Habitat Observatory

    Bamboo Symphony: A perfect example of Sustainable Architecture
  Bamboo Symphony is an office building located in Bangalore, India. It is a perfect example of comprehensive approach towards sustainable architecture. The building is spread over an area of 2,260 sq ft and is equipped with a conference room, private offices, computer room, reception, bathroom and a kitchenette. The curvilinear building extensively makes use of locally sourced, recycled, and natural building materials like bamboo, fly ash, recycled wood, scraps metal, and stone. The design of the building has used bamboo in place of steel or wood and even reduces the weight of the concrete by adding bamboo fibers into the mix.

The open-air structure is built of mud blocks made on site with materials from the ground. Bamboo-crete precast wall panels are used for the walling system, while mud blocks form the back wall and foundation. The floors are made from bamboo and leftover stone pieces from a building nearby. Bamboo posts and beams along with a lattice grid support the shell roof, which includes bamboo fibre to reduce the overall weight of the material. The roofing system of the building was economical and quick to execute with no skilled labour, heavy machinery or formwork. A concrete shell roof over a lattice grid of bamboo provides shade and thermal mass. The shell roof is supported on a criss-cross network of bamboo beams, which transfers load to an inclined bamboo column. The inclinations in the bamboo column utilize the inherent tensile strength of the bamboo. The structure has 50 percent bamboo usage, due to which the environmental impact is 1/7th that of steel and concrete structure.

The building also has a 1.6 kW solar system supplies the office with all of its electricity making this a totally net zero development, although it is grid tied for as a backup. During the day, ambient daylight provides 100% of the office’s lighting needs and natural ventilation and thermal mass are used to keep the space cool. Rainwater is collected from the entire site and directed into the Lotus Pond, which supplies the building with all of its water and recycles and filters grey water before returning it to the ground.

The innovations with the structure and material are fascinating; including that of a light structure crowned with a heavy roof as opposed to the general technique of having light roofs resting on heavy support. The fact that bamboo (natural material) can replace steel in many applications has been proved by Bamboo Symphony.

While the average building construction cost in Bengaluru in 2009-10 comes to around Rs 1200/sq ft, this project was achieved at Rs 830/sq ft – a remarkable achievement. This corroborates the fact that contemporary buildings with mud and bamboo are possible at a fraction of the cost of its urban counterpart and can be constructed by the unskilled labourers with very simple construction methods and tools.

Bamboo Symphony has won many awards such as the third prize at the Lafarge Invention Awards, 2011, ArchiDesign Awards 2013, etc.
    Housing Scheme for Rural India
  India is celebrating its 68th years of Independence tomorrow but the Government is yet to achieve the goal of ‘Safe and Sustainable Housing for All’. The current housing deficit of rural India is 40 million houses which include all the kutcha houses with kutcha roofs and walls. The Government of India is working rigorously to fulfill the deficit through their flagship scheme Indira Awaas Yojna, but the number we are chasing is very dynamic. Every year our country loses 15 lakh houses to disasters and therefore, disaster resilience need to be incorporated into the design and construction.

Indira Awaas Yojna requires a lot of modifications, as presently the scheme only provides grant for building a house with no sanitation structure, water infrastructure and electricity. Currently the scheme offers a grant of INR 70,000 for building a house. There are schemes through which basic amenities can be leveraged but pooling of resources from different ministries is very difficult.

The Ministry of Rural Development, the pioneer towards fulfillment of this goal of ‘Safe and Sustainable Housing for All’, acknowledged that there is a need to revisit Indira Awaas Yojna and focus on providing ‘pucca houses with basic amenities such as toilet, bathing space, water supply, bio-waste treatment facility, electricity, and are built using appropriate and locally relevant technology. The Ministry is going to turn around the Indira Awaas Yojana, a scheme, into a ‘National Gramin Awaas Mission’, with increased budget and with an important design innovation which mandates toilets to be part of the housing units constructed under the scheme. 

The mission documents have been disclosed for inputs and suggestions at various forums by Ministry of Rural development. Development Alternatives has provided its inputs and suggestions in this regard. The key suggestions of the team are here by:

1.   The focus should be on is 100% coverage of availability and access to the following resources necessary for housing, sanitation, safe water infrastructure: 

  • Building materials and technology – necessary for cost management and sustainability
  • Skills and services – essential for quality management
  • Information and knowledge – significant for ensuring safety and sustainability
  • Finance – the key driver for demand creation
  • Land – We are not discussing this here as states have put this in process already
The outcome of this coverage will be the safe and sustainable housing and habitat infrastructure that we are talking about, where management of construction and not necessarily the actual construction is done by the home-owner or community groups.

2. Resource mobilization is the most critical aspect of this equation. The required key resources are building materials and technologies - to promote sustainability, local jobs and local economy ; skills and services - to ensure quality, local jobs and local economy; information and knowledge- - to promote quality, safety and sustainability in the assets being created; finance - to reduce the load on the exchequer and ensure greater ownership by home-owners

3. Market Creation for the above components of the eco-system: There is need to create a market for each of the above mentioned resources which require support of Government. For building materials and technologies; a convergence with MSME and enterprise credit for entrepreneurs to set up local production of green materials is required. Other incentives such as tax holiday for identified green product SMEs etc. may also be needed to ensure that materials supply is available. Banks – HFCs and RRBs will require training and capacity building and states will need to get into state wide MOUs with these institutions. Housing finance is the biggest driver of this system. Models like the build together-pay together system ensure that paper work of banks is reduced, construction is done in good time and repayment is regular.

The detail note submitted by Development Alternatives is enclosed for referral. The draft discussion paper on National Gramin Awaas Mission has been uploaded on the IAY portal as well as ministry website which can be accessed at and If you have some inputs and comments on the Mission document you can send the same at or you can directly send it to Ministry of Rural Development.