As a commercial contractor, I have spent years working with clients who wanted to do something different with their building structure. Many wanted to implement sustainable facilities and green materials as part of an eco-friendly business plan. Today, the worldwide market for green building materials is at $116 billion. However, it’s projected to more than double by 2020 becoming a $254 billion market. As the world progresses towards eco-friendly changes, it’s important for homeowners and businesses to work together to invest and participate in green building and materials.

Millions of visitors swarm the Las Vegas strip looking for entertainment, world-renowned casinos and luxury restaurants. However, one of these hotels offers a better eco-friendly experience than the rest. The Las Vegas Palazzo Hotel and Resort was awarded the most eco-friendly hotel in America award because of its commitment to sustainable facilities and green practices. One way that the hotel changed its policy was by including water saving methods in its landscaping regimen. While the Palazzo is a big resort, some of its landscapes are made entirely of artificial turf grass, and all of the other areas are watered by drip irrigation systems that have moisture sensors. This prevents unnecessary watering throughout the day, and ultimately, the Palazzo has saved eight million gallons of water per year with these methods.

Homeowners can use the same techniques and a few others to conserve water. Drip irrigation systems are more commercial and affordable for home use. You can also collect gray water from laundry washer machines and showers to water gardens. Tankless water heaters are available that don’t require a tank of water to be stored at all times. There are also low flow toilets and shower heads that you can implement in the home to better conserve on water.

Natural lighting and heat sources are another way that people have been able to conserve energy. Solar panels are now built on roofs as shingles, which allow both businesses and homeowners to save on energy and even sell energy to local utility companies. Natural lighting in businesses is even more profitable. By installing skylights, high efficiency windows and sun-rooms, you can cut back on your need for fluorescent and incandescent lighting.

Homeowners are going beyond recycling and up cycling. Many people have found great value for their homes by building outdoor living areas like decks and porches. These are wonderful areas to have around the home that are naturally lit and don’t drain on resources needed for the home. Sun-rooms are also a great area to have in a house, particularly in the wintertime.

The innovation being done by businesses such as the various Las Vegas hotels as well as homeowners is extremely encouraging. It is important that this continues and is done throughout the globe.

This is a guest post by Sam Marquit, an independent ‘green’ contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value. You can follow him at



“I think I’ve lost my car’s registration papers.” she said. “I’ve been looking for it all over the place for the last couple of hours and can’t find it.”

“Stop stressing yourself out,” I said, “and stop looking for now. You’ll find it when you stop looking!”

It happens so often that we misplace or lose something and then go looking for it when we need it the most. More often than not, we tend to ignore the most obvious places where we might have to look. What is funny though is how when you find what you were looking for, it somehow always appears to make the entire search operation somewhat silly!

We definitely are in the process of losing something extremely important for the very basis of our existence. The rate at which forests are being wiped out trying to cater to the ever-rising demand from the lumber and mining industry, we will soon be looking for alternative solutions. In fact, there are a few amongst us who have been aware enough to start the search. The solution, like always, is all around us, waiting to be found!

Bamboo, the fastest growing plant (true grass) in the world can sometimes grow at the rate of 100 centimeters in 24 hours. Producing about 35% more oxygen than other trees and being a more effective binder of the soil preventing erosion. The possibilities for using bamboo in everything from creating household products to actually using it to build simple and complex structures are infinite. Bamboo naturally has greater tensile strength when compared to steel and can withstand compression better than concrete.

It would be wrong to say that we’ve been totally ignorant of the possibilities that this magnanimous plant provides. A few examples of organizations which are either involved in researching and exploiting these possibilities or have benefited from them are listed here. These should help get a better understanding of the advantages of Bamboo.

1) Green School, Bali, Indonesia

One of the most stunning examples of bamboo architecture, Green School is an institution that takes its stand of sustainability very seriously. The school doesn’t stop at being an example of sustainable building and existential practices; it goes a step further and is pioneering in sustainability within education.

Green School, Bali

Green School, Bali

Green School, Bali

Green School, Bali

Green School, Bali

Green School, Bali

2) Chiangmai Life Construction (CLC), Chiangmai, Thailand

CLC is one of the organizations at the forefront of research and construction using bamboo along with mud as the only media. The philosophy is to increase the quality of life of the client by using natural materials combined with modern, light and clean architecture. They specialize in adobe, wattle & daub and rammed earth walls, rammed earth floors, bamboo roofs, bamboo structures, bamboo pavilions. CLC designs and builds houses, schools as well as office and factory spaces.

The Panyaden School, entirely built from rammed earth walls and floors, adobe bricks, bamboo roofs and recycled hardwood, is one of the projects executed by CLC.

