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Appropriate Grassroot Level Intervention for Cost-effective Housing
India

Keywords: Homelessness & Housing
Poverty Eradication

Background

Housing inadequacy is largely felt at the level of low income and more so with continuous rise in cost of construction at all levels. This necessitates the use of appropriate and cost effective technologies in house construction. Though technologies have been developed, there has been a large gap in application. The Building Centre movement in India therefore, emerged as a grass root level intervention with the objectives of:

  • transfer of technology
  • training of artisans
  • production of elements
  • construction and guidance

This movement has now spread all over India with 385 Building Centres. It has received national, regional and international attention and appreciation. Over 55,000 artisans are trained on appropriate technologies, in various community/residential building construction, with the saving of 15% to 40% over conventional cost.


Narrative

The building centre movement has taken long strides. From the first Nirmithi Kendra in Quilon in 1986 in Kerala, to the latest one in Jammu in 1995, is the real journey from south to north criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country through 385 building centres. A truly national network, it is emerging, as was the vision conceived when the Government of India launched the National Network of Building Centres.
 

    BEFORE:

Housing stress and inadequacy is mainly felt at the level of weaker sections and low-income households in particular and continuous rise of cost in construction at all levels.
1. Access to building materials, technologies and construction delivery systems for affordable housing is an important need.
2. The cost of construction is increasing by 50 per cent over the normal inflation due to hike in the cost of basic building materials and labour. Consequently, even basic housing is now beyond the reach of a common person.
There is an imperative need to utilise technology options leading to cost effective results, which people can afford.
3. Although many attempts for evolving appropriate and cost- effective technologies have been made at the laboratory level by various scientific and R & D agencies, these initiatives were not finding applications at the field level.
4. Further, the 'awareness' level of these alternative and sustainable options has been minimal among users as well as professionals, (architects and engineers), leave alone lack of exposure to construction workers and artisans, who are the main link in utilising these options in housing programmes.
5. The existing construction practices using conventional options, lead to ostentatious housing and misuse of scarce and costly materials.
6. Such practices have a larger environmental impact in terms of depletion of natural resources like top fertile soil and trees.
7. The lack of support through building regulatory media, codes and schedule of rates has been another factor that has inhibited the use of alternative options in housing.
8. As a cumulative effect, the housing products offered to the people are either expensive and beyond the affordable limit, if only conventional options are adopted or lead to the development of inadequate spaces in housing if the same specifications are used and housing is kept at an
"affordable" level.
9. There is a distinct lack of training and skill-upgradation not only for conventional but also cost-effective technologies. This has adversely affected housing and building programmes for all target groups and community buildings since financial resources available are always limited.
10. Lack of delivery mechanism at field level.
11. Special relevance for upgradation of existing shelter.
12. Special relevance for far flung rural areas.
 

    AFTER:

1) The Building Centre movement has addressed these issues. The movement was meant to provide institutional intervention for putting into practice, at the grassroot level, the new research and development and appropriate technologies. The movement aimed to 'enable' and 'empower'
people by evolving appropriate housing delivery system with people's participation, by using environment-friendly solutions and by developing the right level of skills among the local artisans. In short, the Building Centre movement essentially transfers technology from "lab" to "land". This
is achieved by :

  • Training and skill-upgradation of construction artisans in terms of alternative, innovative and sustainable building materials and technologies;
  • Assisting in the production of various building components at the grassroot level;
  • Utilizing the services of trained artisans along with beneficiary families in the housing construction programme;
  • Construction of affordable shelter with innovative construction techniques; and
  • Providing housing guidance, information and counseling to local people.

2) This has helped in creating 'awareness' about the available alternative options and also an 'appreciation' of these options not only in terms of cost effectiveness but also in terms of structural, functional and aesthetic sufficiency. The use of these "cost-effective options" has changed the
negative perception of "low cost housing" (e.g., low quality, non-durable, ugly and only for the low income families) for the first time. Other community buildings like schools, health centres, village offices and community centre and even middle and high income housing thus constructed have brought in the right level of credibility for appropriate technology options.

3) The use of these applications has led to solutions with 15 to 40 percent savings over the conventional costs.

4) It has also helped in house construction programmes with people's participation through upgradation of skill levels of the local construction workers. Over 45,000 construction workers have been given practical, hands-on training using various innovative technologies till now.


Impact

  • Over 385 building centres were set up all over India.
  • About 15 to 40% savings were achieved.
  • Over 55000 masons, carpenters, barbenders, plumbers were trained through building centres.
  • Construction worth over Rs. 2 billion has been completed through building centres.

