Responsible development has been fundamental to Soneva since the very beginning when Sonu and Eva Shivdasani discovered Soneva Fushi. At Soneva Kiri we have followed SLOW LIFE principles in creating a resort that is a beacon of sustainability with many innovations such as the astonishing Eco Villa.
How the Eco Villa works
The Eco Villa shows how clever design, thoughtful energy management and cutting edge recycling techniques can ensure we tread very lightly on the earth. To reduce energy consumption a central skylight provides natural light during the day and a view of the stars by night. LED bulbs provide highly efficient low energy light and a rainwater harvesting system, which includes a membrane filtration system, feeds clean environmentally friendly water to the bathroom. The whole building is cooled by a solar air conditioning unit and a purpose-designed passive cooling system is built into the villa. The result is a building with negligible environmental impact, achieved by a combination of innovative technology and thoughtful design.
Wind and solar power
All of the power required for the Eco Villa is supplied by a renewable hybrid system composed of a 1.7 KW Skystream wind turbine, 6.2 KW of photovoltaic solar panels, and a micro-hydro system which uses waste water from the nearby restaurant. This showcase of sustainable energy is made available to local communities and guests alike, educating others about the realities of renewable energy. The energy harnessed by the hybrid system is stored in batteries overnight, and easily provides enough electricity for internal lighting and the air conditioning system.
Waste water is redirected to a constructed reed bed where it is broken down biologically and used as nutrient-rich feed for the bamboo borders, from which bamboo shoots are collected and used as sustainable building materials. The rest of the landscaping incorporates many edible and medicinal plants used at the resort, which benefit from the ongoing soil fertility provided by the waste water system.
The Eco Villa is a culmination of environmental technology, designed according to permaculture principlesand built by local craftsmen. The foundations are site-sourced sandstone boulders, excavated from the building projects, while the timbers are all locally sourced and treated, and even include casuarina driftwood. The roof utilises recycled newspaper, and re-used egg crates to provide exceptional insulation and drainage, while the green roof covering provides another insulating layer, and a biodiversity supporting habitat. No concrete or cement was used in any aspect of the villa construction.
The Den at Soneva Kiri
The Den is a classic example of using traditional building materials with avant garde design. The whole building is made from native Thai bamboos – ‘pai tong’ or Dendroclamus asper bamboo for the main structure, and ‘pai liang’ or Bambusa multiplex bamboo for the grid shell roof. The extraordinary interior is a maze of rattan and bamboo strips.
The story of the building’s construction bears witness to an unusual partnership. A Dutch architect, Olav Bruin, designed the building and then managed a team of 20 bamboo specialists from the hill tribes of the north of Thailand for a period of 18 months exchanging techniques and ideas in a variety of languages to create the ‘pla krabang’ or manta ray shaped building.
The building used some technically advanced bamboo construction techniques. The grid shell roof was built using a steam oven built on site to heat the bamboo poles so that they could be bent and attached to a formwork grid to get the correct curve for the roof structure. The pod-like rooms inside the building were made using strips of bamboo covered with aluminium mesh covered in sawdust.
The Dining Pod
Our treetop Dining Pod provides an unforgettable experience. The connection to nature high in the forest canopy is unique, and offers a special opportunity to view the local ecology from a truly bird's eye perspective. The project's intention was to immerse guests in the beauty of the tropical rainforest.
Safety was a priority, and not just for our guests, but for the environment as well. The basic concept involves lifting a basket full of guests eight metres into the canopy of the rainforest suspended on a steel spider’s web attached to various trees.
The waiter flies in on a zipline to serve diners. Pioneering ultrasound technology was used to assess trees designated for load bearing roles. This picus sonic tomograph gave detailed information about internal density of the live timber in the trees and the general integrity of the trees involved. Tensioned cables were attached to trees without bolts or nails entering the trees to protect their health in years to come.