The Panyaden School, built by CLC

The Panyaden School, built by CLC

The Panyaden School

The Panyaden School

The Panyaden School

The Panyaden School


3) Wonder Grass, Bangalore, India

Wonder Grass is an entrepreneurial initiative that strives to bring bamboo based building systems into the mainstream construction industry in India. Their primary work is in the realm of disaster rehabilitation, integrated rural housing, workers housing and rural infrastructure.

QuB bamboo cottage is a result of the research and construction techniques developed by the team at Wonder Grass.

Bamboo cottage by Wonder Grass

Bamboo cottage by Wonder Grass

Bamboo geodesic dome by Wonder Grass

Bamboo geodesic dome by Wonder Grass

Wonder Grass demo unit

Wonder Grass demo unit

4) Auroville Bamboo Center, Pondicherry, India

For the last six years, the Auroville Bamboo Center has been working with local youth and craftsmen from rural Tamil Nadu with the aim of bringing together traditional Indian craft with contemporary world culture. The goal is to be involved in unending research and development of Bamboo for the benefit of local and international communities.

The Verite community dwellings are a beautiful example of the work that is done by the team at Auroville Bamboo Center.

Entrance to the Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Entrance to the Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Store at Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Store at Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Bamboo roof structure prototype at Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Bamboo roof prototype at Auroville Bamboo Research Center

Bamboo housing at Verite, Auroville

Bamboo housing at Verite, Auroville

If you know of other interesting buildings or projects involving creative use of Bamboo as a base unit, do share it here.

Cafe Noir is an upmarket contemporary French restaurant located in the Brigade Orion Mall in Bangalore. The design for the restaurant was carefully detailed with the intention of recreating romanticism from the streets of Paris.

With its heartfelt hospitality and the quality of its traditional cuisine – bread and pastries, Café Noir sets you in a typical bistro ambiance that characterizes every great French city. Here, the duck confit competes with the veggie burgers; the Caesar salad accompanies the fish soup and the homemade sandwiches. The design of the restaurant adds to the dining experience that only Café Noir guarantees.

*All photographs are co-owned by Vijay Nambiar Design and Cafe Noir Restaurants India Pvt. Ltd.

In earlier posts, I have focussed on design solutions that involved recycling and reusing building materials and other products of day-to-day use. These solutions involve the use of materials and products with a limited life cycle and a lot of them would sooner or later end up in landfills and the problem of sustainability would resurface. Reusing or upcycling products primarily ensures an extension of the shelf life, in other words, we would just postpone the inevitable!

In striking contrast, using natural materials already available in abundance in their basic form presents itself as a more intelligent solution to our environment-related woes. Since time immemorial, we’ve used nature in its purest form for most of our needs. Curved branches formed bows, two stones made a fire, vines formed rope to build huts with thatch roofs.


Even if I take references from closer home and from not so distant a past, in India, till about a little more than a decade back, our milk didn’t reach us in packets or ‘recycled/recyclable’ paper boxes, cola wasn’t available in pet bottles, power hogging machines did not dry clothes and more importantly we never needed to get anywhere fast enough to use fancy looking gas guzzling transport.


And then the world got smaller, we became citizens of the world. We forgot about how solutions that work in Arizona wouldn’t necessarily work in Bangalore or that homes built in Delhi had to look different from the ones in Budapest. We have now flattened the many dimensions that formed our beautiful planet.


But we’re not…
In my opinion, the only way to go and saving ourselves from catastrophe would be to get smart and maybe unlearn a bit. Lessons are there to be learnt from the world around us. Lessons from the mistakes that we’ve made and continue making. This post features five creations that involve making use of the resources nature provides and using them in their unprocessed forms. These are intelligent solutions, solutions we can’t ignore any more…

Straw Stool’

Designers: Gina Hsu and Nagaaki Shaw from DHH Studio, Taiwan
Materials: Rice, Grain, Straw, Coir, Epoxy Resin

‘Bent Reed’

Designer: Taylor Mckenzie-Veal
Materials: Reed


Designers: PPAG & Simon Oberhammer + Stefanie Mayer
Materials: Willow saplings, Raffia of wood, Humus

‘Loofah Products’

Designer: Fernando Laposse
Materials: Loofah, Wood, Clay, Steel

‘Urushi Lacquer Bench + Stool’

Designer: Max Lamb
Materials: Cleft Chestnut, Urushi Lacquer

It’s time we became INTELLIGENT!

