ShKo Bungalow

Many people dream of leaving the city to lead a slower, more meaningful life outside it. Few, however, are able to live that dream. Just a stone’s throw from the [RaBV] bungalow here is a sustainable weekday home of a couple who come into the city on weekends.

Site Conditions

Satellite images of the site showing how the flood zone determined the final house location.

Satellite images of the site showing how the flood zone determined the final house location.

Much of this one-acre site is between 1.5 and 3m above the average water level of River Pej, so during the monsoon, the lower section of the plot is often flooded once or twice for a few hours at a time. The initial plan was to build almost touching the river but that would mean building on stilts. Instead—taking into consideration the high water mark of 2005 which saw the worst flood in living memory—we decided to build on a small rise at the other end of the plot. Thanks to climate change, such freak events as the cloudburst of 26th July 2005 are likely to happen with increasing frequency and we must understand and prepare for them instead of brushing these facts under the carpet.

Because of the sloping land we have a large basement

Because of the sloping land we have a large basement

The little rise is next to the access road so the approach to the car parking area is a little steep but, other than that, there are no disadvantages. There used to be a shed on this mound so there were no trees that needed to be designed around.

As the building is on a slope, the extra height at the bottom has been used to create two basements. One stores gardening and filtration equipment along with the rainwater harvesting tanks while the other has batteries, inverters and other electrical equipment for the photovoltaic solar panels.

The foundations and plinth of the bungalow being made of local black stone.

The foundations and plinth of the bungalow being made of local black stone.

Design Considerations for Sustainability

Climate data for the location which helped make a more responsive, passive solar design.

Climate data for the location which helped make a more responsive, passive solar design.

As with the [RaBV] bungalow, the climatic conditions to be considered were hot days and pleasant nights with a strong monsoon. We needed sufficient shade on the South and West sides and this was taken care of with deep verandahs. Air circulation and cross-ventilation were important to eliminate the build-up of hot air. For the most part, roofs are sloping with only a small fraction of flat terrace where the solar hot-water systems are placed.

ShKo Layout Plan

ShKo Layout Plan

Instead of a typical compact layout, this house was designed as a series of spaces with clear zoning of public and private. When seen from a distance–and a height–it looks like three houses in a cluster rather than just one. Central to all three spaces is the court and the open tank. This is not some amoeboid pool for people to float around with a cold beer but a straight 15m strip for exercise. Oh, and it’s a tank because, well, it’s a tank. Water from here goes to the vegetable garden and to many of the trees on this plot.

The clients, currently in their early 50s, want to spend the bulk of their time here exploring their creative side. Accordingly, one of the major spaces in the house is a workshop to be used for painting, stained-glass making and sliver-smiting. There is also a small study, two bedrooms, a utility room, a living/dining room and a very large kitchen.

Materials & Systems

Exposed brickwork, Mangalore roof tiles and windows made from reclaimed wood.

Exposed brickwork, Mangalore roof tiles and windows made from reclaimed wood.

The foundations were constructed from local basalt and the superstructure from local bricks.We discussed the possibility of using fly-ash bricks but the clients had reservations because of the debate over fly-ash being carcinogenic.

Many internal walls were left un-plastered and the roofs had a steel structure with Mangalore tiles on battens without any under-layer.

One of the old wooden pillars

One of the old wooden pillars on its granite-clad base.

Doors and windows were either beautiful old ones that were salvaged from demolished homes or were made anew from reclaimed old Burma teak. The credit for sourcing them all goes completely to the clients. They also purchased five lovely old wooden pillars during their travels, which were incorporated into the design. Since these were only 2.5m tall, we made a tapered concrete base which was then clad with the same grey granite as was used for the adjoining parapet walls.


All the lights are low-energy, mostly LEDs, while the fans and refrigerator are inverter-type so their energy consumption is also lower than average. As these fans are a relatively new product, it remains to be seen if they stand the test of time.

Bath and kitchen water is heated using one solar panel on each of the terraces. There are also twelve photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the workshop which provide enough electricity to run all the lights and fans as well as some of the appliances.


