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This one-of-a-kind mud hotel collects rain, has no air conditioning, and runs on solar power

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According to studies, construction is responsible for almost 30% of India’s air pollution, and in recent times, businesses are finding ways to become sustainable. A hotel in Chikmagalur is making strides towards redressing this imbalance. 

The Sunyata Hotel, which opened eight months ago, is a great example of sustainable construction and is occupied by the guests that pursue eco-friendly habits. What makes it unique is that the hotel uses technologies like solar energy and Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) to run efficiently without putting the load on nature. 

The construction materials used in building this hotel were sourced locally. Even the bricks used in the construction were eco-friendly and were produced from scratch with minimum cement and concrete. “At Sunyata, we have made sure that no drop of water used on the premises goes to waste,” Lokesh Gunjugnur, the owner of the hotel, said. 

From the beginning

Years ago, Lokesh had purchased an empty plot of land in Chikmagalur, the town where he grew up. Later in 2017, when he witnessed the tourism in the town booming, he decided to start a resort of his own. 

“I wanted my hotel to be unique and in favour of the environment — not only in terms of the way it operated, but also in terms of construction. I wanted to use materials that were not harmful to the environment. In the future, even if the building is being demolished, I wanted to ensure that the materials would become one with the earth again,” continued Lokesh, who is a software engineer based in Miami, USA.

To execute this idea, he approached Design Kacheri, a Bengaluru-based architecture firm, and Punit Y, a trained civil engineer from Auroville. 

The project required the use of soil from within a 15-mile radius of his property, as well as less than 5% limestone and cement, which were then baked into bricks.

Load-bearing structures were used instead of steel to raise and support the structure, along with used coconut shells and other pot fillers to keep the rooms cool and aesthetic. 

Natural cooling

Carrying forward the theme of innovation, the hotel also consists of a 10-foot-long PVC pipe that runs beneath the structure and serves as a cooling solution with air from the outside. 

How does it work? 

The air from the outside cools down as it passes through the pipe and is subsequently discharged through numerous outlets. Other than this, a chimney is also built on the ceilings of the rooms to serve as an exhaust for warm air. So no matter what the outside temperature is, this system keeps the rooms at a constant temperature of 18°c to 25°c.

A well was also dug on the property to conserve rainwater and enhance the groundwater levels. Special pavement bricks are also made to guide the falling rainwater to the community areas such as the parking lot or courtyard to the water table.

Even the greywater from the restrooms is not thrown away. The hotel has a system in place to purify the greywater which is later supplied to toilet flush tanks and is used to water the garden. 

With 11 rooms, a quaint courtyard and a local cafe, Sunyata hotel was opened to guests in January 2021 along with a small shop in the premises where they can buy handcrafted, environmentally friendly products manufactured by local artists. 

Lokesh believes this move will help the local artists promote their business. 

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