George Joel

Greenearth Culture



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Bamboo Cottages in Alibaug

The Cause
The bamboo cottages in Alibaug are a result of a dire need than an architectural exercise. The need of bring to use a forgotten raw material, of displaying dormant traditional crafting skills and the need to showcase the importance of bamboo as a renewable raw material and bamboo construction a sustainable Green building practice.
The project in a lesser known village called ‘Thal’ in Alibaug though insignificant in architectural stature serves a purpose which addresses larger issues, a purpose of building tourism involving local communities.

The property is around 8000 sq ft and the construction covers 984 sq ft only. Half portion of the property which had denser plantation was left untouched and the bamboo cottages built on the other half. Located 5 minutes away from a beach, in an area with no view nor an interesting surrounding, it was imperative to create an environment of coziness in a private haven. Following the concept of a cluster of homes around a meeting place in a village we have 2 cottages on each side of the boundary with a central lounge to share bonding time amongst each other. The lounge has an inviting seating arrangement in one half, followed by an 8 seater dining table in the centre & a serving & pantry counter in the other half.

Bamboo construction:
After showcasing the possibilities of bamboo construction from 100 sq ft gazebos to large pavilions of 3000 sq ft with a ground plus one storey structures, we found a dearth of assignments for large bamboo structures. Though we found architects hesitant to specify bamboo construction for any projects, in all these years, all our structures are endorsed for stability by a veteran structural engineer deft with bamboo construction technique applicable to the local variety of bamboo. With an assemblage of trained high skilled artisans groomed through the initial developmental stage, dependant on the activity for long term sustainable employment source, the only evident clientele welcoming our services were the hospitality industry. That too predominantly, businesses with properties which fall in the CRZ zones. Others tempted by our work were the ones who realised the novelty of a bamboo dwelling and shelters which increased the USP of the property and the ROI too.

This motivated us to create standardized modular formats of columns, beams, trusses, rafters, purlins etc which can get together a quick assembly of average sized cottages of 200 to 350 sq ft , 100 sq ft to 1000 sq ft gazebos, 3 to 7 mtr span bridge, restaurants’, spas, walls, gateways, etc as a complete solution for a wholesome bamboo resort if need be for the hospitality industry.

Bamboo construction techniques – Lower Diameter for Larger Spans :
Since it was determined to use local variety of bamboo following the tenets of sustainable building practices, we use the 35 to 50mm dia Oxythenenthra Stocksi species of bamboo abundantly available locally along the coastal stretch from Maharashtra to the Southern tip of Kerala.

The core requirement of larger sections of bamboo required to tackle longer lengths and large spans was solved by the bamboo bunching technique – bunching low diameter bamboos to achieve bigger sections. The use of spliced joints for longer lengths than the 15 ft usable lengths allowed us to craft columns the size of upto 0.5 m wide to 10 mtr long to achieve wide spans of upto 12 mtrs x 24 mtrs long and 9 mtrs in height.

Some basic principles when using bamboo for construction are:
Keep the head and feet of the bamboo above water,
Always have large overhangs to protect bamboo from constant weathering,
Bamboo shelters tend to fly off due to its light weight hence anchor it with heavy footings.

Client :
The client is an investor wanting to use his small plot of land in Alibaug, an established tourist destination at close proximity to Mumbai. With large cosmopolitan overworked young citizens yearning for a quick getaway frequenting Alibaug on weekends wanting exclusive experiences, it was but an obvious choice of the use of the land. To run the property he engaged a tourism agency to operate the property who in turn sought our services to implement a small tourist bamboo dwelling unheard of in and near Mumbai to cash in on the teeming tourists with a unique residential option during weekend jaunts.

About the designer :
The unqualified architect of the bamboo cottages is George Joel the founder of Greenearth Culture. A mechanical engineer by training and a designer by experience in interior design & product design such as street furniture & signage systems in the initial 20 years of his career and as a designer designing & implementing bamboo structures since the last 9 years. After the versatile experience of working with many standard industrial materials the challenge of working with non standard materials later was a much welcome shift to spring up the creative juices flowing afresh. The current endeavor with traditional artisans was a ‘back to school’ experience learning the ways of the rural artisans with age old crafting knowledge and to create adaptable new applications for the urban market.