Beneath Nirjhara’s flawless surface lies a subliminal vision, emphasising ecological stewardship while delivering an utterly restful sojourn. The resort has a design approach that minimises waste and harmful emissions while reducing energy use and providing clean water. The co-founders, dynamic duo Dimitri Tran and Adrien Portier shared their passions for their first project with Indonesia Design.
What was your initial design concept?
Dimitri: Design started in 2014 and we began proper construction in 2015 before finishing up towards the end of 2019. The project evolved a lot throughout the years, which gave us more time to think and question everything. We took an iterative approach, where we saw elements that could be improved upon and made no hesitation in doing so – all the while keeping our overarching concept in mind.
The ideas of bespoke luxury and sustainability were always there guiding us from the beginning; through construction and later through operations. But the way to achieve or approach these objectives has changed along the way.
Adrien: The design evolved over time and that includes new partners and artisans we met along the way. Take the fabric used throughout the hotel for example. This was not part of the initial design, but we discovered a company in East Bali that made handwoven fabric using natural due from the indigo plant, fell in love with the product and felt like we had to include it in the design.
Can you tell us about some sustainable aspects of this hotel?
Dimitri: We understood early on that we couldn’t tackle everything, so we sat down and discussed the various aspects where we thought we could make a difference. We identified the initiatives where we could focus our efforts and investment to maximise our impact. For instance, since AC accounts for about half of the energy consumption of a hotel in tropical areas, and electricity is mainly produced using fossil fuels in Indonesia, we ran a sun study to minimise the AC capacity in each and every villa based on their exposure, and invested in double glass and state of the art thermal insulation to limit AC usage. For most of our decks and wall cladding, we sourced reengineered rubber wood produced using trees discarded from rubber plantations that would have otherwise been burnt. We built a water filtration and purification system on-site, complete with a bottling station. All of the water used at Nirjhara comes from our own groundwater sources and is purified through a stringent process and tested regularly before being served to our guests.
Adrien: At first glance, you might not identify the common materials that you would consider eco-friendly; we did not want the hotel to feel like an eco-lodge. We deliberately avoided using bamboo, which requires extensive maintenance and has a shorter life expectancy, except for our yoga Shala where the location really made sense. Nirjhara was designed and built as a luxury resort first and foremost, but we opted to be mindful of our environment every step of the way.
Nowadays, we all need to play our part, businesses and individuals alike. At Nirjhara, we decided to take a discrete and well-thought-out approach to sustainability. Our guests want to do the right thing and most of them genuinely care about the initiatives we put in place, but they don’t want to compromise on comfort and luxury either. At the end of the day, we feel like they shouldn’t have to choose one or the other.
Has your commitment to sustainability evolved over time?
Dimitri: We started working on an organic vegetable and herb garden a year ago and it has since started supplying our restaurant with fresh produce. We initially did so to support our local, farm to table concept, but we quickly realised that it also had a sizeable positive impact on our plastic consumption. We banned single-use plastic from our villas and suites from the start, but we were still receiving plenty of goods packaged in plastic bags from our local suppliers. We recently decided to double the size of our garden as it allows us to further reduce our reliance on plastic packaging.
How has the pandemic changed the design and what was the marketing strategy during the pandemic?
Dimitri: From the onset, Nirjhara was designed to offer privacy and intimacy for our guests, with spacious public areas and ample space within the confines of each villa. Thus the resort is quite well suited for social distancing. When the pandemic started, our team took all the necessary health and hygiene measures for the safety of our guests, but these changes were mostly operational. We pride ourselves in banning all single-use plastic from our suites, but we now have disposable hand sanitiser available in each room. Yet, other than that, the guest experience remains largely unaffected.
With respect to our marketing strategy, our sales team swiftly focused their efforts on targeting domestic guests. We understood early on that we would depend solely on local business moving forward. We increased social media spending but concentrated the vast majority of our budget on local advertising for our pandemic campaign, “where social distancing occurs almost naturally”.