Imagine waking up to an orchestra of bird calls and heading out for a walk on the trails through the nature zone. These walks with plenty of ups and downs will ensure you don’t really need a gym. During your walk, when the canopy brakes, you are treated to breathtaking vistas. Imagine coming back to a fresh, farm to fork breakfast. If your work permits, pick the most ergonomic rock next to the lake in the cool shade of a pongamia tree and let your productivity hit new highs. Come back home at dusk or sit by the lake at sunset and introspect or just participate in the end of the day rituals at the farm.
These are just a few of the things that urban living has deprived us of. At Beforest, you get to do all that and more. With a community of like minded folks, the journey to a sustainable life becomes even more rewarded and enriching.
Maximum impact with minimal intervention – this is the crux of our design approach at Beforest. The Hyderabad Collective is located amidst beautiful hills and valleys just 31km off the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad. The vistas are almost unbelievable for a place this close to the city.
We have planned the place to use not more than 15% of the total area for non-farm uses like housing clusters, community kitchen, etc. Of the remaining 85%, most of the area is planned as a perennial food forest with less than 10% focussing on annual crops like grains and pulses. These ratios are determined keeping in line with what is found in nature.
A lot of study has gone into understanding the landscape and what makes sense here. These include biodiversity studies, hydrology mapping, slope analysis, solar patterns, etc. All of this has given us a thorough understanding of how many families this place can support. We call this the carrying capacity of the land. We have promised you sustainability and we will deliver on that.
The 130 Acres of the collective, is designed to accomodate 100 families with complete food, water and power security. This is achieved by dividing the land into three zones – the economic zone (in brown), the mixed use zone (in yellow) and the nature zone (in green). This is a direct result of studying the landscape through different seasons and the forces that are play here. The 4 housing clusters accomodate the 100 homes that are included in phase 1 and 2, The remainder of the economic and mixed use zones account for the food production necessary for these families and the staff. The wilderness zones account for the water shed, the lakes, the springs and other eco system services that are necessary.
We have carefully identified the water channels of yesteryears and marked riparian zones which will be treated as nature zones. These will be the hub of life in the collective with abundant bird and animal diversity. In addition more than 50 check dams are being planned to harvest enough water to support our plans.
Each of the housing clusters have been carefully placed to honour the natural patterns of the place and in close proximity to resources like water, waste recycling, pathways, solar farms etc. Last but not the least, every cluster has a breathtaking view of the lake and the hills beyond.
The food production zone accounts for enough grains, pulses, seasonal vegetables for atleast a 100 families in a completely natural way. Pest resistance is achieved by introducing diversity including pest barrier species like marigold and neem. The whole idea is to use nature to our advantage. When the lake recedes, for eg, we use that to cultivate paddy and other wetland crops. In between the housing clusters, we use the spaces untenable for housing as veggie patches. These are simple yet efficient tricks we use to get the most out the place without stressing the eco system out.
The diversity of plants is our strongest asset. Just the bio fence of phase 1 and 2 alone has more than 15000 plants spanning more than 20 native species, some of whom have no english names like Nakhre Kaya. This four layered bio fence is designed to keep wild animals restricted to the natural zones and our external boundaries without depriving them of their fair share. This is achieved by keeping the outer layer of the bio fence exclusively for the wildlife.
We also focus on growing only seasonal and native variants of food crops simply to make sure the soil and the microbial life in it is capable of supporting these plants. This means we are not growing any bell peppers or iceberg lettuce. Grow not what you desire but what the land allows.
We aspire to provide complete water security to the community, something that most cities across the world have failed to provide. Our estimates suggest that we need about eleven million litres of water to provide domestic water security for the 100 families. Our first lake alone has a storage capacity of thirty million litres and has filled up beautifully in its first monsoon. We have also planned more than fifty check dams across the 130 acres to make the water percolate down into the soil.
What is most important for water security, however, is soil health. Our studies show that a 3% increase in soil carbon, raises the absorption capacity to an extent where the soil acts like a giant sponge soaking up all the water that falls on it during the monsoon.
Grasslands are going to be key to this scheme as they are the most efficient soil builders we know. So a healthy eco system that in turn ensures a vibrant grass land is absolutely essential and we are working our way towards it.
Surrounded by towering boulders on all sides, the collective is ideal for generating solar power. Solar farms that are centered in close proximity to the housing clusters are critical in our efforts to provide power security.
In addition, most of our heating requirements will be met through solar or bio heaters. The earth homes that are sensitively planned will also ensure a five degree temperature drop indoors. The grey water recycling also reduces the pumping needs of each home. Both of these will ensure that the energy needs are a fraction of what we expect in the city.
With a combination of grid and solar, we plan to achieve complete power security for the community.
Biome Environment Solutions
When it comes to sensitive planning of structures on a landscape and the paraphernalia that goes with it, the water systems, the electricity, the sewage and last but not the least, the structures themselves, we trust no one more than Biome to guide us in the right way. The experience and foresight they bring to the table when it comes to eco-friendly architecture and design goes well beyond solar panels to frontiers that we couldn’t have reached ourselves.
When it comes to understanding sociology and its role in conserving wildlife in a human landscape, there are very few who bring as much to the table as Dr.Shekhar Kolipaka. He is a pioneer in the field of wildlife restoration and establishing human-animal harmony using simple methodologies. He has introduced us to several techniques and technologies that help us monitor our impact and adapt our practices to cause as little an impact to the landscape as possible.
Only a handful of people can claim to have worked on large landscapes from the permaculture design perspective. To have multiple such folks come together as a multi-continent, multi-specialisation collaboration is a great asset indeed. That is why we have partnered with United Designers on this most ambitious project in Hyderabad and look forward to bringing our vision to fruition.
Live Close To Nature, And You’ll Never Feel LonelyRuskin Bond