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Cost Effective Environment Friendly (CEEF) Shelter Development Strategy
India

Keywords: Homelessness & Housing
Poverty Eradication
Women & Gender equality

Background

In 1985, for providing affordable solutions to housing, India's first "Nirmithi Kendra" (Building Centre) was set up in the Quilon District of Kerala by the then District Collector. This was a trend setter in cost effective and environment friendly (CEEF) building technology, saving about 30% of the cost. The movement succeeded in "technology transfer" from R&D institutions; in training and employment generation; and in developing new educational programmes.

Arising from its impact, the Government of India set up such Kendras in all districts of the country and integrated it with the national housing policy. International recognition also came in its wake.


Narrative

THE GENESIS

Housing and development are mutually supportive. Housing provides a base for achieving crucial goals in other sectors of the economy and upgrades the quality of life. The housing shortage in India is estimated to be 40 million units by 2000 A.D. and provide an opportunity to search for feasible solutions. It was in this context that the "Nirmithi movement", the project described herein, was started in 1985 as a local initiative in the Quilon District of Kerala, by the then District Collector.

In 1985, this enabled in providing shelter to thousands rendered homeless due to natural calamities by integrating beneficiary participation with approrpiate technology and resources available with the district administration. Behind the success of the initiative were beneficiary involvement in management; delinking developmental task from government rigidities; establishing linkages with R&D institutions (such as Central Building Research Institute) for technology selection and transfer; and effective coordination of tasks and related agencies.

The success of this experiment led to a deeper delving in to the complex problem of housing and habitat development. Multiple agents, conflicting forces and interests, and its representation in the people's mind, in the media, in the design and building practice, and rules and regulations were seen as critical factors compounding the housing phenomenon.

The prevalent acute housing shortage reflected these complexities with its direct linkages to:

- Spiraling land cost, exploitative contracting system and non availability of affordable building materials.

- Lack of awareness among the masses and practitioners regard- ing appropriate technology options for sustainable habitat development.

- Lack of an effective delivery system to transfer technolo- gies from R&D institutions to the ultimate users

- A construction culture which makes excessive use of energy intensive and high cost building materials like steel, cement, etc.

- Adverse impact of the above on scarce material resources and the need for adopting CEEF alternatives.

- Lack of adequate shelter for the low income groups.

- Lack of trained manpower to propagate sustainable technology
options to the grass roots.

- Non - involvement of women and weaker sections in the con struction sector.

- No inputs of CEEF technology options in academic programmes of technical institutions.

It is against this background that the Nirmithi concept was evolved in Kollam, Kerala to provide an institutional framework to meet the challenges in the housing sector.By facilitating the transfer of technology from 'lab to land', the fruits of research of premier R&D institutions, like the Central Building Research Institute and the Structural Engineering Research Centre, lying stagnant were made available to the masses. A Nirmithi style of technology which emphasized cost effectiveness and environment friendliness (CEEF technology) was evolved.

CEEF technology was distinctive in:

- its use of locally available and innovative materials.

- cutting down consumption of energy intensive materials (cement, steel) using appropriate technology.

- ensuring local participation in construction activities.

- blending new styles with traditional ones and

- designing according to the lay of the land.

Extensive awareness campaigns and demonstrations were launched which resulted in public acceptance of these alternate technology options. Public acceptance of this alternative came from a conviction that the Nirmithi style of cost-effective technology option is the only feasible approach towards the goal of shelter for all by the turn of the century.

THE GROWTH

The Nirmithi concept soon spread across the state with Nirmithi Kendras being set up in all districts of Kerala. Gov- ernment of India's recognition by way of inclusion of the concept in the Union Budget and the National Housing Policy saw the growth of the Movement at the national level through the setting up of Building Centres in all districts in the country. National appreciation through the Special Habitat Award to the progenitor of the movement and the Kollam Centre- gave further impetus to the spread of the Movement.

International recognition was accorded to Nirmithi when the United Nations Commission for Human Settlements at its 14th session in Nairobi (May 1993) adopted a resolution recommending governments to set up institutions modelled on the Building Centres at the national, provincial and grassroot levels. As the prime mover behind Nirmithi, Mr. Bose was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for his contributions to the field of Habitat Management.

