Heritance Kandalama was completed in 1995 and is now one of Sri Lanka’s most famous hotels and buildings. Designed by Geoffrey Bawa, the development includes a number of groundbreaking features, taking particular consideration on its site impact: local ecology, water use and visual impact. It achieved LEED Gold rating, making it the first LEED certified building in Sri Lanka.

The original plan was to build the hotel next to the UNESCO World Heritage Site or Sigiriya, but to protect the cultural site, architect Geoffrey Bawa insisted on building on a ridge 11km to the southeast. This location also provides views of Sigiriya and Kandalama lake or reservoir, known locally as the Kandalama tank.

Heritance Kandalama is considered an example of Bawa’s philosophy of adapting architecture to suit the environment. The hotel is in the central dry zone of Sri Lanka so, rather than a pitched roof that allows rain to run off, it has a flat roof, which requires less material and can support vegetation. And the building was designed to look out from, rather than be looked at, so the style is plain, minimalist and unobtrusive.

The hotel is built in the configuration of the outspread wings of a bird and located between two rocks. The hotel stretches 1km from end to end, and rises up 7 floors, and yet is designed to appear as a perfectly natural extension of the mountainside, covered by native plants. At the point of building the hotel, the natural landscape was used as the main ingredient. It is the most distinguished feature of the hotel.

This 253,000-sq.-ft. hotel was built on stilts to maintain the natural rainwater flow, landscaping was restored up to the column footings, and 80 percent of the roofs are planted with indigenous horticulture.

'The building was planned around the backdrop of a rock formation to provide a degree of passive cooling, which reduced the overall cooling load, a major factor in meeting the ASHRAE 90.1 – 1989 energy goal.' says Mario, Director of Green Technologies - the project's LEED Consultants.

All water is recycled and re-used. Water comes from deep wells on the site is treated, and then circulated to the building.

Effluent passes through two treatment plants and then used for landscaping. Surplus water is returned to the aquifer.

The buildings total water and sewer needs are met from resources on site, with no connections to the utility.

In order to prevent deforestation and the construction of unauthorised artificial structures the hotel has invested in creating a conservation area of over 200 acres. This includes part of the 50 acres of land within the hotel premises and a dedicated forest conservation of 198 acres. Native plants and the grounds were undisturbed as much as possible and no non-native fauna and flora have been introduced. The entire hotel is built upon a raised platform resting on columns, allowing the free movement of animals underneath the hotel, minimising impact on the eco system.

Part of the development consists of the ‘Eco Park’ – an educational facility to demonstrate best practices in conservation. It includes a waste separation centre, a sewage treatment plant, plant nursery, herbal garden, eco museum & library and recycled waste paper making with elephant. The hotel restaurant uses organic vegetables and fruit grown on site; guests are invited to visit the vegetable garden to learn about organic production.

The development features a biomass plant, which uses locally grown grilicedia coppicing timber. There is also a heat exchanger for the air conditioning system that heats the water for the hotel. For operational efficiency, the hotel is run in compliance with the Environmental Management System ISO14001 and Earth Check Silver certification. The hotel is also a member of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Greening Sri Lanka Hotel.

The hotel is surrounded by a 1700 year old reservoir built by the ancient kings to collect rain water, which provides water to cultivate over 12,000 acres of rice paddy farms. So that the farmers can continue to use this water source, the lake has been untouched by the hotel, which instead obtains water from deep tube wells and rain water harvesting. All wastewater produced on site is also treated and reused for irrigation. The hotel also minimizes its impact on the local water table by being built on a raised platform resting on columns, allowing rain and spring water to flow freely from the mountainside into the Kandalama Lake.

The hotel aims to achieve a target of zero waste to landfill with a variety of recycling and reusing techniques. Dried sludge from the water recycling system is treated to ensure it is safe and then used to make organic by combining it with garden waste and other natural materials.

The development provided access to electricity over 750 families, access to safe drinking water to over 600 families and built 6.5 km of road access to the village for common public use. This has created tremendous impact in boosting basic services and economic activity in the village. The conservation and recycling processes of the hotel are also designed to assist the social and economic growth of the villagers who live close to the hotel.

Project Team:

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