With a calendar punctuated with red letters, Indians are happy go-lucky people. The professionals try to squeeze in as many places into their holiday itinerary and tire them out before they hit the trail back home.
George Thomas is a different kind of traveler. The Ernakulam resident travels to recharge his batteries. And nothing takes out as fun from a trip as the boring hotel rooms, he said.
So he wanted a home away from home in his favorite destination, Ooty. “There is no point building a house in Ooty as you would in Kochi. The house had to match the enchanting beauty of the hill station. But I did not have a model,” Thomas recounted his dilemma.
That was when he went to Indonesia. The wooden houses in the South Asian country triggered his fancy, that ultimately resulted in the formation of ‘Wood Hive’, just four kilometers away from the Ooty town.
The house stands proud against a backdrop of tea plantations and carrot orchards in the valley. The 2,000 square foot timber house has a shingle-paved sloping roof. The house is all the more pretty when shrouded in mist.
“As soon as I returned from Indonesia, I started exploring the right timber to build a house. I settled on Russian pinewood. The wood is less oily and it keeps out termites and problems related to humidity. I got the wood planks sawed according to my needs before importing them,” he said. He got his carpenters to assemble them on site.
“The planks were assembled in the ‘tongue and groove’ method. The method is easy. The house was completed in two weeks,” he said.
Thomas used concrete only to provide a solid base for the house. The floor, the walls and the roof are built with pinewood. Bitumen sheets have been paved beneath the shingles on the roof to reduce humidity. Plumbing and wiring works were easier to do along the timber, he said.
Though the Russian pinewood is white in color, it has been given a coat to resemble teak.
Once you open the front door, you enter a long hall. A flight of stairs goes up along the side. The hall encompasses the dining and living areas and a kitchen counter on a flank. The house has four bath-attached bedrooms. All the windows offer magnificent views of the hills of Ooty.
A vast balcony makes the house stand out from a conventional design. Thomas testifies that all his visitors like to spend most of their time on the balcony.
Tongue and groove
The wooden planks were marked for each of the section before they were shipped. The timber has been treated against insects, rain and sun. The heaviest planks are 10 inches thick.
“The carpenters had an easy time assembling the house. The house could be dissembled as easily as it was put together,” Thomas said. He could literally unpack his house and shift it to Kodaikanal, if he wanted to.
The interior stays cool because of the wooden flooring all over the house, except the washrooms. He said he would recommend this method as a low-cost option at a time when construction material are getting prohibitively costly.
The model saves on labor cost and associated problems because the job is done in a short time. You don’t have to wrack your brains on where to buy iron bars, cement and sand. You can also cut concrete waste and be eco-friendly. The house is so light that you can build it on top of your existing concrete house.
Even in places with strict regulations on buildings, wooden houses have been exempted, Thomas said.
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