Any new approach is of little value if it does not lead to new perceptions and hence to new lines of action, research, education and strategies of benefit to the community. Recognising this the dedicated team of experts and professionals in Nirmithi have, through new lines of action which address a felt need in society, succeeded in making a perceptible mark on the housing scenario. Impact Through New Lines of Action Effecting Attitudinal Changes "Nirmithi" has become synonymous with cost effective environment friendly building technology. Public acceptance for Nirmithi style of construction which neither compromised on quality nor aesthetics grew rapidly . To ensure quality criteria, Nirmithi in collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Standards, Government of India, compiled standards and specifications for cost
effective building materials and techniques. To propagate the message, the print and electronic media were effectively used. Seminars, workshops, conferences and demonstrations were organised to spread the message even in rural areas.

TRAINING

Nirmithi's foray into the field of building construction witnessed a severe shortage of skilled labour in this particular style of construction. Various skill upgradation programmes were organised in masonry, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping and such other skills related to housing and habitat.

Skill Development and Upgradation

Employment oriented training programmes of the Government such as NRY (Nehru Rozgar Yojna) being implemented through Nirmithi has imparted training in skill upgradation to hundreds of youth and women. An amount of Rs.4,608,000/for the period 1990-1995, was utilised for the training of youth in various skill upgradation programmes. These programmes, having a wide reach, are being conducted through the district, regional and rural centres of Nirmithi.

GROUPS

Special training programmes for women and the weaker sections have been conducted with a view to giving them a meaningful role in habitat development. The following are the groups for the focussed programmes.

a) Women

About 2000 women have been trained in skills such as masonry, terracota art, pre-fabrication, landscaping and in higher level training for application of computer software. Such programmes have helped reduce gender bias and increase women participation in the otherwise male dominated construction sector.

b) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

Special programmes for the backward sections of society such as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been designed keeping in view their limits and constraints. Training has been imparted to about 775 people belonging to these classes.

c) Mentally Retarded

Often written off as unproductive elements in society, Nirmithi has helped open up employment opportunities and thereby meaning- fully integrate about 200 mentally retarded youth, tying up with two institutions working for the mentally handicapped.

SPECIALISED TRAINING PROGRAMMES

1) Gurukulam

Traditional architecture which bears witness to the continuity of history is of great educational value to the passing generation. Nirmithi's contribution to the revival of traditional architec- ture and its efforts at blending the traditional with modern trends in architecture have been widely appreciated. This has encouraged the setting up of the "Gurukula" training programme which trains young carpenters and craftsmen in dying arts such as hand carving and traditional roofing with stylistic features etc. The twenty trainees who have completed the programme are now involved in the renovative and restorative works of traditional architecture entrusted to Nirmithi.

2) Centre for Habitats

Training programmes with a focus on functional arts related to housing and habitat such as terracota training are conducted at the centre. About 80 youngsters, both men and women who have completed training at the centre have been absorbed in various private as well as government sponsored terracota units. This is the only centre imparting training in the production of terracota building materials such as railings, wall units etc.

3) Nirmithi Clubs

A considerable portion of Nirmithi efforts lie in the propagation of CEEF technology. The most successful extension activity of Nirmithi has been the setting up of "Nirmithi Clubs" in educational institutions . About 2500 students in 25 colleges are now actively participating in the Nirmithi club activities. Set up to inculcate the right attitude towards cost effectiveness and environment friendliness, these clubs focus on poster campaigns, demonstration programmes, seminars and workshops for generating awareness among student members, study tours and field visits, career guidance and entrepreneurial development and the various short duration skill development training programmes. The snowballing effect of these programmes have resulted in the transfer of technology and skills to a large cross section of people. The involvement of women have helped lessen gender bias and increase women participation in the construction sector.

PRODUCTION CENTRES

Through its Regional, Rural and District centres in the state various production centres were set up across the state to make available fair priced cost effective building materials at the local level. The hundreds of youth and women trained in building material production were productively utilised at these centres. The employment thus generated has contributed considerably to alleviating poverty. The setting up of these centres have contributed to the stabilisation of market prices for building materials and the evolution of an entrepreneurial culture at the local level. Employment generation through production centres in rural areas have helped to arrest rural migration.

The building materials produced include:
For walls : soil stabilised blocks, rubble filler blocks, con crete hollow blocks etc.

For roofs : tiles, funicular shells, precast plate floors, L panels, hurdis etc.

Other items : ferrocement rafters, ridges, joists, concrete door and window frames,
ferrocement water tanks, sanitary wares etc.

