Thursday, July 21, 2011

More images of the upcoming Wonder Grass outlet

Here are some more images of the upcoming office-showroom at Bangalore.

I shall upload some more images as we go along. If anyone wants to drop in and take a look at, here is our address,

Wonder Grass initiative
plot no. 553/46,
1st Cross, 22nd main
Sector - 1, HSR Layout, Bangalore

Landmark: Close to Agara Junction on Outer Ring Road, in case you have any difficulty finding please reach me on 92430 93363

Hope to catch you there,

We are open for Business ! ! ! ! ! ! ! First Wonder Grass Sales outlet is open

Wonder Grass starts its first Sales outlet for bamboo based building products at Bangalore

Following our earlier post where we had mentioned about commissioning of our first sales-outlet, we are now happy to announce, although informally that we are open for business.

Here are some of the recently finished building of our sales outlet. What we have tried here is to demonstrate the prefab components that Wonder Grass manufactures in its various applications. 

Front-wall A combination of different walling systems

Front View of the office

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

‘One-stop-Shop’ for bamboo houses; a Wonder Grass initiative

Wonder Grass is in the process of setting up first of its Sales-Hub, where the range of bamboo-based building products like Green-wall panels, Screens, modular Terrace-top structures and other add-on building-components would be on display and for purchase ‘off-the-shelve’.
Along with a set of purely bamboo-based building components, other related accessories, hardware and coating-paints etc will also be available. A team of artisans will be stationed on-site to provide installation and maintenance services, an architect for design-support service etc. In nut shell this place is conceived to provide anyone interested in building with bamboo ‘One-stop-Shop’ experience, to make building with bamboo a joy.

The place is a combination of various ‘front-end’ functions; marketing and design office, a demonstration structure, ‘Stock-and-Sell’ point and small-time building-workshop. Bangalore is a natural choice to start the first of our Sales-Hub outlet, as the people here have given a fillip to idea of using bamboo for building.

We have taken on rent an empty terrace in sector – I, HSR layout, where we are building the whole ‘office-cum-showroom’ using bamboo, demonstrating some of our standard building-systems and using various prefab building components like green-wall panels etc. This will leave no doubt in the mind of our clients and customers, as to how these building components perform and work in the real life-conditions.

This place will provide a very important ‘touch & feel’ aspect of the building product (for a client) to make a final call on using bamboo for his/her building-project.

The office-showroom built with bamboo will help us demonstrate the ability of bamboo for building day-to-day structures with no compromises on performance, its elegance, our ability to deliver a quality finished product, and that too in a short time-frame for erection on site. 

We started work on site around 7th of May. The building is coming along very nicely. The whole new idea of building a system-based bamboo structure is arousing a keen interest from passers-by, people in the vicinity and more importantly within a larger network of Wonder Grass. A lot of our friends have been visiting the set-up, giving ideas and suggestions. The small ideas here and there have helped us make this building that much richer in its form and content.

Meeta, an architect friend, suggested that why not explore and employ a curved / arched roof instead of a standard two-way sloping roof. The curvilinear forms are natural to bamboo, taking some clues from the amazing ‘Green School’ in Bali, we started working on the development of curved roofing system. Achieving a right curvature, required us to develop a new construction method. This helped stretch our imagination, sometimes appearing almost difficult to achieve in a limited time-frame, we had set for our ourselves.

We have finally managed to put together an arched roofing system, owing to untiring efforts by artisans Nikhil Shingare, Yogesh Tembhre and Vaibhav moon. The first arch came up fine, but kept us giving trouble as it was opening up on loading. It needed a tie-member at bottom to hold its curve / shape intact.

The walls are a composite type, it employs combination of different walling systems, using bamboo only. Like some parts are Bamboo-Mat boards, parts are half-split ‘Kavelu Panels’, Woven-mesh panels etc.

The work is progressing well, and we hope to meet our time-line in the midst of monsoon which has come visiting early this time.

Wonder Grass – An Organization in Building

The very process of building of an enterprise which builds houses with bamboo is becoming more and more joyful, although it tests our resolve and the will to continue the journey once in a while.

Last year saw a very enriching and educative engagement with a very experienced  team of professionals (Housing and Finance segment) from Planet Habitat, Ms. Helen Ng, Mr. Rohit Gada and mr. Rajesh Tiwary. The engagement was to explore possible partnerships in taking Wonder Grass to the next stage of growth and scale-up.