Sustainability

The Building Centre Movement has exhibited the sustainable elements with its spread along the lengths and breadths of the country with a network of 385 Building Centres. The Building Centre directly contributes to the sustainable shelter strategies by strengthening the enabling role and have succeeded in giving access to building materials, technologies and construction delivery systems at grass root level with affordable and cost effective options. This has helped in creating 'awareness' about the available alternative options in terms of cost effectiveness and also in
terms of structural, functional and aesthetic sufficiency. By using the technology options, various community buildings like schools, primary health centres, village offices and community centre and even middle and high income housing are constructed bringing in the right level of credibility for appropriate technology options, with 15 to 40 percent savings over the conventional costs. It has also helped in house construction programmes with people's participation through upgradation of skill levels of the local construction workers, both men and women.
Over 55,000 construction workers have been given practical, hands-on training using various innovative technologies till now. The existing gender inequality in construction work force is for the first time attempted to be brought on common footing by imparting training to women, with the initial steps through the Building Centre Movement. Taking technologies to the door steps of the people for making affordable housing a reality is a significant contribution.

Further, with the major strength of the Building Centre movement the utilisation of the human resource from the community with appropriate empowerment and enablement to evolve and contribute shelter solution by easily utilising appropriate technology in the local context. Any initiative taken with the people and strengthening them with right level of resource transfer is bound to have its permanent impact and further ripple effect on sustainablity and replicability.

Further, the nature of technology propagated and applied are sustainable options, keeping in view, least use of energy gush in options. Any efforts of stopping the removal of top soil, cutting of trees etc. for building material products like doors and windows, which are energy intensive, by using appropriate technology options are encouraged.

Further use of various industrial, agricultural waste materials through building centres give the movement a larger element of sustainability. Housing and building construction contribute to sustainable level of employment generation and economic development, While directly serving the
needs of housing. Skill upgradation and employment generation using appropriate technology further leads to increased productivity, quality and use of materials in an effective, efficient and economic manner.

It is also seen that the material labour consumption in the overall context which is of the order of 70 : 30 in conventional options has undergone a major change by using cost effective options. With the material consumption level come down and better wages available for the local artisans and the new ratio of material to labour is 60 : 40. Further new cause of construction with the options promoted by building centres are yet 15 to 40 percent cheaper than conventional options. Therefore, use of local human resources with upgraded skills and energy is always sustainable model. Since the building centre has an amalgam of operational activities using training, production, construction and guidance, the overall economic sustainability and financial viability is assured. This is proved by
over 200 building centres which has became fully functional. and able to stand on its on for taking up continuous activities. Further the elements of the movement are all leading to positive results with no negative flop.

The contribution of the building centres for locations along the lengths and breaths of the country with diverse sub-continental proportions and catering to geoclimatological context from hilly terrain to plains to coastal areas and wide variations of temperature, rain fall, wind, natural disasters (cyclone, earthquake, land slides and flooding) have clearly demonstrated the sustainability of the movement at any location.


Indicators

The building centre movement has created awareness among the general public to use cost effective technologies in construction practice.

Since the building centres have an amalgam of operational activities using training, production, construction and guidance, the overall economic sustainability and financial viability is assured. It is also catering to the geoclimatological context from hilly terrain to plains to coastal areas and wide variations of temperature, rainfall, wind, natural disasters have clearly demonstrated the sustainability.

The success is achieved by setting up of 385 building centres over the last six years, all over India. Most of the State governments/local initiatives have come forward to link the building centre movement with housing programmes.


Contact

    Secretary/DUEPA, Govt. of India
    Nirman Bhawan
    New Delhi
    Delhi
    India
    110 001
    (+91+11) 3017444

Sponsor

    Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment, Government of India
    Secretary/DUEPA, Govt. of India
    Nirman Bhawan
    New Delhi
    Delhi
    India
    (+91+11) 3017444

Partners

    HUDCO, India Habitat Centre
    Chairman and Managing Director, HUDCO,
    HUDCO Bhavan, IHC, Lodi Road
    New Delhi
    Delhi
    India
    110 003
    (+91+11) 4693022

    BMTPC 'C' Wing, Nirman Bhawan
    Executive Director, BMTPC
    `C' Wing, Nirman Bhawan
    New Delhi
    Delhi
    India
    110 001
    (+91+11) 3792858

    Avas Vikas Sansthan, Jaipur


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