Credits: The solutions listed here were sourced from 


Space dividers play multi-functional roles in an office space. Other than creating spaces within spaces, they act as acoustic insulators, vertical storage units, signage holders or even message boards. Every office design brief today specifies the need to incorporate cabins, meeting rooms and conferences as an integral aspect of the space planning and in most cases, interior designers and architects end up specifying toughened glass, gyp-board or MDF partitions in their design specifications for partitions. The benefits of using these materials are pretty obvious but also extremely over-rated.

The impact that glass and particle board production has on the environment has been widely documented and conveniently ignored. From the mining of sand for the glass industry to the release of potentially lethal gases and VOCs during the production process of glass and particle board, every step is a step towards an unsustainable tomorrow. A rather direct and simple way to tackle these issues would be to simply reuse and recycle these materials. It might not be easy or even practical to completely do away with the standard materials like glass and particle board, but would it do us harm though to think outside the box and look at the many eco-friendly and brilliantly creative solutions that are already available today for the modern office space. Not only are the solutions highlighted in this post simple, recycled, recyclable, they add a lot of character and design value to the spaces they are installed within.

‘Fort’ Acoustic Partition System

Designed by Arihiro Miyake, the individual modules of this acoustic partition system are formed of recycled PET bottle fibre. The assembly of modules is facilitated by integrated high-performance magnets which allow easy modification and unlimited extensibility to this system.

Recycled Water Bottle Partition by Klein Dytham 

Tokyo-based practice Klein Dytham Architecture has recycled used water bottles to create partitions for the office of Danone Waters.

‘Nomad’ system by MIO

Made from recycled, double-wall cardboard, Nomad is a modular architectural system that can be assembled into freestanding, temporary partitions without hardware, tools or damage to existing structures. The modules can be arranged into open or closed configurations creating private environments or light and airy room dividers. The Nomad System can also be configured to create doorways and corners, easily adjusting to any indoor space.

‘Ditto’ by 3Form

Individual cross-shaped pieces combine to create a three-dimensional partition, wall feature or even an art piece. Ditto allows for high design customisation with the low impact of 40% pre-consumer recycled content.  Ecoresin, the 3Form product that is used to make the pieces that form Ditto, is a non-toxic and sustainable material.

‘Tikibaq’ by Bleu Nature

Marketed as an outdoor screen for decks and patios, Tikibaq from Bleu Nature can become a beautiful screen for office spaces. Formed from driftwood and lacquered stainless steel, Tikibaq acts as an interesting space divider.

Barrisol sheets

Providing a variety of solutions for partitions and ceilings, the Barrisol sheet is formed from a co-polymer material which is guaranteed to be lead-free and 100% recyclable. Barrisol takes back old Barrisol sheets after years of use for recycling.

Having lived in your home for a few years now, do you now feel that you need to do something to make it feel new and invigorating again? Do you feel that one bright painting on that wall might lift the gloom from your living room or that a fresh coat of polish might make that dining table breathe life into those dinner parties that you host so often? Being an interior designer, I am constantly asked by friends and family for ideas to make their lived-in homes, warmer and may be a tad bit more alive.

Here are some unique and creative solutions that may help you if you face the same conundrum every time you sit back on your favourite couch after a long day at work. All you need to do is get up and make a start, the world is full of inspiration!


The first thing that you think of when you want to make your home look new is paints. Coating the walls with a fresh coat of paint has always been our answer. How about stripping the plaster off the walls and going for a rustic exposed brick look? Or maybe get someone to paint caricatures on the wall. Creating a wallpaper with old newspapers could do wonders too! You could also get creative and create partitions or screens by recycling materials like old beer bottles.

Exposed brick wall with old photo frames

Walls with caricature sketches

Newspapers used as wallpaper

Discarded beer bottle partition


Lights play an important role in changing the aesthetic appeal of a space. It is true that the light is more important than the lamp itself but it would do no harm to have a lamp or lamp shade that in itself could become the pièce de résistance. Lamps could be created from discarded tubelights, bulbs, milk cans, etc. Moreover, the day and age of white gypboard false ceilings is long gone. If you look around with a creative eye, something like discarded pet bottles could become interesting ceiling elements.

Pendant lamp created with discarded fluorescent tubes

Cambell’s soup cans reused as suspended lamp shades

Pet bottles with coloured liquid used as ceiling element

Another view of the ceiling element created with pet bottles


It is not always necessary that making a change or improvement to the existing tiled flooring in your home will cost you a lot of money. There are many ways of doing these improvements at a reasonable cost and a lot of these are Eco-friendly solutions which involve recycling or reusing materials that would generally be discarded. Using reclaimed wood planks for wood flooring is a great idea as reclaimed wood has its own patina and adds a lot of warmth to a space. You could even use a bit of paint and use your creativity to add value to the wood by painting motifs onto the floor. Using old carpet tiles of different colours and patterns to create an area rug could be another way of sprucing things up. Similar rugs could also be made with pieces of discarded fabric woven together.

