Building in the Andamans: Creating Stunning-Looking, Maintenance-Free Artificial Thatch Roofs for a Beach Resort

In this post we interview Warren Gawde, Project Lead for Palmex India, on his experience leading a roof-installation project for a luxury resort on Havelock Island, in the Andamans.

 Warren, could you please tell us about this exciting hospitality project you worked on, in the stunningly beautiful Andamans?

 Palmex India recently completed an ambitious roof installation project on Havelock Island. We were contracted to procure and install artificial thatched roofs for a luxury resort. Spread across three acres, this property is located right by the beach and is all set to welcome visitors in late 2018.  Vacationers can choose from double rooms, or duplex cottages with four rooms. The resort also features a presidential suite, a swimming pool, bar, conference room and coffee shop. Lush landscaping and these amenities make the resort one of a kind. The resort is the first hospitality venture undertaken by the Jadwet Group, one of the most well known and respected business houses on the island. Our brief from them was to create a stunning look for this tropical paradise by the beach. And overall, we were to install Palmex thatch on a roof area of about 27,000 Sq Ft.

Jadwet Resort

Could you tell us why the architects and the builders chose Palmex for this project?

 The Jadwets chose Palmex artificial thatch because of its aesthetics, environmental friendliness and durability. Palmex thatch roofs very closely mimic the look of natural thatch and are built to last. Made of HDPE a high-grade plastic polymer, Palmex thatched roofs are naturally pest and mold resistant. It comes with a 50 year warranty and looks as good as new despite weathering the harsh sun and heavy rains during the monsoon. When builders choose Palmex they can install it and forget it, whereas natural thatch roofs need constant maintenance. In this context, the Jadwet property is constructed keeping the long-term in mind.

The choice of Palmex also reinforces our client’s commitment to sustainable construction because artificial thatch is a far more eco-friendly choice than natural thatch. Many people are surprised to learn that natural thatch is not environmentally-friendly because it is obtained by harvesting palm or coconut trees. A natural thatched roof needs to be replaced every few years because it rots and blackens easily, and require frequent fumigation with toxic substances, to increase its lifespan. Whereas by choosing Palmex, you can be worry-free, and trees stay intact.

This is the first time the Jadwets are venturing into the hospitality space, how was the experience?

 This project was a very prestigious and challenging opportunity for our team. Not only were we excited to go back to this spectacular island to construct a luxury getaway, we were also honoured to work with the Jadwet Group on their maiden hospitality project. This family-owned business house has a fascinating and intimate connection with the local community in this part of the world. The Jadwets have been responsible for commerce and community building in Nicobar since the beginning of the 19th Century, and continue to be a part of the lives of countless native dwellers.

With this carefully-designed, intimately laid out luxury resort, the Jadwets hope to create a space for responsible tourism to flourish. For Havelock island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Travellers who are willing to go off the beaten track are rewarded richly. Spectacular marine life swims along in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Vacationers can go scuba diving or snorkelling, laze by the beach in a hammock, or chill by the pool, tropical drink in hand. Rest and relaxation is guaranteed.

Havelock Islands

What are the challenges of building in the Andamans?

 Construction on the Andamans poses many challenges. The natural ecosystem on the Andamans is fragile. Transportation is difficult and expensive as everything has to be flown in from the mainland. This creates additional logistical problems for architects who have to design with these constraints in mind. Also, most buildings on the island are temporary structures and the roofing is made of lightweight tin. The devastating tsunami of 2004 and earthquake-prone status of the islands mean that locals are wary of creating hard-to-dismantle, permanent structures. And guarding against unpredictable weather is a priority. This is why the upcoming Havelock resort is built four-feet above the ground to ensure that the structures cannot get flooded, and will remain safe even during tropical thunderstorms. Also, working in the Andamans can get a little isolating with very few sources of entertainment for people like me who travel there on work.

Can you talk a little about how you transported Palmex to the Andamans?

 First off, we studied the design and recommended that the client use the Rio variant of Palmex, keeping in mind that we needed the artificial thatch to be affixed to a pre-existing tin ceiling. Once the quantity of artificial thatch required was fixed and the order was confirmed, we worked with reliable logistical partners to ship the Palmex leaf bundles to the only point of entry, Port Blair via Chennai, and transported it further to Havelock Island. One advantage of choosing Palmex is that it requires no additional packaging material and is shipped in ready-to-use bundles that will not suffer any damage during transportation.

What did the installation entail, on-ground?

 Once on the ground, our team of 9 workers and I got to work. We laid the groundwork and coordinated with the Jadwet staff to create scaffolding. Installation of the leaves on the roof was carried out by our trained staff so the artificial thatch roof would weather the sun and rain. As we were installing roofs for cottages, gazebos, and umbrellas by the poolside, we had to work quickly and efficiently. Days began early at 6 am and ended at 5 pm, because the sun rises and sets early in this part of the world. We had to also keep in mind that the tin roofs got dangerously hot during the midday and we had to plan our timetable keeping the sun in mind.

Jadwet Resorts

The Jadwet resort was an exciting project to work on. The size of the project, its tin roof, and the remote location posed challenges and offered the team many learnings. However, I was happy to see that our clients were pleased with the end results. I remember the architect being very thrilled when he first took a look at the Palmex leaves. He said that the material exceeded his expectation. I hope that once the resort opens this holiday season, the guests will fall in love with this place as well.

Keep visiting our blog for more news and updates about on-going Palmex projects around the country. And please do write to us if you are considering using artificial thatch as a roofing solution for your construction

Preeti Prakash | Journalist

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