HOUSING GUIDANCE CENTRES

For the common man who seeks guidance and information pertaining to CEEF technology, Housing Guidance Centres were set up to provide services by way of consultancy, design, estimation and execution as required by the client. This has contributed vastly in reducing the exploitation of the people by the local contractors.

NETWORKING

The key to Nirmithi's success lay in its effective networking with :

- premier R&D institutions for transfer of technology from lab to lab.

- various academic institutions for expertise in evolving higher level training programmes which emphasised field level experiences.

- Nirmithi clubs in educational institutions to involve the student community in meaningful habitat development activities.

- women organisations, youth clubs to bring women and youth to the forefront of habitat related activities.

Such extensive and wholistic networking has paved the way for frequent, meaningful and effective interaction among the various sections of society.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMMES

Networking with key academic institutes in the country, various academic programmes including diploma courses and post graduate level programmes in habitat technology were initiated to provide backup to Nirmithi activities. Other universities and technical institutions have initiated steps to include the technology in their curricula.

Recognising the impact of the Nirmithi movement and its demand among the people, the Government of Kerala have incorporated the idea of a Habitat University in the State Housing Policy. As a first step, the Nirmithi National Institute of Habitat Management (NNIHM) has been set up as a Centre of Excellence for developing professionals in the field of habitat management, stimulating research and consultancy in the sector.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

Ground level research programmes have been started with the setting up of pilot plants in collaboration with leading R&D institutions such as Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The focus is on adaptive research. Development of techniques and technology which will provide substitutes for wood and energy intensive materials and facilitate recycling and reuse of industrial waste to encourage cost effective and environment friendly practices.

REHABILITATION

For their meaningful integration into society, various rehabili- tation programmes for physically and mentally handicapped as well as those belonging to socio economically weaker sections were undertaken.

Another major project was undertaken at Latur, Maharashtra to provide houses for earthquakevictims. The entire project is based on a seismic resistant design conceptualised anddeveloped by Nirmithi experts.

In addition, an entire community in the coastal area of south Kerala (Pozhiyoor) whose main economic activity was brewing of illicit liquor has been rehabilitated through concerted action including training programmes in building material production and the eventual involvement of these people in Nirmithi production units for actual production - thus empowering a whole community towards positive action and meaningful integration into society.

Influencing Governmental Policy and Legislation

Increased acceptance of the efforts of Nirmithi created ripples in the housing sector, prompting governments - state and central to send teams to evaluate the concept. Evaluation conducted by the Department of Personnel, Government of India and the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, near Delhi have resulted in :

- state governments waiving building tax for Nirmithi build- ings and setting up cost-effective building material industrial estates.
- central government issuing orders to waive excise duty for cost-effective materials and instructing state governments to execute 20% of public works through Nirmithi Kendras
- accreditation and incentives being given to industries producing cost-effective building materials
- Tamil Nadu state government issuing orders to execute all construction works under the District Administration through Nirmithi Kendras
- entrepreneurs taking up this activity as a major industrial activity

NIRMITHI ECO-VILLAGES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Local enablement, education and information are vital condiments for the process of sustainable planning and development as embodied in the Nirmithi Eco-Village schemes. Nirmithi's field level experience over the past ten years has reinforced its conviction that such novel programmes can succeed only with the active involvement of the beneficiaries at the grassroot level.

The scheme envisages an action oriented multi-disciplinary approach which integrates natural and social sciences to trigger a mass movement for concerted action. The Nirmithi Eco-Village at Mannanam, Kerala, demonstrates the possibility of living in harmony with nature. Environment friendly houses, non-conventional energy generation using bio-gas, solar and wind energy, cultivation using organic manures and herbal pesticides are being practised here. Eco-friendly income generating programmes give thrust to the idea of sustainable development. The Nirmithi Kendra initiative has thus taken on a national dimension.


Impact

1. 30% reduction in construction cost
2. From 14 building centres in Kerala(1988) to 350 building centres in the country.
3. In Kerala alone over 38.58 manyears of on site employment and 61.74 manyears of off site employment generated.
4. Training-over 75 Scheduled Castes/Tribes and 200 mentally retarded youths trained in CEEF technology.
5. Education - 24 Engineers and Architects & 300 diploma engineers completed MS & Diploma in Habitat Technology respectively. 100 professionals trained in specialised areas of Habitat Management.


