The upcoming city of Lavasa is situated amidst Shayadri mountain range near the Mumbai Pune economic corridor, stretching along the Warasgaon Lake. Sapna Srivastava visited the city to find out the new principles of New Urbanism and Biomimicry, guiding the development of Lavasa and innovative technologies introduced to optimally balance nature and urban infrastructure.
The hill town of Lavasa spread across 12,500 acres in western India has five self-sustaining towns, Dasve, Mugaon, Dhamanohol, Sakhari-Wadavali and CBD (Central Business District). The Master Plan has been designed in conjunction with HOK International Limited, USA and architectural considerations such as land character, building frontage and other design guidelines have been taken into consideration while making the master plan. While HOK was involved to provide the overall planning concept and the architectural look, for the indiviadual buildings architectural various eminent Indian design firms and consultants have been involved. Currently, three towns of Dasve, Mugaon and Dhamanoho are under development.
The Master Plan
The overall city layout draws inspiration from traditional patterns of Indian town planning as well as vernacular forms of building. It emulates principles that are culturally based and that have proven sustainable for centuries. The landscape and architectural design of Lavasa is based on the transect model, i.e. development is denser near the town centre, gradually reducing as one moves uphill. Chip Crawford, Fasla, Sr. Vice President & Director, HOK planning Group says, “Environment played a major role in design & planning as we started laying out the project. The first step was to identify natural areas worth preserving such as forests and nallahs and accordingly, we prepared a conservation plan. In the next step, a restoration plan to repair the damaged areas was undertaken. Lastly an enhancement plan was developed for planning the compact urban centers.”
The Master Plan has also been inspired by Biomimicry – the science that learns from nature and adapts these learnings to planning, design and architecture. Working closely with biologists from Biomimicry 3.8, HOK studied the living creatures and plants of the moist, deciduous ecosystem to provide guidance and models for establishing locally attuned design strategies that respond to other challenges of the local biome. “Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. In a biomemitic world, we would manufacture the way plants and animals do, using sun and simple compounds to produce totally biodegradable fibers, ceramics, plastics, and chemicals. For example, solar cells copy from leaves, steely fibres are woven spider-style, shatterproof ceramics draw from mother-of-pearl, computers signal like cells and a closed-loop economy take its lessons from redwoods, coral reefs and oak-hickory forests”. Janine M. Benyus, Biologist, Co-founder & President Biomimicry Institute, USA. In addition to the overall master plan, the team developed a landscape master plan to rejuvenate deforested areas and drive future landscape performance. Reforestation, bioswales, rainwater harvesting and environmentally sensitive construction practices are all part of the plan.
Besides, with the help of Geographic Information System (GIS), the pattern of population density and work place resultant of land use was mapped. It was overlaid on the slope map, natural ravine pattern and proposed parks. Due to the hilly terrain, the streets were on different altitudes and needed to be connected. The projected population density mapping also determined the number of people who are anticipated to use the pedestrian walks and thus the frequency and width of such connections was determined. The walkways were categorised into formal and informal walks keeping in mind the slopes, amount of people and frequency of usage. The use of 3D-enabled GIS also makes the location of each structure easy and accurate. When combined with Global Positioning System it assists in carrying out maintenanceand operations proactively.
The 1,700-acre Dasve Valley is the Phase-I development nearing completion and is based on tourism, conventions and higher education as the economic drivers. It is a self-sufficient town with a town hall in the center, a club, a state-of-the-art convention center, a water sports’ complex, hotels, a Swiss hospitality college, hospital, post office, a school exclusively for locals and a retirement home for the senior citizens. Warasgaon Lake acts as the centrepiece with dense development planned around the lake, which gets thinners as one moves higher towards the hill slopes. The low-rise buildings in red, yellow and orange designed by architect Hafeez Contracter are modeled on the lines of Italian fishing village of Portofino. The promenade facing the waterfront on completion will be over 1.5 kilometers providing water sports, shopping and entertaining activities with colourful buildings, green mountains and villas on hill top forming the backdrop.
Approximately six kilometers from Dasve, Mugaon will be developed on approximately 2400 acre area and wil have a unique architectural character inspired by the western coastal Indian architecture. The development in Mugaon focuses on corporate and educational campuses and green research centres. Wrighton adds, “The town will use locally available materials like stone and bamboo and sustainable technologies like hollow flyash-concrete blocks, solar panels, green roofs, micro wind turbines and solar heaters. The next city to be developed, Dhamonohol will house high-end residential villas along with a golf course and a golf academy, a film-based theme park and an edutainment theme park.”
