Eco-Agriculture Awareness & Training center

Maleesha Karunarathne
Srí Lanka

Project idea

Eco Agriculture Awareness and Training Center is an innovative facility designed to promote organic and sustainable agriculture among young Sri Lankan farmers to revolutionize the future of the farming industry. The Concept was to “Rediscover” a building that has harmony between modern technology and nature that house an advanced facility promoting a perfect blend between local indigenous farming methods with modern farming technology. Project inculcates new ways, among youngsters through its well-developed program. Rediscovering lost intangible knowledge and practices sets substance to the project formulation.
Nature is being exploited due to unhealthy agricultural practices such as high use of chemicals including pesticides, insecticides and artificial fertilizers. Traditional indigenous Sri Lankan farming methods inherently respect and protects nature while succeeding in cultivation. This facility create training and exploring how to combine indigenous methods with modern equipment and technology to suit the modern demand. At the heart of the project, training gardens, crop house, lecture room, information display area, and restaurant manifest this experience of “Rediscovery”.
Agriculture used to be a lifestyle in Sri Lanka and a way of defining the bonds the native people had with Mother Nature. This eco Agricultural Awareness and Training Center will evoke those feelings through its revived architectural spaces.

Dambulla city is built around its rock namely Dambulla rock, and two major link roads cross paths, the Colombo-Trincomalee and Kandy-Jaffna routes. Dambulla is city that doesn’t sleep as so much of travelling happens within the city and across, as well as the agricultural trade going on at DDEC. Dambulla rock cave temple is a popular tourist attraction and its many tanks and lakes too surrounding the city with wildlife.
The city itself has only a slightly varying elevation in topography, Dambulla is 163m above sea level, it gets a lot of rainfall most months with a short dry season. Annual temperature varies from 25C to 31C being the hottest. It’s a tropical weather with dry and wet seasons. The wet seasons last from October to May and dry seasons last the other months. Windier part of the year from May to October average at 10 miles per hr. Less windy months are about 5.2 miles per hr. Daylight is available for about 12hrs and 30mins a day throughout the year.
Agriculture has been one of the main livelihoods for people in Dambulla and it still is for most families there, for centuries Sri Lanka has had agriculture as the main livelihood. Dambulla is famous for its rich history and culture attracting many tourists as well as the abundance of its nature and wildlife. Dambulla is known for DDEC (Dambulla Dedicated Economic Center) as it is a central point for the fruit and vegetable market of Sri Lanka, farmers and traders from all around Sri Lanka travel to Dambulla to sell off their cultivation in DDEC, it is where the selling price is determined too.

Main Problem – Exploitation of nature in unhealthy agricultural practices
Nature is being depleted due to unhealthy agricultural practices such as high use of chemicals including pesticides, insecticides, artificial fertilizers etc. This damages the natural environment, soil, water, native plants, air and whole ecosystems inclusive. Nothing is given back to the environment after a cultivation, instead the resources and minerals are left depleted.
Other connected problems – The chemically produced food is unhealthy to consume, moreover high chemical usage leads to bigger issues like global warming and climate change. Chemicals kill insects and other animals belonging to the natural environment therefore the ecosystem becomes unbalanced, native plants die too which destroys habitats for small creatures.
Underlying Problem – There is a lack of awareness and education among the new farming community. This leads to unhealthy agricultural practices that neglect what the environment needs for a sustainable cultivation.

Project description

This is a Centre specially focused on the youth and young farmers, which provides training to practice organic and sustainable agricultural methods and also teaching those values of nature while incorporating indigenous methods that were used in traditional farming. The facility will also teach the youth on how to use modern technology with these indigenous practices combined to preserve and protect the environment. It will be an encouraging center for visitors such as tourists and locals to come see and get an awareness on how agriculture can be adopted into a lifestyle.

Proposed Activities
• Training programs for organic and sustainable cultivations.
• Training with indigenous techniques and combining with modern technology.
• Learning about ecosystems and how different crops and plants are treated.
• Guest lectures for trainees and special day programs.
• Seasonal crop festivals for spreading awareness.
• Exhibiting plants and crops for tourists as well as locals.
• Guests interacting with local young farmers.
• Tasting fresh organic foods.
• Learning experiences for young children with special day programs.
• Interactive technology to learn about crops and stay updated.
• Potential for researching about indigenous techniques and how to incorporate them in the modern world.

