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How about a stay in a hotel that runs on the sun, and is made of mud?6 min read

September 3, 2021 4 min read

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How about a stay in a hotel that runs on the sun, and is made of mud?6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you think I have catapulted you to the land of the Flintstones, then you are wrong! I am talking about 21st century India.

Image: Giphy

The Sunyata Eco Hotel in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur is setting a precedent in sustainable hospitality. Nestled in the beautiful hill station of Karnataka that is surrounded by coffee and tea plantations, the hotel is a natural marvel!It is made entirely out of natural material.

Spread across 6,000 square feet, the hotel was made entirely out of bricks using mud sourced from the area. Apart from its eco-friendly bricks with minimal cement and concrete, the makers also ensured that not a drop of water used went to waste.

In this environment friendly haven, installed solar panels provide electricity, rainwater harvesting systems provide water, and earth tunnels do the work of an air conditioner by keeping the premises cool.

The beginning

In 2017, Lokesh Gunjanur, a software engineer based out of Miami, USA, decided to use the land he had bought in his hometown to set up a resort.

Lokesh Gunjanur. Image: The Better India

I wanted my hotel to be unique and in favour of the environment — not only in terms of the way it operated but also in terms of construction. I wanted to use materials that were not harmful to the environment. In the future, even if the building is being demolished, I wanted to ensure that the materials would become one with the earth again.

Lokesh Gunjagur, The Better India

To achieve this dream, he approached an architecture firm based out of Bengaluru called Design Kacheri and civl engineer Punit Y who was trained at Auroville.

They started with creating the bricks for the structure. They used the soil that was removed to level the ground for the construction, and from surrounding areas within a 15-mile radius. Small quantities of limestone and cement were added to the mix which was then baked into bricks. Even the power to drive the mixer and other equipment was derived from solar panels. They avoided the use of steel by using load-bearing structures, a technique that was prevalent when using steel was not the norm.

Coconut shells and pot fillers on the ceiling act as cooling agents and also allow for a sturdy flooring for the next floor.

Sustainable comfort

Temperature

Customer satisfaction is a top priority in the hospitality industry. And Sunyata caters to all needs that constitute the definition of comfort!

In the summer, the ambient temperature in the city reaches 30 degrees Celsius. To ensure a cool atmosphere in a sustainable manner, the rooms have been equipped with a chimney on the ceiling that expels warm air. Another natural technique has been used:

…a large PVC pipe is installed 10 feet under the building. This acts as a coolant pipe for outside air. It works by sucking in air from the environment, and as the air passes through the pipe it cools down, which is then expelled through various outlets into the 11 rooms in the premises.

Lokesh Gunjagur, The Better India

This ensures that the room temperatures stay between 18-25 degree celsius, regardless of the temperature outside.

Water

Water needs of the entire premise are supported by rainwater through a 50,000-litre tank that is installed underground. This water is treated and supplied for cooking, and drinking.

Additional support is offered by a well that also helps improve groundwater levels. Pavement bricks across the property allow excessive rainwater from parking areas and courtyard to move towards the water table.

Even the greywater (the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances) is not wasted. The hotel has a system installed to purify it with the help of a Bengaluru-based startup named ECOSTP. This water is supplied to flush tanks in toilets and used to water the garden.

The eleven rooms of the hotel were opened for public in January 2021. The hotel also has a shop where visitors can buy sustainable products made by local artisans. Lokesh hopes to partner with more local artisans to help them promote their businesses, and further the message of sustainability.


(The Buzz is a fortnightly column that explores bright ideas that became reality)

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