Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Gunoot Eco-Resort in Muscat, Oman by SSH International
October 10th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: SSH International
In the remote South of Oman there is a fishing village Shuwaimia on a 30KM virgin beach. Our client is a regional developer interested in developing 1 million square meters of precious land where the mountains meet the Indian Ocean. Various master plans submitted resulted in high density over development and the remoteness of the location made it not feasible financially. We proposed a different approach.
Working with the Earth. We proposed a low density Eco resort that will meet the triple bottom line, the economic: cheaper to build using low skilled local labor and materials and higher revenue attracting eco tourists seeking remote and authentic experiences. The environmental: working with local materials and using passive and active green energy. The social: working with and engaging the local population, giving fishermen an additional skill to be used after fishing season, expressing the local culture in the architecture and giving the new town a sense of identity and local pride.
After presenting the ideas to the client (one of the largest developers in the MENA region) they agreed to build a complete prototype to inspect. After researching earth architecture, we find that the architecture of the super Adobe of Late Architect Nader Khalili was most appropriate application. After contacting California Institute for Earth Art and Architecture we agreed to conduct an onsite training course for the locals as well as the local contractor.
The first five days was an open house and the turnout was excellent as the locals were curios of this new building technique. After the 5 days we selected a team of paid locals to work with the contractors in building the prototype. We experimented with local material such as old fishing nets to be mixed with the plaster for additional reinforcement, to using local stone for the flooring. After travelling across Oman we selected all items from the local traditional arts and crafts to give the prototypes a sense of place.
A separate workshop where we employed the local women to work on weaving palm leaves on site. All the power of the prototype is generated from solar panels and we modified the internal wind tower to host the batteries in a separate compartment. We use a separate water heater and introduced a solar AC that uses the sun to reduce consumption by 30 to 40%. All of this new technology aroused the curiosity of the locals who were eager to investigate its viability. We hope the project will inspire the community to switch to green energy.
The result of the prototype was extremely successful, the client was very pleased with the results as we managed to reduce the construction cost by 30% and expect these figures to improve. The thick 50cm earth walls combined with the wind tower provides a very pleasant environment. Currently we are in communication with American University in Beirut to set up a monitoring system to measure the building performance; this data will be made available for research as well as to inform the design of the project.
We have made contacts with local Universities in Oman to run summer studio workshops on site, where the students can experience building as well as innovating and design. We are in process of organizing it. The project brings in the private sector, the government (Ministry of Tourism) The local population, the academic community and research and aspires to set a precedent where sustainable development can help this precious area of Oman meet the demands of “development” yet preserve the local environment and culture. The success of this can influence and strengthen the Ministry of Tourism in advocating this type of development
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