The rainwater harvesting filter

The rainwater harvesting filter

A good amount of the rainwater is harvested. Some of it is collected in tanks for drinking water throughout the year. This is necessary as the river, though perennial, sometimes contains urea washed in from fields upstream; even though the water is clean enough for bathing and washing, it is not advisable to use it for drinking or cooking. The remaining harvested rainwater is used for recharging a bore-well that is an emergency backup water-source. Whatever rainwater is not harvested either seeps into the ground or flows directly into the river.

Embedded dual cisterns flush the low-flow WCs and kitchen waste water is sent directly into a soak-pit from where it percolates into the ground.

And finally, some more images
 View through the brick jali  View of the curved verandah
 View of the Tank  View of the court at night


Project Participants

Structural & Waterproofing Mr. Ratnakar Chaudhari
Overall | Civil, Plumbing, Roofing, Painting Mr. Rajesh Phatak
Electrical Mr. Rafeek Shaikh
Carpentry & Joinery Mr. Ramashankar Mistri
Specialised Agencies
Solar Hot Water Solar World
Solar Photovoltaic | Panels, Batteries, Inverters Sunlit Future
Swimming Tank Filtration Oceanic Enviro Pvt. Ltd.

ShKo Bungalow at Karjat

The design for the ShKo bungalow at Karjat has finally been completed. It’s taken a lot longer than most because, apart from the complex slope, there was a severe constraint of building within a small portion of the entire one acre plot — the rest is prone to occasional flooding from the adjoining river.

Like other architectural designs, this too makes maximum use of local materials and of passive cooling.  External stone walls are at least 24″ (60cm) thick and provide a formidable barrier to heat-gain even in a place like Karjat.  Deep verandahs on the South and West don’t allow direct egress of strong sunlight from mid-mornings till evening. And high roofs with openings at upper levels allow constant ventilation to take place.

Rainwater harvested from the roof will be collected in the basement that is automatically formed by the sloping land. It will also be used to flood the pool which will not, hopefully, have any chemicals used to disinfect it. The current plan is to do natural filtration but the eventual system will depend on getting a reliable and qualified consultant to carry this out.

Some Renderings

Comparing LED & CFL Fittings

For the MChi interior site in Bombay (Mumbai), I found some really nice LED light fittings but they are more than three times the cost of identical CFL fittings. Now we all know that LEDs consume very little electricity  and they have an extremely long life but I wanted hard numbers to convince my clients – after all, they are the ones paying for everything.

It didn’t take long… At the light shop, it was pretty obvious that the 18W LED fitting threw as much light as an identical one housing 36W of CFLs.  Frankly I was a little surprised by the 1:2 power consumption ratio because I always assumed it was more like 2:3. However, LED technology is making such rapid strides that yesterday’s facts are already redundant. Putting all the costs into a spreadsheet immediately produced a very compelling argument in favour of the former.

An Example of Total Cost of Ownership – LED v/s CFL

While the life of an LED bulb is in the region of 50,000 hours, the calculation over such a long period (while in favour of LEDs) is rather unfair because even at 5 hours per day, that means 27 years.  Instead, I’m working with 30,000 hours which represents a more realistic 16 years.

Even accounting for the fact that the LED driver (an electronic device that regulates the power that LEDs receive) doesn’t have a 50,000 hour life, the calculation still showed a huge saving.

The calculations here are not likely to remain valid for long because the cost of power is sure to rise even further and that of LEDs can only go downwards.

ShKo Bungalow at Karjat

Survey plan for the ShKo property

Survey plan for the ShKo property

Last week ended with a site visit to Nasrapur, Karjat. This is the fourth design in the same general location after the [RaBV], [BAli] and [LGEs] bungalows so I’m extremely familiar with the area and climate.  Part of this particular one-acre plot is prone to flooding during the monsoon, and the only portion that is safely outside the flood zone (even considering the massive downpour of 26th July 2005) is on a mound near the road.  On this rise stands the ruin of an old shed which I had seen earlier but was unable to explore properly because, until recently, it was overgrown with Mucuna pruriens — locally known as khaj khujri. This climbing shrub causes extreme itching on contact with young foliage or seed pods and I wasn’t about to take my chances.