They have been very helpful, generous and kind in extending the support and guidance an early stage organization needs. Mr. Rohit Gada who leads ‘Vikas Constructions’ in Mumbai gave us an opportunity to build 25 Workers Housing units, for one of his facility in Bhilad, dist. Vaapi.

With Helen, the relationship has grown from being a purely professional one to being a good friend. She has been very kind in pushing Wonder Grass case through her network here in India, trying to help build the business. Coming from a housing – finance background and with a keen interest in ‘eco-conscious’ building materials, she is working on to build the value chain of eco-friendly building systems to bring them in mainstream of building industry.

We shall continue to get guidance and support from such a brilliant team of professionals in future. They bring in a broad perspective of the industry and experience about how an organizations needs to be built to bring vision into the reality. 
The Year also saw a set of two young, dynamic and creative architects join our hands at Wonder Grass to build onto the design-ideas, building technology’s and construction details using Bamboo.
Ar. Lucas Spiegel, who finished his graduation in Architecture from university of Oregon, was initiated by his friend and Wonder Grass alumni ar. Alex Miller in trying his hands on a bamboo based architecture. Lucas braved the heat and the lack of infrastructure issues at Wonder Grass facility in Nagpur and did come up with some really exciting ideas, works and proposals.

Wonder Grass still in early stages of building-up, falls severely short of resources, bandwidth and will to keep such a dynamic and committed set of professionals engaged and involved to work more on bamboo.

In a span of just 5 months, Lucas did develop some very interesting building systems and ideas. We wish him all the luck for his future works.

Ar. Bela Rao, worked with two architectural firms in Goa and Pune, before trying her hands at Bamboo based architecture with Wonder Grass. It was indeed a tough call for young professional lady to live behind a luxury of urban India to difficulties (social, cultural and professional) in the rural areas.

Lucas and Bela worked together, learning on the job and applying it to build on some interesting designs and building systems.

Key works by ar. Lucas Spiegel
  1. Skecth proposal, building systems and coordination of works on site at Farhenite Resorts, Goa.
  2. Proposal for weekend home near Bangalore.
  3. Proposal for prefabricated kits for living units in French Guiana.
  4. Landscape for a prototype rural housing unit at Peth.

Key works by ar. Bela Rao
  1. Proposal for school building type at Bangalore
  2. Documentation for rural housing building unit
  3. sketch design and development for a 2nd phase of 10 units of ‘Workers housing units’ at AB Rolling, Bhilad.

Duo of Vedant and Utkarsh

These two boys joined our team to work as trainee project-management assistants. Vedant joined the team almost a year back in April’ 2010 and Utkarsh followed in September’ 2011.

There is a long way to go for these two in terms of understanding nitty-gritty’s of the project execution, but both have shown promise. They are hard working and are willing to sweat it out on the site.

Artisan Trainee’s from ITI
We started taking in trainee apprentice from the treads of ‘Carpentry’ and ‘Fitter’ from Industrial Training Institute’s (popularly known as ITI’s), to learn bamboo-construction systems on-job. These boys have shown great promise. The young working men from villages show greater inclination to work in city’ and decline work opportunities in rural area’s, yet we have had a fair number of trainee’s come to work in our set-up at village Peth, Nagpur.

Last year we had 10 trainee from two ITI’s, Wardha and Chandrapur.

The credit to this initiative goes to Sandip. Sandip Gadekar, has been with Wonder Grass for close to 18 months now, taking care of basic administration and coordination works at our Nagpur office.

Sandip initiated a step to interact with ITI’s in Nagpur and surrounding area’s. He introduced to them the work we are doing at Wonder Grass, and invited them to work and learn at Wonder Grass about Bamboo construction. This paid off handsomely, now we routenly get a team of about 8-10 trainee apprentice from various ITI institutions in Vidarbha.

Artisan team
We are facing a daunting challenge in building a good team of artisans who will fabricate and build bamboo houses in large numbers.

Our core team still remains at around 12 artisans, which is also on the decline. The number of artisans, who are floating, is around 15. Last year at one point we had close to 30 artisans. Peth unit had 12 artisans while Khanapur center had 5 and rest were on the project site at Bhilad, Gujrath.

We are utterly at loss to understand why and where are we failing in building a good artisan base, who is highly skilled in bamboo construction and is committed to quality and good finish. 

