Banjaar Tola, Kanha National Park

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Banjaar Tola, Kanha National Park
Spread over 60 acres, the camp is situated across the Banjaar river edging the Kanha National Park and regularly plays host to a variety of wildlife from across the river. The river is used as a watering place by animals, notably by one of the largest population of tigers in India. In the first phase, the property has two camps situated along the river, ensuring a grand view yet providing a feeling of total privacy. Each camp has nine tented rooms and shares common facilities like dining, lounge, swimming pool and spa. The guest rooms are floating structures with a sweeping tensile roof, nestled between trees beyond the river banks, on small hilly outcrops. They open towards their own private decks suspended over the river. Each tent has been carefully sited to provide guests with a spectacular view of the river. The decks have a dropped ledge with railing so that nothing comes between the guest and the river view. All buildings have a very light footprint. They are raised structures supported at only a few points on the ground, allowing continuity to the natural undergrowth and drainage. Being lightweight and temporary, this type of construction dramatically reduces the impact on the surroundings as compared to a regular building of say, concrete and brick. A space enclosed only by canvas walls and roof can become uncomfortably hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and many top-class tented camps in the hospitality sector in India are cooled and heated by very large electrical systems. Instead, at Banjaar Tola, the use of double layers of canvas with insulation materials and air gaps has been an intrinsic part of this design. The insulated bamboo floor is heated with gas heated water piped below and adds an extra touch of comfort in the winter. A fogging system cools the air between the two roof layers and cools the roof, reducing summer load. The eco-friendly air-conditioning system, taking up the residual load, uses a reversible cycle to efficiently deliver both cooling and heating. Though local temperatures can vary from near zero to above 40 °C, air-conditioning and heating energy demand are reduced by a factor of four by careful design. The electricity demand has been further reduced through energy-saving lights and gas based water heating. Like large parts of rural India, the site gets only dribbles of poor quality electricity. To get a substantial electrical connection would require drawing it from over 10 km away. This negative situation will be converted to an advantage (in the next phase, when the larger demand justifies it) by promoting an independent Energy Services Company (ESCo) to deliver biomass gasifier-based electricity on site. It will use a variety of non-tree biomass and provide local employment. Once operational, this will make for a near zero-emission project. Local materials like tiles, bamboo and local timber reduce dependence on imported resources. Apart from small quantities of canvas and steel, local materials and methods dominate the design approach. The service buildings, located near the roadside are derived from local village architecture. Small but sensitive interventions in the natural landscape help conserve the land and its features. Soil erosion is being checked, indigenous species of trees are being introduced wherever necessary, water drainage by natural channels is being established, and waste disposal is monitored. Waste water is treated by wetland systems before being used for irrigation or released into to the earth for recharge. A man-made natural lake, without artificial liners, will assist the collection of water in the second phase and become an innate part of the native landscape. No wilderness project leaves the ecology untouched, albeit in ever so slight ways. This project seeks to maximize the positive impacts on the local environment with a minimum ecological footprint. It seeks to let nature repair itself, and replicate the spirit of stewardship with which such travel needs to be undertaken in these last preserves of our global bio-diversity.


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