Built entirely of bamboo, the architecturally famous Green School of Bali has inspired a new generation of luxury homes set within an adjoining residential development known as the Green Village Bali.
Sited within eight hectares of rainforest along the Ayung River south of Ubud, this "community development" which comprises the Green School also offers homes built of a sustainable resource.
Established by Bali-based jewellery designers John Hardy and his wife, Cynthia, the Green School was created in 2007. John who is Canadian, has resided in Bali for the past three decades.
As the name implies, the school teaches students about environmental practices, renewable energy, aquaculture and organic farming besides the normal school syllabus.
"Located in a stunning river valley, the school currently hosts 248 students aged three to 16 years old from all over the world, including a small number of sponsored Balinese children," says Elora, daughter of John and Cynthia.
Known worldwide for its marvellous architectural design, it took the Hardys 18 months to get the school up and running.
Aga Khan Award nominee
Currently the creative director of Ibuku, an international design and construction team specialising in bamboo structures, Elora also oversees the Green Village development.
For its innovative use of bamboo in the construction of Green School, Ibuku was nominated in the 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
Elora, who spent the first 14 years of her life in Bali, moved to the US as a teenager to further her studies. She then worked as a print designer for American fashion designer Donna Karan, before moving back to Bali in 2010.
"I soaked up Donna's incredibly high taste level and a strong commitment to design what feels natural and comfortable. The world is a series of textures and tones, whether in swatches of fabric, layers of pigment, or woven panels of bamboo," says Elora, who worked for the fashion designer for five years.
She says that whether it is with the fine arts, fashion or home design, the creative process is the same.
The years she spent in New York has taught her about the urban edge in design, which tends to be current and stylish. Yet, her familiarity with Balinese culture means that she also possesses an ethnic sensibility in her design. A stunning bamboo dwelling sited within the rainforest of Ubud.
"Set within the rural landscape, the Green Village is a planned community (development) based on design concepts and sustainable principles established by the artisans and craftsmen that built the Green School," explains Elora.
In the Green Village, homes are built around the natural contours of each plot. The development offers rare river front sites as well as elevated parcels with views of the Green School and volcanoes in the distance.
Priced from US$225,000 to US$750,000 (S$929,422) per house, the built-up space ranges from 150sq m to 300sq m (1,615sq ft to 3,230sq ft).
Comparatively, this is quite a good deal, considering that cookie-cutter villas in Seminyak or Kuta easily fetches US$500,000 (RM1,527,500).
In terms of design, the houses feature an open space concept with a canopy-like roof with neither windows nor walls. The floor and pillars are made entirely out of bamboo.
"What makes us different is the fact that homeowners play a significant role in custom-designing the interior space. We provide guidance to combine the material and environment, according to Balinese (building) philosophy," says Elora.
Is it any wonder that this bamboo village is hot investment for many families from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Europe?
"We have had two types of buyers. The first is the family type with children at the Green School and sees living at the Green Village as a natural extension of their lifestyle. The second type is the family with nothing to do with the Green School, yet see the Green Village as a unique retreat," Elora says.
Be warned that foreigners cannot own land or houses directly under their names in Indonesia. However, it is possible - and rather common - for foreigners to arrange ownership through local intermediaries. Another option, is to acquire a long-term lease (maximum 25 years), which can be transferable and extendable.
The houses in the Green Village Bali are unusual for many reasons. But perhaps the most unique aspect is the fact that they are 98% made of bamboo. And why bamboo?
According to Elora, bamboo grows plentifully in clumps. Once established, it continuously grows shoots each year. This growth cycle allows the farmers to harvest the mature poles.
"We create incentives for farmers to leave the younger generation of bamboo to grow till maturity for subsequent harvest. If not harvested, a bamboo pole will lose density and disintegrate within 10 years, making room for younger generations and releasing the sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere," points out Elora.
"The Green Village project directors work with the Merranggi foundation, which distributes bamboo seedlings to villagers. Within seven years the seedlings will become a clump and eventually produce mature bamboo for us to buy back."
Elora adds that harvesting and building long-term bamboo structures is an efficient system that is beneficial to the environment.
Robust and supple Initially, the Hardys experimented with bamboo as a construction material when building the Green School. What's amazing about bamboo, highlights Elora, is its flexibility.
"Bamboo is both robust and supple, which makes it suitable for large and complex structures. And while it works well as a building or construction material, it also makes great finishes, fixtures and furniture.
In order to support the local economy, Elora says the Green Village development uses locally produced bamboo, primarily:
Bambu Petung (Dendrocalamus Asper) Bambu Tali (Gigantochloa Apus) Bambu Tali Hitam (Gigantochloa Atroviolacea) Bambu Duri Ori (Bambusa Arundinaceae)
How much bamboo is required to build an average-sized villa?
"A house of 300sq m at the Green Village Bali contains 8,100m of bamboo structure (approximately, 1,200 poles). An additional 3,000m is used for the interior finishing."
To ensure durability of the material, a salt compound is used to inhibit the glucose within the bamboo, "to render it too salty for bugs to consume."
With proper maintenance, the structural strength of the bamboo houses can lasts up to 25 years.