Inherent to Lavasa’s is the Environment Management Plan (EMP). This is a plan of constant, evolving action that addresses ecology concerns at several levels. From topsoil management, tree transplantation and mass plantation to the technologically superior processes of hydroseeding, soil, water and air pollution control and monitoring systems. Wrighton briefs on some of the vital envirnment initiatives introduced in the region, “The locals here practiced slash and burn cultivation. We created awareness amongst villagers to increase sapling plantation and till date, a total of half a million tree saplings have been planted at Dasve, with an average survival rate of 60%. To enhance existing flora and fauna, tree transplantation, preservation of ‘Top Soil’ for further use in landscaping creation of wildlife corridors, artificial water holes and release of fish in dam water to maintain a healthy biodiversity is carried out.”
Hydro-Seeding: Hydroseeding is a planting process that uses slurry of seed and mulch. The locally developed slurry is transported in a tank; truck mounted and sprayed over barren hill slopes for quick re-vegetation. Implementing hydro seeding resulted in a 44% germination rate over 12000 square meters of area. This greatly helped in mass plantation, prevention of soil erosion and facilitated quick vegetation.
Soil Bioengineering: Soil bioengineering is the use of living plant materials as an effective tool for treatment of unstable and / or eroding sites.The same was pursued for slope protection during monsoon and to preserving green cover.
Soil Conservation: Stones used for nallah bunding act as obstruction preventing soil from being washed away. In addition, with geomatting (involves placng of matts over the soil surface) slope areas are reinforced for strength & stability.
Water Conservation: Continues trenches are dug along the contours of the hill slopes forcing rain water to perlocate in the ground. Massive tree plantation of indegeneous varities to is aimed at raising the water table of the region.
Water Treatment: Sewage treatment is carried out using both UV & Ozonisation. The management is also employing new technologies for water / sewage treatment such as Soil Biotechnology developed by IIT Mumbai and ecological mapping of lake water.
Air Treatment: Sprinkling of water over roads to prevent dust pollution during construction and water sprinkling during crusher operations and use of PPE (dust masks) are some of the main initiatives taken to keep the air clean.
Lavasa belongs to the new crop of smart-city projects. A joint venture company formed by Lavasa in association with Cisco & Wipro, My City Ltd. implements lifestyle technology solutions on a vast scale. Wipro is providing expertise in areas like city management services, e-governance, ICT infrastructure and value-added services, including proposing and implementing intelligent solutions for the home and digital lifestyles. Wipro will also design the detailed infrastructure for telecom-based services that will facilitate smart homes and buildings, including integrated building management systems, physical security requirements and other on-demand services.
Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities offers the network to transform physical communities into connected communities and Cisco’s service-delivery platform enables to deploy new smart services and applications for citizens as well as those that manage and operate the community infrastructure. “The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays an important role in planning, executing and maintaining the technology requirements of Lavasa’s administration, residents and all other stakeholders such as commercial establishments, contractors, educational institutes, travel and hospitality services, hospitals and utility services. These ICT products & architecture and the technology & solutions are helping Lavasa to be a smart and sustainable city.” said, Wrighton
Lavasa city’s growth model of is built on three financial pillars: real estate sales, city service revenues and joint ventures with reputed companies in specific sectors like telecommunication, laundry, security, waste recycling etc. Each city being developed is staked to its own economic driver that defines its architecture and planning, for example tourism, biotech and software and other non polluting industries. A distinguishing feature of the Lavasa development is the skilled city management service team headed by a specialized city manager to provide quality community living with emphasis on e-governance. The responsibilities of city management include public safety & security, uninterrupted power supply, integrated housekeeping, maintenance, waste management, pest control and property management. Wrighton who is a past member and officer of several US state’s city management associations and has been a member of the International City-County Management Association (ICMA) for nearly 30 years says, “The city manager apart from ensuring that day‐to‐day apparatus of the city’s routine service delivery functions smoothly, is also responsible for the policy making, contract administration, measuring and managing performance outcomes and process & system engineering. The vision is to create a replicable model of city governance for new Asian cities by bringing world-class standards to Indian urban life.”