Eco-friendly construction minimises waste: Global meet venue in Kerala shows the way

Kumarakom Sherpas Meet
The construction of the structures were carried out by Kerala Arts and Craft Village in association with Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS). Photos: Special arrangement

The venue of the second G20 Sherpas meeting in Kumarakom, Kerala, recently has attracted the attention of delegates and policymakers alike. Apart from the scenic beauty of the backwaters, the site showed how eco-friendly and sustainable construction that generates lesser waste is possible. KTDC Waterscapes, the main venue of the event, was transformed into a cradle of nature where art and craft fused into an architectural splendour.

The structures were carried out by Kerala Arts and Craft Village in association with Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS). The uniqueness of the construction was the sustainability of the structural design and the materials used. All the structures at the venue were built using natural materials.

The initiative was the brainchild of V Vighneswari IAS, MD, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). Amitabh Kant, former CEO of NITI Aayog and at present, the G20 Sherpa of India during its presidency year, was also particular about making the venue eco-friendly and sustainable in every possible way.

The construction

The wall-panelling of the convention centre and pavilions were done with cane, wood and reeds. A woolen material was used in between the layers of the natural walls of the auditorium to make it acoustic. "Weaved cane employing CNC cutting was used to beautify the interiors. While the false ceiling was made with bamboo, mural paintings were used to adorn the walls," said Sreeprasad, CEO, Kerala Arts and Crafts Village. "If the construction was carried out using concrete and gypsum boards, as is usually done for such structures, the expenses would have ballooned and would have created the heap of waste by the time the event got over," Sreeprasad said, adding that the structures were erected using treated materials. That means the dismantled structure can be reused in the future for similar events.

The interiors

During discussions on the convention centre with ULCCS, KTDC had two major demands. One, the backwaters must be visible from the venue and two, the construction must be ecologically sustainable.

“And we toed the line exactly following the State Wetland Authority Kerala's (SWAK) directive that prevents any construction within 50 metres of backwaters coast," Ajaz Fazal, the project architect with the ULCCS who designed the convention centre said.

“The interiors were not in the scheme of things initially. We undertook the task only by early February. The PEB (or pre-engineered building) structures were erected fast and the beautification programme followed swiftly. It was carried out by 'Uravu' based in Wayanad," he said.

While Ajaz designed the basic pattern of the interiors, the task was carried out under the supervision of Arjun Prashant of Kerala Arts and Craft Village, Vellar. Six magnificent mural paintings by Biju Azhikode adorned the walls.

Time, cost and ambiance

Had the layout and construction of the venue followed conventional methods, it would have taken at least six months to complete. But at Kumarakom, a big team of engineers, artisans and workers finished the 10,000-sqft conference hall within 100 days. Also, at a much lower cost.

With innumerable artwork embellishing the structures, the venue turned out to be a haven of fascinating artistry. "The location is sure to develop as a wedding destination in the days to come,” said Sreeprasad.

Since the cost of construction was reduced manifold, the fund for beautifying the venue could be used to provide work to cane and wood artisans and mural artists. It was a respite to several craftsmen who, despite their matchless skills and talent, remain largely unnoticed and underpaid.

The Sherpas meeting

The first Sherpa Meeting of India’s G20 Presidency was held in December 2022, in Udaipur Rajasthan. Kumarakom hosted the second meeting. The four-day gathering of over 120 delegates from G20 members, nine invitee countries, and various international and regional organisations held multilateral discussions on G20’s economic and developmental priorities and addressed contemporary global challenges.

The deliberations of the Sherpa Meetings will take forward the outcomes of various meetings and will form the basis of the Leaders’ Declaration, slated to be adopted at the final G20 Summit to be held in September 2023.

A sherpa is the representative of a head of state or government who makes preparations for an international summit. Several agreements are laid out at the Sherpa summits so that the amount of time and resources are reduced at the final summit involving heads of states.

Etymologically, the term Sherpa is derived from the name of a Nepalese clan of the same name who serve as guides in the Himalayas.

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