View from the river side towards the mound where we will build

View from the river side towards the mound where we will build the ShKo Bungalow

Unlike other plots in this cooperative society, this particular site doesn’t have too many mango trees — mostly due to the flooding aspect. We intend to plant native trees such as Millettia pinnata or karanj which thrive in such conditions.

I am really looking forward to starting the design. Conceptually, I’m looking at a string of structures — some of them without walls — forming a sort of “C” shape around a water body.  The river, unfortunately, is too far away and not visible from the mound.  The mountains of Matheran and the Garbat plateau, though, give a splendid view to the West.

PSah Factory

For most projects, I not only design, but also execute the work. For this one, though, because of distance, I only did the former.

The clients, manufacturers of packaging material in Cuttack, Orissa, wanted to construct a factory that was not just functional but, to the greatest extent possible, a green building in all respects. The product they make is hardly environmentally friendly, so it was somewhat ironic, but they had a genuine desire to make a change for the better so I agreed to take the assignment.

Design Principles

Initial concept

The initial conceptual structure had clerestory windows on the north and curved roofs to take maximum advantage of prevailing winds

Initially, the structure was to be of a single story only so, had that remained the case, the factory might just have looked like a variation on a theme with north-light roof trusses and curved metal roofs instead of straight ones.

Instead, and as luck would have it, the clients decided that they needed at least one additional floor to house the lighter machinery. Land in this area–alongside the Mahanadi river–is expensive and it would do them no good to scatter multiple structures all over the 2 acre plot. That posed a problem for the design as the clerestory windows would be of no use to the lower floor — either for light or ventilation.

View of Factory from the North-West

North West corner of the factory. This was the final design based on which the factory was actually built. You will notice that windows facing North are twice as large as those pointing West.

So, to allow for the clerestory windows to be used by both floors, I thought to turn them sideways. Back at the drawing board, I realised that only allowing windows on the North and East would mean the interiors of the factory would be dark for much of the day — not to mention that natural ventilation would be nil. On the other hand, too much light from the South or West was not desirable and neither was a draft that could carry in dust particles.

So I reverted to an undulating form–a double wave form in fact–that not only softens the factory outline but also works better for ventilation. Here the smaller waves face the South and West and the bigger ones face the North and East.

View of the factory interior

A rendering of the factory interior shows how the light enters indirectly

Now, when light enters, it reflects off the inner side of the baffle walls. Any heat that is generated remains in the immediate vicinity of the windows. Additionally, the upper of the two windows is bottom-hung to allow hot air to easily escape.

Between successive waves in the baffle walls, horizontal awnings protect the more conventional windows from the sun during the hottest times of the day.  In fact, sun-studies were carried out to ensure that the sun’s rays almost never directly reach the building’s interiors between 10:00am & 3:00pm.


Factory under construction

A view of the factory under construction shows the flyash bricks used for the walls.

Being a large structure which needs to take heavy loading, the framework and slabs had necessarily to be in RCC — a material that I avoid using when it is not required.

All the walls, including those of the baffles were from flyash brick and plastered only where necessary. Initially, we wanted to use the local laterite but that worked out much too expensive.


Some more photos of the construction


Selected Projects

[CaBa] Playschool

A window in the school

A window in the school

When the founder of this popular playschool moved to Bombay, she found the school semester had already begun and she couldn’t get her daughter a place anywhere. So she started her one in her own home.

Over the years it has grown organically but quite haphazard; it’s now undergoing a planned overhaul. Work is carried out during the summer and winter vacations..

[HRMa] Residence at Malabar Hill

A view of the bathroomWhen we first started working on this residence, we were only asked to do up the bathrooms. We discovered as we went along, that major structural repairs were required because the old wooden posts had completely rotted away over the years due to seepage of water. As a result a much larger portion of the house was renovated resulting in delays and cost escalation – a classical example of the productivity triangle/tetrahedron at work.

[JaCo] Office in a Heritage Building at Horniman Circle

Detail of a pillarDecades of neglect had made a shambles of this wonderful building from the 1880s. When a survey was conducted, it was found that, the area to be renovated was a long-enclosed verandah. In fact, every single tenant of this heritage building had converted their deep verandahs into cabins.

