The Hut workshop in Kagal close to the coastal city of Kumta in Kanataka represented the possibility for the local population to invest in the growing environmentally conscious segment of the tourist market, while maintaining their traditional culture and lifestyle. Ar. Sami Rintala, Ar. Dagur Eggertsson and Vibeke Jenssen of Rintala Eggertsson Architects, Norway who were part of the designbuilding team explain the process of design & construction.
In the background of rising commercial tourism in India that is adversely affecting the untouched places and pristine ecosystems of Indian coastal regions. Panchabhuta Conservation Foundation brought together a team of experts from various fields, students and volunteers to develop locally anchored products that minister sustainability on all levels.
The Foundation emphasizes on establishing projects that are affecting the “bottom of the pyramid”, and try to make people think of a more sustainable way of living might be a way to rewrite the future of the few last quiet retreats on earth. It is from these grounds the Hut-to-hut prototype grew.
The Concept of the Hut
The huts 21m x 6.6m and 4.5m high were to be self-supported and integrated with gardens. The main aim was to use local, renewable materials and pre-fabricated construction frames, assembled at the site. The trees in the garden were important to create a better microclimate around and inside the huts. The totally off-grid buildings would have solar panels on the roof producing enough energy for the future inhabitants and a composting latrine which produces biogas enough for one household. As, water in local wells is salty, the huts include rainwater collectors.
The combination of several huts in different directions and floors makes it possible to create an
urban situation that could work as a single village or be added to an existing village to increase the urbanity. Thus, the organization was based on the local building tradition with a cluster of houses which compose a shaded courtyard situation where people can gather.
One, two or more buildings can be built next to the already existing dwellings or erected separately to form an individual cluster of buildings. By introducing an orthogonal traffic system in the building, one can add several of these buildings together to form a more urban setting where that is feasible.
Easily accessible, cost effective and sustainability were the important considerations, so the project used locally produced materials. The framework is made of a local wood, mostly a type of Acacia tree, but some of it is Eucalyptus. “We treated the wood with a resin made of local cashew nut shell; chemically this resin is called Cardenol. The resin prevents termites from attacking the wood, and is what the locals use to treat wooden materials. The wood gets a deep redbrown colour after treated.”
The foundation is masonry of local laterite stone that is commonly used around in the area. Laterite is a red or brown stone and is rich in iron. It is the residual weathering product of certain rocks. Easy to quarry and dress, the stone is aired for a few days before use as it oxidizes and hardens. Freshly quarried laterite stone is soft and porous. If left exposed through oxidization, a dark crust is formed, which protects it from weathering. The blocks we used were approximately in sizes of 200x200x400mm.
On the roof corrugated aluminum is used. It is painted white on top to make it reflect the heat better, and avoid overheating underneath. On the southern gable wall woven bamboo is used to cover the whole wall. This surface protects the inside from the intense heat of the midday sun and is open enough to let air flow through. On the northern wall is planned a huge window to enjoy the nice view of the rice paddies in front of the mountain. From this direction the direct sunlight doesn’t hit the building, so it’s a good side to have bigger windows. The small framesthat cover the west- and eastern walls are covered with one layer of mosquito net. This is one of many materialistic options of what can be used on the small frames.
In the interior designers provided integrated furniture. The bathroom space is divided from the hallway with waterproof plywood walls. On the other side of the hallway shelves made of plywood separate the space behind from the hallway. The shelves and the bathroom wall also function as diagonal bracing of the building. A local dark grey coloured stone is used on the kitchen and bathroom counters. A wooden structure made of the same wood as the frames carries the counters. The ladder up to the second floor is made of steel pipes assembled on one of the shelves.
The hut prototype was developed in a designand building workshop conducted with students from the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, kept in mind the future of eco-tourism in the Western Ghats region in India. The concept was to make the hut as environment friendly as possible by using locally produced, materials and renewable energy sources. This would then simplify both production and maintenance of the buildings in the long run.
The Hut to Hut prototype is built of two different frames. One main frame for the construction and the other smaller for the skin. The combination of the two frames creates a flexible and changeable system that can adapt to different surroundings. One of the main ideas of the construction system is that it should be easy to work with. The dimension is adjusted to the human scale which means that the frames can be transported in cars and small trucks, carried and mounted by man power, eliminating use of heavy machinery and special equipment.
The frame system is logical and easy to understand and the prefabricated system makes it easier for a local family to buy and build their own hut. The hut can also be a source to harvest water, produce bio-gas for electricity and help the family to develop in a sustainable way.
All the components in the prototype derive from the same module making the building process efficient and low cost. The prefabricated wood consists of similar pieces with the potential to create many different spatial sequences.
- Elements/Structure: The frames are built of 2”4 pieces of wood, and connected with nails. The prototype was built with tree variations of the same frame. The base frame with small or no alterations can be used in different parts of the construction – as wall, floor and roof.The standard module can create different rooms when put together both horizontally (as floor) and vertically (as walls). The frames can be put together in a big variation of ways and create big or small units in one or multiple storeys.
- Joints/Connections: The frames in the prototype was connected/ joined with bolts both horizontally and vertically. The bolts were placed as close to the corners as possible in order to handle the forces more efficiently. The floor frame has the cross bracing in the middle. All the floor frames can be used as flat roof and floor in an upper level.In addition to the frames two cupboards in plywood work as crossbreeding on the long walls. The roof frame is in an angle to lead away the heavy rainfall during the monsoon. An extra piece lifts and fasten two meeting frames in them middle point of the building.
- Flexibility: ln addition to the structural frames a smaller frame (120 x 80 x 4.9 em) handles the skin of the building. These frames can be covered with different materials in different situations. The material tested in the prototype was mosquito nets that were stapled to the frames. The idea of the outer frame is to create a flexible system that enables local adjustments in terms of different types of skin and unit sizes.The basic frame can be flipped to create different systems and patterns in the construction. This frame is used for walls in the prototype hut. The floor frame has the cross bracing in the middle. All the floor frames can be used as flat roof and floor in an upper level. The angled roof frame has the same cross bracing as the basic frame, except on the end frames where there are two. The frame also has a cut to fit on top of the square frames underneath.