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Posted by
on September 03, 2014 at 06:05 PM

A mechanical engineer by training and a designer by choice, George Joel the founder of Greenearth Culture, has amassed massive experience in interior design and product design, for over 20 years. With street furniture and signage systems, he worked with many standard industrial materials. Over the past decade, he has been exploring the versatility of bamboo; designing and implementing varied elements and structures. Working with this non-standard material brought him in contact with the rural artisan communities crafting the material. Engaging traditional artisans on a resort project in a village near Alibag, was a ‘back to school’ experience; where he gained insight into age-old crafting knowledge to adapt it to new applications for the urban market.

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The project in a lesser known village called Thal in Alibaug though insignificant in architectural stature serves a purpose which addresses larger issues. Employing traditional materials, crafts and involving local communities for augmenting the hospitality and tourism potential of the region, is a major step towards sustainable development. The bamboo cottage resort in Alibaug showcases the use a forgotten raw material, and displays dormant traditional crafting skills. The project highlights the importance of bamboo as a renewable resource and bamboo construction as a sustainable green building practice.

The client wished to use his small plot of land in Alibaug, a popular tourist destination in close proximity with Mumbai – which draws large, young, cosmopolitan groups of friends/families. The yearning for a quick getaway sees people seek out Alibaug for weekends; and therefore the client felt a unique resort offering an exclusive experience, would be a good idea. He then engaged a tourism agency to operate the property who in turn sought out Greenearth Culture’s services to implement the small resort in bamboo. 

The 8000 sq ft property has a construction cover of 984 sq ft. The area with dense plantation was left untouched and cottages were constructed only in the barren part. Located 5 minutes away from a beach, in an area with no views or interesting surroundings, it was imperative to create an environment of coziness within this private haven.  Following the concept of a cluster of homes around a meeting place in a village there are two cottages on each side of the boundary. The central lounge has a comfortable seating arrangement, an 8-seater dining table and a service-pantry counter.

Following the tenets of sustainable building practices, Greenearth Culture uses the local variety of bamboo, which is the 35 to 50mm diameter Oxythenenthra Stocksi, growing abundantly along the coastal stretch from Maharashtra to the Southern tip of Kerala. Using this, they have created standardized modular formats of columns, beams, trusses, rafters and purlins which can offer a complete solution for a medium-sized structure. 

“After showcasing the possibilities of bamboo construction from 100 sq ft gazebos to large pavilions of 3000 sq ft with ground plus one storey structures, there was a dearth of assignments for large bamboo structures. Though all our structures are endorsed for stability by a veteran structural engineer, we found architects hesitant to specify bamboo construction for any projects,” says George. “With an assemblage of trained and skilled artisans dependent on the activity for long term sustainable employment source, only the hospitality industry seemed to welcome our services - that too predominantly, for properties which fall in the Coastal Regulations Zone. Others tempted by our work were the ones who realised the novelty of a bamboo dwelling.” 

However, these are very significant projects of sustainable design; and as such must be lauded. A model has been developed, successfully followed and therefore may be emulated, across many similar initiatives! 

Designer : Greenearth Culture
Photography :Courtesy Greenearth Culture

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