Initially, the clients were unwilling to do anything that altered the ghastly state of the façade but after a presentation, they were convinced that it would be worth the effort. Unfortunately, the original cast iron railings had disappeared during a previous renovation so any hopes I might have entertained of restoring the building envelope to its former glory were

[Trin] Office for a 3-Man Ad-Film Agency

A view of the officeA dynamic young trio wanted to go it along in the ad-film industry so their impact had to be much bigger than their budget.

The space was originally designed for a shop and there was a loft towards the rear which got utilised for storage. For lighting, we chose industrial-looking shades that were painted purple and the flooring was simply ochre cement cast in-situ. The most expensive things in the whole place are probably the laptops on which they make presentations.

[JaGV] Residence in the Western Suburbs

View of  the daughter's bedroomI’d earlier designed the entire apartment many years ago but the children had now grown up so both of them – one a young lady and the other a young man – wanted a complete remodel of their living spaces.

For the former, it was all about a feminine room but without the typical pinks associated with little girls whereas for the latter, it was about dark colours and rock music!

RaBV Bungalow

One of a pair of neighbouring bungalows, this is now the permanent home of a couple who decided to settle in the the lap of the Matheran range.

Site Conditions

A steeply sloping site

The site has a fairly steep slope as you can see. Notice also the Gar­bat plateau and Matheran in the background.

The plot slopes quite steeply towards the river Pej, so full advantage was taken of this fact to have a partial basement on the lower side. This basement has three “rooms” – one of which is for tanks to store harvested rainwater for drinking and cooking. Although the Pej is perennial, it does have high levels of urea especially during the monsoon months.

There were some mango trees where the house was to be built, so the location was modified a bit to avoid cutting them. A few bushes, some of them thorny, did perish though. The clients are experts on indigenous trees and have landscaped the surroundings of the house themselves.

Design Considerations

The house as seen from aross the river

Seen here from across the river, the veran­dah is a great place to lounge. Equally impor­tantly, it acts as a bar­rier to direct heat-gain.

Being a relatively rocky area, Karjat is a very warm place during the day almost throughout the year. Nights are usually pleasant but when the sun is out, one most definitely wants to retreat indoors. So, while one wants to maximise ventilation, one also wants to avoid solar heat gain. High-level ventilation therefore was provided on the windward and leeward sides of the house as a result of which, there is a constant circulation of fresh air and any heat is immediately expelled.

A view of the house from the river

Viewed from the river, the house nestles between tall trees -- most of them older than the house itself

Sun studies were conducted to check for the penetration of sunlight – especially during the summer months of April and May. The wind at this location usually comes from the South, over the river, bringing with it a relatively cool breeze.

The design criteria was fairly straightforward — a home that was ecologically sound, easy to clean and with maximum view of the surrounding mountains. Energy usage was to be kept to a minimum because the area is chronically short of electricity and rain-water was to be harvested for drinking purposes.

The clients wanted a very simple layout with a single bedroom, a study, a meditation room and an open plan kitchen. All around we planned a deep verandah for sitting out and, equally importantly, shading the house from the extreme heat of the Karjat afternoons.


The verandah is an additional living space

The deep verandah is an additional living space and protects the southern side of the house from heat. As the flyash-brick walls of the right are pro­tected from direct rain, they have been left unplastered

There are very few locally available materials in this region with the primary exception of black basalt. This was used for the foundation work and for constructing the plinth walls. The superstructure, being load-bearing, was to be of bricks but the clients wanted to avoid terracotta bricks because of the degradation of top-soil and the usage of wood fuel for making it. Instead, they opted to make a statement by calling for fly-ash bricks from a plant in Wada – Thane district.

We wanted to avoid plastering the bricks except where they would be directly exposed to the elements. However, standard fly-ash bricks look extremely dreary. Therefore, we asked the manufacturers to add red-oxide pigment to the mixture during production which resulted in bricks that had a wonderful pale terracotta colour to them. The grout, too, was of a reddish-brown colour to compliment these bricks.

Before you shoot me a email asking me for the name and address of the supplier, I would like to say that the last lot of bricks were quite terrible and despite promises from the manufacturer, we got no replacements. It was most disappointing and I will not recommend him to anybody!