Primary users
• Young farmers – (age 18 to 25) Most of them will have an agriculture background from their families so this center will help them be more knowledgeable about the industry and how to use modern technologies. They are people with young minds wanting to explore and have fun while learning, therefore this design will have plenty of spaces to walk about, interact with and the structure will have a modern touch with agriculture to encourage youngsters to visit.
Other users
• Tourists and locals – Visitors to Dambulla or by passes through the city can visit to explore this training and awareness center. It will be attractive as this will be a unique structure for Dambulla therefore it causes curiosity.
• University Students & researchers – They have the opportunity to come and research on different varieties of crops in the crop house.
• School children – Special day programs can have school visits to teach the young generation about the values of agriculture and nature and allow them to take part.
• Administrative staff
• Trainers
• Guest speakers
• Nature enthusiasts
• Service staff

• Training Gardens
It will be the space where the volunteers are trained on how to do an organic cultivation. It is the main space where most of the plants are grown and anyone can walk and have a look around.
• Informative display area
This will be a space that creates awareness about the negative side of chemical use in agriculture. Used as an exhibition space to exhibit as presentation panels, videos projected on walls and other sculptures that create dark ambience in the room to show a negative side.
• Crop house
This will be a display museum for visitors and tourists. It will be informative as well as spread awareness about indigenous plants and planting methods. It will be maintained by the enrolled volunteers and from season to season it can change, for example it can either have fruit crops or vegetable crops or even flowering plants.
• Restaurant
The organic produced products are available in the restaurant for the visitors. This will promote organic food consumption and also support the center with an income. The restaurant will only contain organically produced food items at the highest quality.

Technical information


Columns and beams
Galvanized hollow steel pipes
Round steel pipes used for columns and beams in the curve steel structure. Steel is flexible and strong therefore it can achieve the desired heights and curves to give the required expression of the structure. The beams and columns will be welded into each other for a strong connection.
Final look of the steel columns and beams must be a dark grey with no shine so this structure does not need any additional coating or polish as maintenance. The reason is, dull colors merge better with the environment and give place for more greenery to be visible, otherwise any shine or contrasting color would distract the user and won’t achieve the concept.

Galvanized steel H columns and beams
H or i beams can achieve the desired column to column spans and steel is a strong material. These exposed beams also serve as features in the building allowing users to observe the structure.
The final outlook should be a dull dark grey as mentioned earlier, this can be used to highlight other materials in the building such as greenery, timber etc..

RCC columns and beams
Good structural strength, as the whole administration and services block requires a box form it is easy to achieve through concrete. Moreover, the wall finish is also concrete plaster therefore columns can be in its natural state with a rustic look.

The site has a high water table between 2m to 3m. And since there are paddy fields in the adjacent lands, the deeper soils can be loose. Therefore foundation pad has to be wider to stop sinking, details shown in blown-up diagrams.

Copper sheet roofing
This roofing material was chosen for its flexibility to be able to go along with the curve. The material is also very durable so very less maintenance required, moreover, copper sheets are lightweight compared to most highly durable materials.
Furthermore, copper turns green when exposed to air as it corrodes but this special nature can be used to enhance the design and with time this building turns even more greener, merging with the environment.

Cellular Polycarbonate sheets (transparent) used for the crop house.
This sheet has an air cavity between two layers which helps cut down heat coming inside while giving an outside view. Maximum daylight can be taken into the crop house with less heat. Polycarbonate is flexible than glass therefore it can adapt the curved shapes.

Crop house depends on stack effect and cross ventilation for cooling. The entire form itself is made for stack effect to work effectively as the opening at the top shows in the sections.
Cool air from the paddy fields blow through the mesh that covers the structure, the inside heat rises and escapes allowing cool air to replace it. The plants that grow on the mesh provides cool shade inside the crop house as if being under a tree.
The decks are made up of galvanized steel mesh, this helps keep the airflow moving even between the levels so it does not trap heat.
Furthermore, the water feature that flows through the crop house absorbs heat as water has a high thermal mass. This keeps the surrounding cooler.
The mesh and the polycarbonate lets natural light travel in land during the daytime there is no need for artificial lighting. The plants on the mesh disperse the light forming textures of shadows on the inside, this way direct light won’t interfere with the functions or user.

Different varieties of crops grown on the training gardens that promote sustainable agriculture. Trees and small crops together create ecosystems that help develop soil, fertilizer, crops etc..
There will also be temporary structures to support crop growth during different seasons.

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