! Its well-distributed plan allows optimal levels of day-lighting. The light that comes in is reflected off the white walls making the space pleasant and bright.

Although there are plenty of windows, the protruding sunshades at the Eco-House allow only indirect sunlight to come in, minimizing solar heat gain. These sunshades also provide protection from the driving rain. The air-cavity below the trussed tiles on the roof also helps minimize solar heat gain.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental


Another feature of the Eco-House is that it doesn’t require air- conditioning. Designed to have great cross- ventilation, the Eco-House cools itself! With a greater floor to ceiling height than most homes, the spacious rooms don’t feel stuffy at all.

The wind tower- an exhaust for hot air above the central staircase allows the hot air rising to escape. Similarly, a mechanical exhaust system in bedrooms is used to keep the spaces cool at all times. The lack of direct sunlight coming into the interiors also compliments this. The kitchen has a dedicated courtyard of its own to enhance its lighting and ventilation levels. Along with a stove chimney, the smells from the kitchen do not enter the other areas of the Eco-house.

Picture Courtesy: Elemental

Landscape & Rainwater Harvesting

Only local species are used for landscaping at the Eco-House. Easy to grow and maintain, these species require no pesticides and facilitate the recharge of groundwater. The limited number of pavers also contribute to the same. Rainwater is harvested on-site and re-used for irrigation.

Sustainable Lifestyle

The Eco-House also promotes a sustainable lifestyle. With a dedicated area for fruit trees and a well on site, the clients have the facility to grow the food they consume! Food waste from the site is put into a compost pit on site. This is later used as a fertilizer for the plants. A solar water heater is used for the homes hot water requirements.

Project: The Eco-House

Location: Kottayam, Kerala

Design House: Elemental

Lead Architect: Amrutha Kishor

Photography: Justin Sebastian

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