Entrance to the house

Entrance to the house.

The use of RCC has been kept to a minimum with only the slab of the verandah and a single ring-beam at the base of the roof. The brick walls take the load exceedingly well and the roof is a light-weight steel pipe structure with “Eco-Board” panels topped by Mangalore Roof tiles.

Other Nature-friendly Systems


The Solar Cooker

The Solar Cooker is a simple device with no moving or electronic parts and using it saves huge amounts of cooking gas

  1. Energy-saving compact fluorescent lights and tube lights
  2. Indirect natural light and ventilation
  3. Bath/kitchen water heated by roof-top solar panels
  4. Food made in a zero-energy solar cooker
  5. Photo-voltaic portable lanterns and emergency lights


The lower level is a half-basement

As the site had a steep slope, we used it to our advantage to create a half-basement below the verandah. The spaces created here house the rani-water harvesting tanks, a motorcycle and garden implements.

  1. Low-flow dual-flush cistern for the WC
  2. Harvesting of rain-water for drinking purposes
  3. Kitchen waste water sent directly into a soak-pit near the trees

And Finally

the front door before and after it was polished

To the left is the front door as it looked before it was stripped of years of paint. The shutters have been hung inside-out so that the intricate design is visible with the doors open -- which they are throughout the day.

PMK Bungalow

The design of a private residence at Kondhwa, Pune, was a very exciting project. No Reinforced Concrete Cement (RCC) has been used and we opted for load-bearing walls that are cheaper and, in my opinion, better for a building of this type.

Kond­hwa sky­line c. 2005

Kond­hwa has grown rapidly & hap­haz­ardly since the ‘90s. The sky­line c. 2005

The exciting part included waste water recycling, rain harvesting and setting up solar panels – at least to heat the water – photovoltaic energy is still too expensive to be justifiable in areas that are connected to a power grid.

Kondhwa is an area that’s growing more rapidly and haphazardly than many other parts of Pune. What used to be rolling hills where nomadic grazers brought their sheep as little as 10 years ago, is now largely denuded and taken over by builders. In such a scenario, where new highrises and swanky malls are coming up each day, a bungalows-only development – that too on a hilltop – is refreshing indeed.

A vastu puja on completion of the work

A vastu puja was done before the clients moved into the home

The client contacted me though this website and, after some informal discussion via email, we found that our views on many things including materials and water harvesting were very similar. There was one condition, however – the house had to pass muster on the vastu front as well. I made it clear that despite my writeup on the subject, I was absolutely not an expert on vastu and somebody else would have to give the specifications before designing commenced.

As it turned out, that was no problem at all. The expert that the client consulted gave her views beforehand and they matched, to a large extent, my reading of climate-related factors.

Design Principles

View of the house

View of the house from the approach road

Ideally, anyone would think we should have large openings for maximum natural light and ventilation. The problem is, with Pune’s hot and dry climate, this isn’t such a good idea after all. In a coastal area like Bombay, even in the hottest months, as long as the air circulates, you can get by. Pune, though, is far removed from the sea and the temperatures are, consequently, more extreme. In summer, a hot breeze blows across from the South and, in such a place, you’d want to insulate the structure instead of open it out.

Ladi-coba construction and brick arches

View of the house during construction. The ladi-coba method was used for flooring and brick arches spanned the openings to the courtyard

Having said that, it is imperative not to totally stifle all movement of air and so a central atrium (brahmasthan in the vastu shastras) was designed to set up a slow, comfortable, convection that works in all seasons. This was combined with standard sized windows and deep overhangs to prevent the entry of heat during the summer months.

Sun studies were also conducted to see how much direct light would penetrate at different times of the year. Unfortunately, the data on wind in the area is scanty but whenever I visited the site over the next few months, the wind direction was, unexpectedly, from the North-East. Local people also mentioned that the area receives lashing rain, so that bit of information had a direct impact on the awning design.


