Good Earth, inspired by architect Laurie Baker, designs and develops communities that leverage natural light and ventilation, local materials and craft while staying rooted in ecology. In the near future, it plans to introduce sustainable living projects in the budget housing category
Developers need to look beyond numbers and see that each project is an architectural and cultural statement which has a lasting impacton society.
In today’s bustling times, industry is looking for newer ways to remain sustainable and that’s best seen in the effort the real estate industry is making to invest in going green. Property developers are increasingly looking to minimise the use of artificial lighting and ventilation and to use eco-friendly building materials and encourage recycling as a part of daily living.
Bengaluru-based Good Earth, started in 1989 by a group of architects and engineers as an NGO called ESDC (Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development) in Kochi, has modeled itself as an alternate architecture solutions provider. The firm has anchored itself on the vision of Laurie Baker, developing projects inspired by his principle that gave due respect to nature and man, in equal measure.
Late architect Laurie Baker, a British architect who practiced in India, was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of decentralised development and was known for cost-effective, energy-efficient architecture. His focus was on design that maximised space, emphasized ventilation and maintained an uncluttered yet striking aesthetic sensibility. “The vision of development is centred around the design, which captures natural light and ventilation, play of spaces, materials, with a deep sense of ecology,” explains Stanley George, co-founder and managing director. “We try to give our customers this luxury that celebrates architecture, natural materials, diversity of people, flora and fauna,” he adds. Being passionate about the natural environment, Good Earth architects carefully plan the landscapes with informal spaces, water bodies, a large variety of plants and trees that enhance the ecology of the land. This requires a deep knowledge of native varieties of plants, insect habitats, medicinal and edible species and so on. As India is immensely rich in its biodiversity, the company believes that it is important to preserve this richness in any development. As George elaborates, empathy is the core aspect of any good design and Good Earth is driven by this passion of creating spaces, both interiors and exteriors, which can heal people in the middle of urban chaos.
Spreading its reach
For Good Earth, the primary means of reaching out to customers has been through word-of-mouth. It also participates in property shows and public gatherings to improve visibility.” We are present in Bengaluru, Kochi and Calicut, with Bengaluru being our largest market. There is a set of customers who like our architecture, the environment we create and the communities we build,” points out George.
Good Earth, backed by Piramal Capital, has a senior team of four architects, four engineers and two CAs spread across three cities. Additionally, the company has groomed over 50 professionals in different disciplines across the three centres. For the founders, passion and common sense are more important than technical qualifications. “Professionals need to be hands-on at work and that’s a culture we try to inculcate in our team,” says George.
Through its interaction with customers, Good Earth also constantly improves its design and implementation of the same. Rather than following the market trends, the company works on improving insight and knowledge to strengthen its vision of sustainable development. “Developers need to look beyond numbers and see that each project is an architectural and cultural statement which has a lasting impact on society. A badly planned building will be an eyesore and will trouble the neighborhood for another 100 years,” opines George.
Currently, Good Earth is developing a 45-acre campus called Malhar, in Bengaluru, comprising townhouses and apartments. It has also undertaken two projects each in Kochi and Calicut. The combined value of the company’s ongoing projects is estimated at Rs. 400 crore.
Easier said than done
Despite the green wave that has swept the industry, the task of embracing green is far from easy as Good Earth still feels the need to educate customers about the essence of going green. Sustainable development also means a lifestyle that respects nature while being reflective and meditative.
Escalating land prices and complicated procedures for acquisition and approvals, a lack of clarity on building bylaws and compliances, corruption and slow legal delivery are hurdles to real estate enterprises in the country. “Black money has traditionally been buried in land and pricing hikes are artificial. One hopes the demonetisation initiative by the government will check hoarding of land banks and its unrealistic pricing,” says George.
Planning its future
Good Earth has conservative plans for a steady growth in its existing markets. According to George, “A developer who is successful in one city need not be successful in another city. It is important to deliver good projects and improve our body of work.”
Real estate is a service sector, scaling has its limitations if your driving force is sustainable living and development. The intent at Good Earth is to be content remaining a mid-sized business that delivers unique projects that inspire both creator and occupant. In the near future, it will be explore budget housing catering to the blue collar sector. George and the Good Earth team acknowledge that it will be a challenging task to deliver quality in this segment, but that is where it expects demand to escalate. It is also the sort of challenge that the company thrives on and will take on wholeheartedly.
Snapshot – Good Earth
Stanley George, Jeeth Iype, Natasha Iype, Parthasarthy, Benny Thankachen, Binu Jose, MN Muralidhar , Vinod Cyriac , Anita Chowdhary and Mathew Varghese
Sustainable development of residential complexes
Concept in Brief
A group of architects, inspired by British born Indian architect, late Laurie Baker, formed Good Earth to develop sustainable communities following his principles of developing residences that are cost effective, energy efficient, maximise space, ventilation and light and maintain an uncluttered yet striking aesthetic sensibility. Backed by Piramal Capital, the company has a presence in Bengaluru, Kochi and Calicut and aims to consolidate these markets rather than enter new cities. Currently, the company is developing one project in Bengaluru and two each in Kochi and Calicut, totaling Rs 400 crores. Good Earth has a core team of 10 and 50 professionals in different areas of the construction business. Understanding the local biodiversity is part of the construction process, as is educating the customers on following a suitable lifestyle that respects nature.