Junoot Eco Resort Oman
An international team from Kuwait and the USA have been recognized for their Junoot eco resort built in Oman. The proposal is a departure from the usual type of resort development and uses earth as the primary construction material. An important aspect of the scheme is that local labour can be used. With some training the buildings can be created without the use of high-tech or heavy equipment and it creates local employment and a new skills base. The construction technology has been studied by the California Institute of Earth Architecture and is described as super Adobe. It was first developed by the founder of the institute the late Architect Nader Khalili.
The team included:
- Dar SSH International Engineering Consultants, Kuwait
- Cal-Earth – The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, USA
- SSH International, Kuwait
Junoot is in a beautiful location in Wadi Shuwaimiyah, northeast of Salalah. It has breathtaking scenery and seascapes and a welcoming climate. United Real Estate Company is investing in a 1,000 km² resort development featuring hotels, villas, retail, leisure and entertainment facilities.
An overriding consideration is the ecological objectives of the Government of Oman and the protection of marine life, flora and fauna along a 31 km stretch of coast. SSH has led the master planning and design stages of the project which uses traditional materials to create buildings of stunning beauty.
The Junoot Eco resort would materialize at a remote fishing village with an abundant thirty kilometers of untouched shores against a backdrop of mountains in Shuwaimia, in the south of Oman. Thinking outside of the box and avoiding the typical development that did not take into consideration the environment and local culture, various submitted masterplans were rejected as they resulted in a high density over development ration that would completely overpower the unspoilt beauty the area holds. The undeniable factor of remoteness, alone, presented both practical and financial difficulties. The team looked towards the Earth for the answer.
With this vision for an Eco resort, a triple bottom line would be achieved: Attracting eco tourists seeking the remote and alternative would result in higher revenues. Second of all, working with the local environment, in terms of the magnificant scenery and local materials, would add an inimitable attraction. Finally, the social bottom line successfully engages the local population; fishermen gain an additional skill to be used aside from fishing season, while higlighting the local culture in the architecture of the Eco resort stimulates a unique sense of identity and pride for the local community.
When it came to researching the project ahead, Principal Architect Waleed Shaalan recalled an experience righ after graduating from architecture school on the East Coast of the USA in the late 80’s. A visit to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI Arch) where the late architect Nader Khalili was teaching , it was there where he saw clay models of his early works on earth architecture, and learnt about his innovation into the Geltaftan Earth-and-Fire System known as Ceramic Houses where they were burning adobe structures in earth quake zones to strengthen their structural performance. Not only so, Khalili pioneered a vision of sustainable earth architecture, whereby he developed his Super Adobe system in 1984, in response to a NASA call for designs for human settlements on the Moon and Mars.
Up until the Persian Gulf War, Khalili’s work remained purely theoretical, until a huge influx of displaced refugees in Iran led Khalili to partner with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and applied his research to emergency shelters. A humanitarian and an architect at the same time, Khalili went on to start the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) in 1991, where he taught his Superadobe building technique.
URC and SSH especially looked to Khalili’s work in developing the Superadobe construction system, a technique that involves sandbags, and barbed wire technology, to create a large and extended adobe. Although these two elements are commonly used in war, the end tribute is rather a peaceful and lasting one.
The team decided to contact Cal-Earth to study the possibility of commercial application. Ms. Renimah Al Mattar—EVP at URC, met with Dastan Khalili in California to introduce the concept and get them on board. Upon contacting Cal-Earth for assistance to emulate a Khalili-inspired vision at this remote fishing village in Oman, an onsite 5-day training course was organized, and local tradesmen, along with the local contractor were invited to participate to discover this new, or rather old, technique of earth architecture. After the training session was completed and the team was ready, it was prototype time.
Working with local materials was key in making a sturdy prototype that also blends with the local architecture; old fishing nets were mixed with plaster for extra reinforcement, using local stone for flooring purposes, and traveling across the majestic country that is Oman in search of local arts and crafts served the team with abundant choices, given the nation’s proud tradition and dedication to keeping the artisanal culture alive. When it came to powering the resort, solar panels played a major role: Solar panels harnessed electricity, a solar heater was put in place, and a solar-powered air conditioning system was introduced. Using the sun’s energy managed to reduce consumption by a staggering 30-40%, and in doing so the team cultivated a growing curiousity towards employing green energy throughout the community with various other clean energy applications.
The prototype did indeed materialize in the most pleasant of manners, satisfying the team’s vision, and intriguing those who wondered about the earthen domes coming to life by the Omani shores. Not only so, the prototype at Shuwaimia positively presents a decreased cost, as the total construction cost was reduced by approximately 20-30 percent, and in the near future, the team sees the total cost decreasing even further.
