Sunday, November 29, 2009

Belgaum Processing Node

Wonder Grass and Bamboo-Tech, Belgaum have principally agree to enter into a joint initiative to establish and run a Processing-Node for Building-system requirements using Bamboo.

This is the first step in establishing similar such partnerships across India to build the backward linkage for Wonder Grass building-requirements in the urban and rural markets across India. The partnership enables these two organisations to bring together respective strengths and develop a synergy which will translate into increase in the capacity to provide bamboo building services on-call and on-demand.

A team of 3 artisans (Amol, Sachin and Pravin) from Wonder Grass have initiated the works at the Node. We started with sizing and grading of some of the bamboo purchased last year, and then moved onto procurement of new bamboo lot. Amit is a coordinator of works on ground while Samir provides oversight to the operations.
Mr. Kanbargi (senior) is taking a keen interest in the works at the day-to-day operations at the node, he is personally looking after the establishment of the center and giving directions to the team on ground.
The Workshed is being revamped and infrastructure is being developed as and when required. First set of treatment chambers and tanks started operations in the first week. The treatment and seasoning operations are in full swing, we are carrying out seasoning of 75-100 bamboo poles per day.

On the other hand we are developing a network of vendors and suppliers for bamboo. We are also in discussions with the Dept. of Forests to see if we can source bamboo from them on a regular basis. Initial discussions with the officials have been very encouraging.

This region is experiencing flowering of bamboo for a year now, this a very serious concern in this area. Huge bamboo stocks are still standing in the forests and drying, this needs urgent attention.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Guesthouse Furniture ready for Move-in

Ready for installation, our desk, and small coffee table are ready to installed into our Guesthouse ground floor, AKA design central. One of our carpenters made some great pieces using traditional wooden joinery, but adapted for bamboo. Realizing that bamboo is it's own element, it some weaknesses and strengths. But from pieces of furniture all the way up to guesthouses, the strengths can truly impress, while the weaknesses if not corrected, can truly terrify. So to say the least, we have some truly talented artisan working at our site currently. As of now we have several artisans working on the guesthouse, and experimental beams for out new housing prototype, and concurrently, we have several workers down in Bangalore installing bamboo panels. Here at Wondergrass, we have the constant task of managing several different projects of all types to all the different locations in India.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Final Phase of Construction

Things are looking like our Guesthouse is in it's final stages, and getting ready for some occupants. We have the flooring nearing completion, and some our artisans are completing the roof as I type this.With so many things happening here at Wondergrass it seems like we are at the center of sustainable building movement. Yesterday we had first year architecture students from a new arch university in Nagpur, India visit us and look around at what we are doing. Some students were eagerly impressed, and others looked at us, and said, "My family has been living in bamboo/mud house for 65 years, there is nothing new here. The mix of housing elements that India currently has, gives us the task of introducing the new, but giving it new appeal towards mainstream construction standards. It is a weekely accurance that someone gets in contact with or us or visa versa and we make a new connection for out product to reach more people. We have realized that durability will sell our bamboo homes as much as anything, and cost comes secondary. With bamboo, there is no problem with tension holding, but compression a problem with bamboo natural flexibility is a task we are currently taking on. In the past we have set up some worth while testing on different composite beams. Several years ago we built a ground plus one story structure, and the beam we used was a closed web plywood insert truss. We tested it with at least 900lbs of concrete bags and it held with great strength.Using plywood for insert is structurally stable, however we are not happy with using plywood as it has a high embodied energy, as well as it cost. Over the years we have used different strength truss/beams for different uses. We are now working with bamboo open web trusses that mimic commercial open web trusses sold on the market. If this brings successful results, we will be using these trusses more often. There advantage is that they use less metal fasteners, and also create less time for construction. At wondergrass we always have to balance construction with a bit of artistic design. We have finished one of our mosaic tile patterns, and we are happy with the results. Since this space is going to be out HeadQuarters in Bamboo housing design the intent to make this place as pleasant as possible is necessary. Below is a picture of our roof tiling. We are using traditional tiles made by local craftsman. These "country" tiles are half round mud tiles, that can be made rather quickly, and are very cheap. Vicenta' is currently finishing up the last swath of tiles, and fortunately, if a rain comes, we will be prepared.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Progress on the guesthouse is moving along. We have recently had some heavy rain in the region and construction was slowed, but things are looking good so far. The wattle and daub is working out well, we have decided to alternate the wattle from horizontal to vertical on some panels. We wanted to see the effectiveness of the way to which we put the wattle, and see how the daub holds up. Out method is applying mud directly on the wattle, and covering that with a layer of cow manure. This acts as a binder and harder coat on top of the mud. We have also started to lay down the tiling and mosaic for the
ground floor.

We have used large stone tiles for the majority of the ground floor, and for the remaining area, we designed some simple china mosaic patterns. This building has been a learning process for Wondergrass, and will in the future house the students of bamboo.

My illuminating experiences @ Peth

The spirit of Independence was in the air when I reached site on the 14th of August. The artisans and the whole team were busy with the preparation works. Mr.Motiram Ji the village head hoisted the flag on the 15th morning keeping the tri-colored Indian flag high. The artisans sang and played the Harmonium and Tabla as a part of the celebrations.

When I had to move into the village, I was filled with fear as I knew absolutely nobody or the place as well. It was a great challenge to converse with everyone with the ‘GREAT HINDI” I knew. It was a difficult start though, as days passed by, I made myself comfortable working with the artisans and conversing with them.

Oh! Not to forget I had to teach them to speak in English which was one of the next greatest challenges for me .As I was never a great teacher. I had to find and incorporate newer ideas and prospects to teach them and make the classes interesting to a varied age group of people. The new ideas included playing dumb charades, pictionary, singing, etc. It was a great experience of learning and understanding the life of artisans from a very close quarter.

Dumb charades and Pictionary were so much fun as their way of interpreting things were so very different from the so called “civilized urban citizens”. So many such things made me realize that we make our simple life so very complicated and finally invent solutions to solve the problems we interweave.

The most expected “TUESDAYS – village market” was the day when everybody could freak out to have those hot jalebis, samosas and all the other village delicacies. This was a day of shopping too for the artisans and all the villagers.

The “Boating” @ a dam located nearby the village was a very fearful entertainment to say. It definitely was a very different experience to boat without any skilled boatmen or safety tubes/accessories or any organization that takes care off. Driving along with nature as it can be called.

Moving on to the most important aspect of my learning with the material directly was a great exposure and experience. As days moved along, I learnt to design a staircase, though it might not have proved to be a great success. Working with the material and the hand tools which the artisans themselves used were all a massive exercise. It was easier for me to perceive the bamboo construction techniques from the guest house that was being constructed during my stay there.

To end with, the villagers were very friendly and loving who would invite me to their homes to share their special native delicacies. The village life and the people around kept me occupied throughout the day.

Artisan team I worked with included:

* Amol, Sachin(byle, bomb wala and water tank), Vinay, Santhosh (chotta byle), Gajanand, Yohesh (Guruji), Praveen, Rajanna, Santhosh, Shankar, Surrendar (Style), Sunil and Vasantha Bhayya (caretaker).