Plinth wall in local stone

The foundations and plinth walls were made of local basalt. The outer layer of stone was shaped by hand -- a rather labour-intensive process

As far as possible, locally available materials were used in this construction. The foundation, for instance is of black basalt which is abundant throughout the Deccan. To minimise wastage, it was only being partially dressed and the natural randomness of shape was preserved to the maximum. The plinth itself was filled with broken rubble from a recently demolished structure.

Being just a ground + 1 structure, the walls are load-bearing and the first slab has the traditional “Ladi coba” system except that, instead of teak, [Tectona grandis] like it was in the old days, we’ve decided on rolled steel sections that can easily be reused at the end of the building’s lifecycle. The only RCC used was for pre-cast lintels over the doors and windows.

A pair of bullocks pulls the 1-ton stone that pulverizes the lime

Bul­locks work­ing on the ghani — a cir­cu­lar pit with a 1 ton grind­ing stone where the lime & sand are mixed with water and pul­verised together. The mor­tar that results is mixed with jag­gery which helps it to set.

Another interesting and unusual thing about this house is that it was built with lime mortar. It may sound odd and, although lime is not as “standardised” a material as cement, the end construction is often more sound. Additionally, unlike cement lime mortar uses little or no fossil fuel to manufacture and, hence, is much more environmentally sound. It does add to the work-load of the contractors though and it is difficult to get workers who are still familiar with this material.

Solar hot-water panels

Solar hot-water panels

That’s not all, though. Brickwork set in Lime has the advantage of not cracking easily. Lime plaster, especially when finished with lime wash, has the property of “self-healing” any cracks because, the free lime carbonifies and merges with the plaster.

Other Nature-friendly Systems

Energy Saving

  1. CFL, energy-saving compact fluorescent lights
  2. Natural light and ventilation (to a large extent from the courtyard)
  3. Heating of bath/kitchen water using roof-top solar panels

Water Saving

  1. Low-flow dual-flush cisterns for WCs
  2. Filtering grey water from baths for flushing and kitchen water for gardening
  3. Recharging ground water by harvesting rain

Waste Management

  1. Dry garbage (paper, plastics, glass and metal) is segregated and given to the kabbadiwala
  2. Raw sewage is treated organically and the only discharge is clean water that is put back into the ground.


Prasol Office

The top section with square cutouts

The top section with square cutouts hides the overhead water tanks

Located along the Thane-Belapur road are a number of industrial estates and properties. At one time, this was a chemical industry zone and factories belched out huge quantities of toxic fumes that hung like a pall over much of Navi Mumbai. Residents in Vashi often woke up to the smell of Ammonia, Sulphur or even Chlorine.

Today, the area is quite different. Some factories still remain but stricter pollution laws and economics have caused much of the land-use to be converted to prime office space. The clients for this project – ISO 9001 certified chemical manufacturers – wanted to build their laboratories and offices to replace a disused factory.

The brief was very simple – maximum space, minimum cost; and a relatively free hand with the design.

Design and Materials

A simple opening ceremony

A simple opening ceremony marked the inauguration of the building

I have repeatedly argued against the wastefulness of RCC for small structures but it is not some senseless objection to the material. This project was 3 stories high and the large clear spans required for commercial premises made RCC the most feasible and economical system to use.

To avoid projections outside the building envelope all the windows were recessed by 550mm (21″). This served the dual purpose of giving protection from the sun and rain and also gave a huge amount or storage area that would otherwise have cluttered the internal spaces. It took some time for the clients to grasp that the storage space wasn’t eating into limited space but had, in fact, been designed as additional area – free of FSI.

Simple black anodised aluminium windows were installed and although I had strongly recommended double-glazing, the clients felt their budget did not allow the initial cost of doing so.

The chairman's cabin

The chairman's cabin

The top floor which houses the chairman and MD’s offices as well as the conference room has deep terraces with French windows to the east and west.


Staff Area

An interior view of the staff area

Inside, the materials and equipment used was fairly standard – vitrified ceramic flooring, “Baroda Green” stairs, glass doors and ceramic tiles for the bathrooms. We did use water-saving flush systems, though – a tiny victory for “green architecture”.

Interior furniture was supplied by Godrej Furniture Division and many, many meetings and emails were exchanged before the design was finalised.

Ceilings were Class A flame retardant acoustical panels from USG. These are available in India from JollyBoard.