Wooden flooring with reclaimed wood planks

Reclaimed wood flooring with motifs painted onto it

Area rug for dining table created with a combination of bright carpet tiles


Reusing or recycling materials or products to create interesting pieces of furniture has limitless possibilities. Old chairs reupholstered with pieces of discarded fabrics, coffee tables made using waste or reclaimed wood, dining chairs created from discarded street signs, the options are infinite. Accessories like photo frames or wall shelves created from reclaimed wood or display units created using old jewellery boxes could all add that zing to your home.

Contemporary urban furniture from recycled road signs by Boris Bally

Discarded skateboards make interesting stools. Designed by Jason Podleski for Deckstool

Chair made with old pipes

Irregular profiles of waste wood combine to form a beautiful coffee table

Antique or old wooden frames have a natural patina that gives them character

Old frames of different sizes and finished create an impact on a white wall

Pieces of old wood fixed to a metal bracket create an interesting wall display unit


Nothing could possibly breathe life into a space better than plants, literally. Adding plants to an interior space has now become easier than ever. Self-watering planters, recycled pots and similar products are readily available in the market today. Information about the kind of plants that grow in spaces without too much direct natural light and ways of keeping indoor plants from withering are easily accessible on the internet. Having an indoor organic herb garden in your kitchen is now the first step to a healthier lifestyle. Plants in unique and interesting planters or pots have now become the center pieces in homes today.

Inverted planters by Boskke create an interesting kitchen herb garden

Cacti and other plants in interesting wall-hung planters

Moss terrarium in old wine bottle from Uncommon Goods

Inverted planters by Boskke form an interesting suspended landscape

The need for a city, and its dwellers, to be compelled to accept the dynamic design sensibilities that the world had adopted in order to enhance the sensory experience of shopping, is most obvious in the city of Bangalore.

I was more than eager to begin working on the design of a high-end fashion store in Bangalore when the offer to collaborate on the same was put forward by architect Fabian Ostner. The chance of working with Fabian, a perfectionist at detailing, was an opportunity that I could not have refused. The challenge of designing an experience, that would not only stun the perceived notion of a high-end fashion store, but would also draw the attention of one and all, was an appealing incentive offered to us when we first met the client. It only helped to have a client who had an extremely refined perception of fashion and all that it encompassed.

The fact that the store would be retailing international fashion labels like Nina Ricci, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Helmut Lang and others, was an overwhelming driving force behind the need to create a unique shopping experience for the customer. Research on various emerging design trends and ideologies and deliberations with the clients on their aspirations for the brand, helped us reach a point where it became inevitable to design the store using experiential design as a tool. The site being located on Lavelle Road, the idea was to create a space that would stand-out in the already brimming world of retail with other high-end stores positioned in the immediate context. Allowing a large amount of flexibility in the visual merchandise design and permitting various permutations and combinations for display became another important aspect guiding the design of the store.

The existing structure and the almost disturbingly sorry state of its insides became central to the design concept.  The unfinished almost dilapidated shell was retained and in some aspects the condition was exaggerated to ensure that the shell though rustic in its appeal, played only a secondary but irreplaceable role in highlighting the merchandise. The plaster was chipped off the walls and the steel used for the staircase and display props was corroded to create this base canvas for the product display. Tiles mimicking the rawness of cement were used for the floor to add to this feel. The space was now ready to accept the ‘crisp’ burgundy panel insert, which would generate a noticeably loud visual buzz. The dynamic panel, beginning on the outside, bends and folds while moving through the store allowing the store to make use of its body, before forcing its way out through the façade glass. The lighting and the display props have been designed and used in a manner that allowed them to be viewed as designed objects without overwhelming the underlying purpose of being functional elements.

The ‘crisp’ burgundy panel, in many senses, would embody the experience, the journey that was envisaged for a visitor to the store. The visitor would enter the store with preconceived beliefs and during his time at the store, his notions and perception would be treated to an unknown, shocking, yet pleasantly exciting world that would let him leave with a renewed, progressive and invigorated understanding of the possibilities that the world of retail could provide today.

‘Crisp’, like the fashion brands that it is related with, was created to be a leader in stimulating and challenging the sensibilities of the most discerning fashion connoisseurs in Bangalore.

Photographs of the completed store.

All photographs are co-owned by Vijay Nambiar Design and Fabian Ostner Architecture Pvt. Ltd.

Photo Credits: Seemal Karthik and Karthik Chandrasekariah

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