Biome Environmental Solutions is a multidisciplinary practice based in the city of Bangalore that focuses on creating ecologically sound and sensitive architectural solutions.
Biome’s architecture blends efficiently, aesthetically, and almost therapeutically with its surroundings, constituting as parts to a greater whole. They function as minuscule plugs in a dysfunctional ecosystem, seeking to restore a sociological and ecological balance in the circuit. Each house form is an independent and self-sustainable organism setting an example of a carefully engineered intervention in a callous, capitalistic, and self-absorbed built environment.
By using waste collected from neighbouring areas to fill plinths and slabs of buildings, and earth excavated for foundations and basements to build walls, a system of transferring raw material from source to site is conceived and replicated. In this regard, Biome’s built forms such as the Shankaja and Rajagopalan’s residences exist as tropical igloos which, in place of shielding its inhabitants from harsh climatic conditions, actively encourage interaction between the two. Furthermore, these buildings function as raw material repositories where the potential of using recovered building materials through replanting and recycling is explored.
Malathi and Prof. Rajagopalan residence in Vidyaranyapuraemploys the CSEB technique for construction where mud blocks stabilized with chemical components are used in place of fired bricks. Cement is used for stabilizing sandy soils and lime for soils rich in clay. The plasticity and flexibility of this construction material enable traditional masonry construction to manifest with an aesthetic twist. The vaults and domes crown the building, giving form to the interiors defined by planes. Space is conceived as central or directional, whole or fractured. The occasional dash of colour and base relief work on doors adds variation to the unplastered walls. Old, discarded keyboards embedded in the filler slabs exemplify a conscious and effective use of waste while decreasing the overall weight of the slab. The living room, the hearth in the structure, brings together both known and unknown individuals to share space and experiences under a sheltered dome.
Through rainwater harvesting and waste-water treatment, a secondary cycle of self-sustenance is generated. Buildings such as the Sans Souci use the low-energy root zone treatment system which uses natural components such as reed beds to treat greywater. An additional baffle reactor facilitates the treatment of black water.
The house for Anantha Swarna conspicuously displays their rainwater harvesting system, a central and defining feature in the architectural language of the built form. A virtual structural element with ornamental qualities, the positioning of these chains which direct the water in a downward trajectory, further seeks to initiate discussions around the concept of sustainability as a way of life. Placed in the living room, the element serves as a gentle reminder of their house functioning as a brilliant ecological machine beneath its unassuming earthy exteriors. A well in the courtyard beside a ‘tulsi’ plant and a patch of greenery recreates the ambience of an ancestral village in a modern urban context. Through this architecture that attempts to dissolve distinctions between the inside and outside, Biome emphasizes the need to bear and share sustainable water management technology within our networks and beyond.
The walls in the Raghavan residence, built of CSEB and stone keep the interiors cool and well ventilated through full and half-length fenestrations placed orthogonally on adjacent walls. Juxtaposed with openings on walls at an angle, the language of mass and void, structure and screen aim to facilitate multi-directional cross ventilation, reaching far into the recesses of the interiors.
Compressed and stabilized Earth Blocks facilitate passive cooling by increasing the time lag between the exterior and interior temperatures. Walls are punctured with minute openings creating screens that enable vision but restrict airflow and heat transfer. In the Alagu and Petachhi residence sunken floors and basements cool interiors promoting a sense of safety and seclusion in a quasi-subterranean setting. Filler slabs incorporating local waste material include Mangalore tiles that aesthetically enhance space adding to the earthy tones of the walls. These distinct components are carefully synchronized to create a harmonious melody that defines the language and nuances of Biome’s architecture.
The city of Bangalore is known as one of the most livable cities in the Indian subcontinent, primarily due to its well-tempered climate and rich biodiversity. Biome’s architecture, as evidenced through the use of roof gardens in Ramadurai, uses this knowledge to its advantage. An ambience thriving with flora and fauna including a wide variety of insects, birds and fish alters the air quality for residents. Walls with niches for birds to nest, pools of water for marine life to thrive and houses built around old, existing trees are some of the features of this ecologically sensitive design practice.
The opportunity for manipulation, inherent in the nature of earth block construction permits the creation of inlets for light by strategically removing material from non-structural components in walls, vaults and domes. This technique has been employed in the Creative School and Sai Prashanti School to create unconventional openings in walls and an oculus in a dome. These playful forms subtly hint at the function of the building and its users for whom these elements and their role in creating light and shadow patterns are a perennial source of entertainment and wonder. Colourful mosaic tiles made of waste stone chips and glass are used to finish and waterproof the dome contributing to the structure’s aesthetic appeal and unique character.
Principles of symmetry and proportion have dictated the design of the Govardhan Ecovillage creating a statement with its form, orientation and façade treatment. The large expansive span of the yoga hall sports a magnificent iron-framed bamboo roof supported on stunted earth block piers. The deep horizontal split between ground and roof creates a paradox between the roof’s massive form and its apparent weight. This horizontality and lightness re-appear in the main buildings and cattle sheds manifesting both in plan and elevation with the use of large spanned pitched roofs and arches on slender supports. Long tie beams are complemented by narrow slits for fenestrations which define the vertical.
The modern reinterpretation of South Indian vernacular architecture using compressed earth blocks is both respectful and revolutionary to the local context of Bangalore. Rainwater harvesting systems and wastewater treatment plants in Biome’s architecture take the built forms off the city-wide water supply grid, hinder the depletion of natural resources in the region, and reduce the strain on bore-wells, aquifers, tanks, and a threateningly low water table. The reuse of waste and building materials contribute to the reduction of energy consumption, greenhouse gas, and CO2 emissions during construction, a well-overlooked fact, therefore placing a high value on energy efficiency. These systems collectively operate to reduce the cumulative waste generated by every building while simultaneously providing water security to its residents.