For lighting, Philips mirror-optic fittings were used with 35W truelite fluorescent tubes which are more energy efficient than standard 40W tubes.

Karjat Resort Technical Details

Materials Used


Cottages under construction

Cottages under construction. Note that the walls are entirely of brick with no RCC framwork. To the right, one can see the wooden roof structure.

The entire project was built using load-bearing masonry and there are no concrete columns or beams – I have an aversion to RCC because the materials used therein are   very energy-intensive and quite wasteful for low-rise structures. Also, they can never be recycled. The foundations and plinth were built in local black basalt whereas the superstructure was from locally made burnt bricks. Stone chips, sand and grit in the mortar mix were also sourced from the locality.


Internal View of a Room

Internal View of a Room showing the wooden structure

Wood-framed pitched roofs were made over individual units. Plantation Sal [Shorea robusta] was used for the framework in conjunction with Rubber wood – a treated waste product from rubber plantations – for the planking. Mild steel sections were used as purlins only when the span was too large for Sal wood. In this form, steel can easily be reused or recycled at the end of a building’s life span.

Roof over the restaurant

onstruction of the restaurant roof wth a steel framework and (non-asbestos) fibre-cement boards. These were clad with terracotta tiles.

Over the dining room which has a very large span, ordinary galvanised plumbing pipes (these too can be recycled) were used to create a light-weight truss system. Non-asbestos, fibre cement panels, were laid over this framework to make the roof.

Burnt clay “Mangalore” roofing tiles were laid on both types of roof.


The traditional system called ladi-coba was used for most terraces with MS sections acting as joists spanned by small Kota stone slabs and waterproofed with a layer of brickbat coba.

In a few areas like the terraces above bathrooms, pre-cast “Siporex” slabs have been used. These are made from expanded concrete to dramatically reduce the quantity of cement and steel required. They are also remarkably light and have good insulating properties.

Flooring and Paving

Cheaply available red terrazzo tiles covered most of the floors, with small quantities of Baroda green and Jaisalmer yellow marble inlaid for borders and motifs. Utility areas had the hard-wearing Kota stone.

Doors and windows

Construction of foundations and plinth walls

Construction of foundations and plinth walls was done with locally produced stone and brick

Frames for doors and windows were from Sal wood. Shutters were made from Hemlock – a fast growing plantation wood.  In hindsight, the latter was a grave mistake because, not only did they have a lot of embodied energy (having been transported from Canada) but the physical properties of the wood were unfamiliar to the carpenters who couldn’t quite achieve the correct finish.

Materials Avoided

An effort had to be made to ensure that no asbestos, no structural RCC and no rare wood or stone was used for this project.

[Note: Asbestos based products have been used on parts of the property, for sheds and other structures, which did not come under my consultation.]


Solar Panels atop the Cottages

Solar panels atop the cottages provide hot water to all the rooms

The lighting, especially for the exteriors, has been deliberately kept at low levels not just because bright lights attract insects from miles around but also, because harsh illumination can shatter the tranquillity of this beautiful place and obliterate much of the night sky.

A distributed system of solar panels provide hot water to all the bathrooms.

Monsoon Stream flowing through the plot

Monsoon Streams flow unobstructed through the plot to the river

A bend in the river Pej seen from the meditation shelter

A bend in the river Pej seen from the meditation shelter

While there is no rainwater harvesting system, care has been taken not to disrupt natural water flow. Monsoon rain which doesn’t get absorbed into the ground, flows undisturbed into the Pej river.


Landscape Designer

Mr. A.Y. Retiwala

Structural Consultancy
and Statutory Permissions

Mr. Anil Doshi

Site Engineer

Mr. Satish K.



Balkrishna Dhule (Local)
Chandrakant Patil (Local)
R.K. Constructions (Bombay)
Ashok Chaudhary (Panvel)


Santaram Sutar (Local)
Gajanand Sutar (Local)
Narayan Vishwakarma (Lonavala)


Meghji Karshan (Bombay)


Bashirbhai (Lonavala)


Kaviraj Electricals (Bombay)


Ekvira Engineering Works (Panvel)


Rangari Painters (Bombay)