Sustainability

The Project described, herein, was started in 1985 as a local initiative in the Quilon district of Kerala by the then District Collector to provide shelter to thousands rendered homeless due to natural calamities. This initiative turned out to be success due to beneficiaries involvement in management; de- linking developmental tasks from Governmental rigidities; establishing linkages with R&D institutions for technology selection and transfer; and effective coordination of tasks and related agencies. This initiative of setting up the first Nirmithi Kendra in the Quilon district of Kerala catalysed the creation of District, Regional and Rural Nirmithi Kendras in the state and in 1989, the Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra (KESNIK) to coordinate the activities of the Nirmithi Movement in the state. The impact of the Quilon model saw the Government of India setting up such Kendras/Centres in different district of the country and inte- grating this with the National Housing Policy. The KESNIK spear- heading the Movement has provided inputs to the State Government for formulating the Rajiv One Million Housing Scheme. At the national level, the government of India stipulated that 20% of all public works be entrusted to Building Centres (Nirmithi Kendras). International recognition to the Nirmithi Movement also came in its wake. With tangible country wide impact of the Movement, an analysis shows that these changes are lasting and sustainable, principally due to the following :

a. The central mission of the Nirmithi Kendras are dissemina- tion, popularisation and promotion of cost effective and environment friendly (CEEF) building technology in the country. With paucity of resources in the country, widening demand- supply gaps i housing and declining investment, the Nirmithi Movement was perceived as, perhaps, the only means to provide an affordable solution to the country's housing problem. The technology adopted enabled one to save about 30% cost in construction.

b. The Movement provided an effective mechanism of selecting and transfering appropriate technology from R&D institutions in the country to the ultimate user. An effective delivery system from "lab to land" was rather weak prior to this project initiative. The project strengthened these linkages and enabled to reach thegoal of sustainability.

c. Tangible impact in bringing about lasting changes and sustainability was also brought about by the project through a strategy of manufacturing and marketing cost effective building materials and components to the user. Selection and adoption of alternative building materials (wood substi- tutes, ferrocement) and recycling of industrial waste products is an other strategy employed by the Nirmithi Movement in its work programme. By integrating this, with the project, the felt need of the user for cost effective building materials at affordable prices was met.

d. The project's ability to perceive and plan for human re- sources developmental needs of the housing sector was another important factor contributing to project sustainability. Training programmes in different skills (masonry, carpentry), related to CEEF technology, for different target groups (women, handicapped, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes etc.) and educational programmes (Masters and Diplomas in Habitat Technology) organised as an integral part of the project facilitated these tasks.

e. Strategies such as delinking developmental tasks from gov- ernment rigidities; net working with likeminded organisa- tions in the country; building awareness camp and demonstra- tions for bringing about attitudinal changes; establishment of housing guidance centres; and integrating concepts of traditional architecture with the modern were other aspects of the project enabling its success and sustainability. The project is thus an effective model of a practice that can be effectively sustained.


Indicators

1.a. Cost reduction by employing "Nirmithi" CEEF technology (About 30% saving in cost).

b. Spread of the Nirmithi Movement from one district (Quilon, Kerala) to all districts in the country.

c. Integration of R&D, education, training, production and marketing of building materials etc.

2.a. Technical soundness of the work programmes, quality of works aesthetics etc. based on feedback from users.

b. Increasing demand and geographical spread of works.

3.a. Overall growth in clientele and volume of works.

b. Increasing awareness among the public, professionals & in the media of the Nirmithi Movement & their acceptance.


Contact

    Director, Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra
    Nirmithi Campus, PTP Nagar
    Thiruvananthapuram
    Kerala
    India
    695 038

Sponsor

    Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
    Director, Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra
    Nirmithi Campus, PTP Nagar
    Thirvananthapuram
    Kerala
    India
    695 038
    0471-360 559; 0471-360 084
    0471-360 536

Partners

    Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee
    Director, Kerala State Nirmithi Kendras
    Thirvananthapuram
    Kerala
    India
    695 038
    0471-360 559, 360 084

    Birla Institute of Technology and Science
    Director, Birla Institute of Technology
    and Science
    Pilani
    Rajasthan
    333 031
    01596 - 42090

    Government of Kerala, India
    Consultant, Pithavadian and Partners
    Madras
    Tamil Nadu
    600 006
    044-827 8361, 827 3959


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