When it comes to bamboo and its use in construction, the first name that props up is architect Neelam Manjunath of Manasaram Architects in Bengaluru. Her work with bamboo as well as her tireless campaigns to promote this material is widely known and acknowledged by national and international bodies.
Given her firm commitment to promoting sustainable methods of construction, and exploring the myriad uses of bamboo in modern construction, Neelam serves as a mine of information on alternative construction methodologies.
The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale saw the launch of her book “Symphony of Bamboos,” that offered the reader a peek into Neelam’s journey, capturing her beliefs and principles while offering a fine insight into this plant that breathes sustainability. The book, which also brings forth the struggles of an architect indulging in non-mainstream materials and technologies, is currently being re-worked, the revised version slated for publication shortly.
Neelam is also the recipient of the Rotary Club Bangalore South-IIA-Green Building Designer of the Year 2016-17 award, conferred in recognition of her sustained effort in promoting bamboo in construction and experimenting with unconventional technologies and alternative methods of construction to offer a greener, healthier future to the world. She is also the recipient of Arcasia Awards for Architecture 2017 (Jaipur), along with a gold medal awarded for her project “Bamboo Symphony” in Category F: Sustainability.
World bamboo ambassador
Year 2017 saw her also receiving the WADe Women of Substance-WADe Sustainability Champion for her contribution to promoting sustainable materials, design and methodologies in construction. Neelam is one of the 40 world bamboo ambassadors for World Bamboo Organisation (WBO).
“Having worked with bamboo for the last two decades, I hope to allay many doubts and myths associated with this wonderful nature’s gift, offering a practical insight into its use and benefits. Bamboo needs to take its deserved place in modern construction”, says Neelam.
Incidentally, her office is a fine building made of bamboo, the aesthetic structure standing testimony to the structural efficiency of this material and the innovative uses that it can be subjected to.
The WBO organises a World Bamboo Congress (WBC) every three years and year 2018 will see the 11th WBC hosted in Xalapa, Mexico, from August 14 to 18. The aim of the convention is to demonstrate the vast untapped potential of bamboo, especially in the Americas where they are in plenty, besides showcasing the work done in bamboo development and its use across the world.
Neelam has been a member of the Technical Committee since 2015, one of her responsibilities being to review and select research papers submitted from across the world, some of them coming up with innovative ideas and new information about several aspects of bamboo.
“In the forthcoming WBC, some of these will be presented besides also contributing my latest findings as a researcher in bamboo. The idea is to create greater global awareness of the potential of bamboo, which unfortunately is currently sorely lacking”, states Neelam.
To introduce bamboo as a mainstream building material in the construction sector, Manasaram Architects, along with Centre for Green Building Materials & Technology (CGBMT), WBO and the support of ArchDaily, conducted a worldwide survey. It received tremendous response and support from building professionals across the globe. CGBMT is a Trust that works closely with Manasaram Architects with the objectives to promote and provide environmentally friendly, cost-effective solutions.
“We wanted to assess the status of bamboo among industry professionals and decipher how often architects use bamboo, what problems they face, how informed people are about the material, the client’s perception, besides others”, explains Neelam. “On collecting this data, we formulated solutions in diverse segments such as legal, policy, academics, industry development, and advocacy. Based on this a comprehensive diagram was done, linking them to the authorities concerned from international to local levels.”
Neelam plans to share the detailed results at the WBC. “We hope this research will generate effective results and boost use of bamboo as a building material worldwide”, she adds.
* Neelam is working on Avilala Ecological Park in Tirupati, in collaboration with Ravikumar and Associates, where the focus will be on reviving 150 acres punctuated with several bamboo structures. Home to 150,000 sq ft of bamboo structure and amenities, the park will stand proof to the versatile use of bamboo as well as its use in large span structures.
* One of her recent projects is a crèche done for Dayalbagh University in Agra. “The building was constructed using local materials and local skilled labour. It comes with four pentagonal rooms connected all around by a verandah and central corridor,” explains Neelam. “Bamboo was the main structural element used, the geometry of the roof resembling a spiralling merry-go-round.”