What we are looking to build is more stable and steady team of master artisans which will be the core, this team will have something like 20 artisans which is future can grow upto 100, who are well versed in the systems, techniques for construction, erection processes on site, quality check etc. this team will primarily build the larger artisan group which will implement large number of bamboo building units.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wonder Grass – The Year gone by ‘2010

Here we are taking the opportunity to share with you all the developments and achievements at Wonder Grass during 2010 - 2011
One of our friends rightly said, ‘sometime’s it helps to celebrate your achievements’, we thought may be it is still some time for us to exult and celebrate our achievements, but let us take a stock of what we have been able to achieve last year, where we could not walk that extra mile, where we failed to deliver to the best standards and where we might improve.

Works we completed

1. A Prototype ‘Inverted Arch’ and ‘Vaulted-dome’ under the guidance of Ar. Ashok Lal, Delhi.

2. A ‘Green-wall’ for residence of Mr. Shriram Nadathur, Koramangala Bangalore.

3. Workers Housing for AB Rolling Mills, Village Sarigam, Vaapi Gujrath – 15 units of 200 Sft built. In a span of 6 months.

4. A Beach-front Restaurant for Farhenite Resorts, Goa – 1500 Sft of restaurant (semi-open) and 2000 Sft of Green-wall as visual barrier.

5. A ‘Green-wall’ for Mr. Vikram Reddy’s residence, near White field Bangalore

6. Design and Erection of a first prototype of ‘Integrated Rural Housing Unit’ developed by Wonder Grass as an offering in Rural housing market.

7. First phase of ‘A Study of Structural Behavior of Bamboo based building components’, for National Mission for Bamboo Applications NMBA, New Delhi.


1. The inverted arch built at our Nagpur facility is first of its kind (in the Indian context), of a structural member 75 feet long and 10 feet in depth, built entirely in Bamboo.

2. Prototype for Integrated Housing unit, a complete unit of 375 Sq Ft with Rain-water harvesting system and Dry-Toilet, in on offer for Rs. 1,25,000/-

3. The Housing – unit is designed as a system of parts, which are fabricated in the processing-nodes, transported and erected on site in 21 days, for a house ready-to-move in for a family.

4. A complete knock-down kind of system developed for a beach-front restaurant for Farhenite-resort, a very appropriate solution for structures coming up in CRZ areas. This system allows erection and dismantling of the system with ease.

5. Workers housing units built at AB Rolling mills are a first pilot run for modular building system developed in-house, tested for delivery and execution for volumes.

Lessons Learnt

1. Worker’s Housing at AB Rolling Mills

a. System - approach makes it faster and economical to build structures on a relatively large scale.

b. The quality of structural system is good, but there is a lot of room for improvement in walling-system, the junctions where wall-meets-columns and beams.

c. Work required on resolving wall-door frame junction in neater and cleaner way.

d. Work required for refining and developing aesthetics and visual-character of the built-for.

e. Delivery on site suffers from a lack of well coordinated artisan team, trained specifically for execution and Quality finish.
2. Inverted arch for Ar. Ashok Lal, Delhi

a. It is possible to build a continuous structural component using a standard pole-size of 12 feet, with appropriate joinery, design of construction processes etc.

b. We need to build on the rapport ire of ways of joining and building structural systems using bamboo. Ours is limited to use of Nut-bolts, Fiber reinforced Plastic and Sheet-metal joints.

c. There is a need on developing a range of systems which are primarily composite in nature, which combines bamboo with timber, MS sections and engineered bamboo panels etc.
3. Green – wall for mr. Shriram Nadathur’s residence, Bangalore

a. The standardization has stopped at product level. It needs to be taken further in the building – processes using these components at project-site.

b. The ad-hock approach during execution leads to longer time-frames on site, also to a relatively bad quality of finish of a finished project.

c. A Range of standardized joinery systems needs to be developed to simplify the erection of green-wall panels on verity of site-conditions.

4. A Prototype for a ‘Integrated Rural Housing unit’ at village Peth, Nagpur.
a. Roofing system – use of Corrugated GI Sheets is not in line with the character and feel of the built-form. We need to experiment with different roofing materials to arrive at appropriate solutions.

b. Plastering methods using cement-plaster and mud-plaster needs a lot of R&D to make the walls as effective as a plastered brick-wall.

c. Windows are too small for a house, needs redesigning.

The experience of the last year will help us chart our way further. We shall share with you the roadmap for year ahead in the next blog entry.

Till then…. Enjoy..