In their final masterplan, the team aims to implement a permanent crafts center that would allow for the creation of new job opportunities for women in the local community, as well as providing an onsite training program at the local architecture college that teaches sustainable architectural practices. In the meantime, a monitoring system for the prototype has been put in place, and the data will be made available for reasearch purposes in the future.
The Omani, regional, and international community is absolutely taken with the feat, where local universities wish to implement summer workshops on site. Thus enters a new era for sustainable architecture in the Middle East, as United Real Estate Company and SSH International set a new standard for development with an award winning design and an inspired vision. URC is a subsidiary of KIPCO and a major shareholder in SSH International.
“The judges praised this project for its rethinking of resort masterplanning. There was, they said, ‘an engaging social process, involving local communities’. They liked the fact that the project combined global technology with low-carbon, low-technology techniques, and that it had an effect on national and local policies relating to appropriate development.” – The judges commended / World Architecture Festival Award
In the remote South of Oman there is a fishing village Shuwaimia on a 30KM virgin beach. Our client is a regional developer interested in developing 1 million square meters of precious land where the mountains meet the Indian Ocean. Various master plans submitted resulted in high density over development and the remoteness of the location made it not feasible financially. We proposed a different approach. Working with the Earth. We proposed a low density Eco resort that will meet the triple bottom line, the economic: cheaper to build using low skilled local labor and materials and higher revenue attracting eco tourists seeking remote and authentic experiences.
The environmental: working with local materials and using passive and active green energy. The social: working with and engaging the local population, giving fishermen an additional skill to be used after fishing season, expressing the local culture in the architecture and giving the new town a sense of identity and local pride. After presenting the ideas to the client (one of the largest developers in the MENA region) they agreed to build a complete prototype to inspect.
After researching earth architecture, we find that the architecture of the super Adobe of Late Architect Nader Khalili was most appropriate application. After contacting California Institute for Earth Art and Architecture we agreed to conduct an onsite training course for the locals as well as the local contractor. The first five days was an open house and the turnout was excellent as the locals were curios of this new building technique. After the 5 days we selected a team of paid locals to work with the contractors in building the prototype. We experimented with local material such as old fishing nets to be mixed with the plaster for additional reinforcement, to using local stone for the flooring. After travelling across Oman we selected all items from the local traditional arts and crafts to give the prototypes a sense of place.
A separate workshop where we employed the local women to work on weaving palm leaves on site. All the power of the prototype is generated from solar panels and we modified the internal wind tower to host the batteries in a separate compartment. We use a separate water heater and introduced a solar AC that uses the sun to reduce consumption by 30 to 40%. All of this new technology aroused the curiosity of the locals who were eager to investigate its viability. We hope the project will inspire the community to switch to green energy.
The result of the prototype was extremely successful, the client was very pleased with the results as we managed to reduce the construction cost by 30% and expect these figures to improve. The thick 50cm earth walls combined with the wind tower provides a very pleasant environment. Currently we are in communication with American University in Beirut to set up a monitoring system to measure the building performance; this data will be made available for research as well as to inform the design of the project.
We have made contacts with local Universities in Oman to run summer studio workshops on site, where the students can experience building as well as innovating and design. We are in process of organizing it. The project brings in the private sector, the government (Ministry of Tourism) The local population, the academic community and research and aspires to set a precedent where sustainable development can help this precious area of Oman meet the demands of “development” yet preserve the local environment and culture. The success of this can influence and strengthen the Ministry of Tourism in advocating this type of development.
Project name: Junoot Eco Resort
Location: Shuwaimia, Oman
Coordinates: 17.827084, 55.436347
Specific Use of Building: resort development featuring hotels, villas, retail, leisure and entertainment facilities.
Materials: Super Adobe system – local materials like old fishing nets mixed with plaster for additional reinforcement and locally available stone for flooring.
Site Area: 1 million square meters of precious land
Project Area: approx 1,000 km² resort development
Completion Year: Ongoing
Client / Owner / Developer: Mohammed Al Saqqaf – United Real Estate Company
Architects, Engineers and Planners: SSH Design – P.O.Box 1913, 13020 Safat, State of Kuwait
- Waleed Shaalan, SSH International
- Hooman Fazly, Cal-Earth – The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture
Super Adobe Consultants: Cal-Earth – The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture
Main Contractor: Fahd Siddiqi, Al Tajawob
Text Description: © Courtesy of SSH Design, bazaar-magazine
Images: © Waleed Shaalan, SSH Design