Vikas apartments, view from the wind pump
The community was built at Auroville in several steps, from 1992 to 1998 by the former Auroville Building Centre / Earth Unit.
This project was the first development in Auroville, which used stabilised earth from foundations to roof.
Vikas community was a finalist for the World Habitat Award 2000.
The community was built in several steps, from 1992 to 1998. First the community kitchen was built, so as to emphasize the communal aim. Then a first block of 4 apartments was built and later on a second block with 5 apartments. The third block with 13 apartments was built on four floors: a basement floor with three floors above it. The concept of this building was such that it should be self-sufficient for its soil needs. The soil was dug from the basement floor (1.20m below the original ground level) to produce compressed stabilised earth blocks for building the structure of 819m2, carpet area, on 4 floors.
The foundations were done with stabilised rammed earth and the 13.40m high walls were done with CSEB of 24 cm thick. All floors and roofs were made of very flat vaults and domes for the living rooms. These vaults and domes were built with CSEB, by using the “Free-spanning” technique. All stabilisation used 5 % cement by weight.
The experiment of Vikas found its roots in Auroville’s ideals. Nonetheless, its material developments could be implemented elsewhere in the world. Vikas community was a finalist for the World Habitat Award 2000.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE THIRD BUILDING
The volume of this basement floor was equivalent to the volume of soil, which was needed to produce the blocks and all the various works of the third building. Thus, the amount of soil generated by the basement was enough to build 819 m2, carpet area, on 4 floors.
To protect the basement from the inflow of rainwater a particular landscape was designed. The immediate surrounding has been shaped like a shallow crater to drain rainwater into a percolation pit. This landscape design generated even more soil than needed for the building sites at Vikas. It was given to other projects in Auroville, which could not implement the concept of a basement floor.
Excavation of the basement floor of the third building
Excavation of the basement floor – 1.2 m below ground level
Third building on 4 floors
Ventilation system through the vaulted structures towards the solar chimney
Water tank tower with staircase
View on third building
Third building on 4 floors
View on the third building from the garden side
Third building from the garden side
Living room of an apartment with a cloister dome
Living room in the third building
Bedroom of an apartment with a vault
“Green street” for motor free vehicles
MAIN SPECIFICATIONS OF THE THIRD BUILDING
| FOUNDATIONS ||• Stabilised rammed earth|
| BASEMENT ||• AURAM plain blocks 240|
| PLINTH BEAM || • RCC plinth beam cast in a block shuttering with AURAM blocks 240 – ½ size
| BASEMENT WATERPROOFING || • Walls: with bitumen paint on a stabilised earth plaster
• Floor: with a layer of pebbles
| BASEMENT DRAIN || • Underground drainage, (ø3” slotted PVC pipe) sent to an underground percolation pit
• Surface drainage with a percolation pit
| GALLERIES’ FLOORING ||• AURAM tiles 240|
| APARTMENTS FLOORING ||• The choice was left to people: CSEB, terracotta or ceramic tiles|
| WALLS ||• AURAM plain blocks 240|
| RING BEAMS || • Composite ring beam with AURAM U blocks 240 and RCC
| SPRINGER BEAMS ||• RCC beams for resting vaults and domes|
| LINTELS ||• Composite lintel, single height, with AURAM U blocks 240 and RCC|
| COLUMNS || • Composite pillar with AURAM round hollow blocks 240 and RCC
| FLOORS AND ROOFS || • Flat vaults and domes with AURAM blocks 240, laid without support
• Precast ferrocement channels
|PLASTERS||• Stabilised earth plasters for some walls|
Appropriate architecture design• Energy intelligent building
• Natural ventilation and sun protection
• Integration to the land, according to the existing nature, trees, etc.
• Adaptation to the climate, according to main winds directions, sun, etc.
Appropriate building technologies• Stabilised rammed earth foundations with 5 % cement
• Plinths and walls in compressed stabilised earth blocks
• Stabilised rammed earth walls with 5% cement
• Composite beams and lintels and composite columns
• Vaults and domes for floors and roof, made of CSEB
• Paints and plasters with stabilised earth
• Floorings with CSEB tiles, 2.5cm thick with 5 % cement
• Ferrocement channels of 25mm thickness
• Various ferrocement items for different uses
• Ferrocement doors, shelves, etc. of 12mm thickness
• Ferrocement plasters for water tanks and ponds
• Sparing use of concrete, glass, steel, etc.
Environmentally sound materials• Compressed stabilised earth blocks of various qualities
• Various stabilised earth based materials
• Ferrocement pieces in various parts of the buildings
Renewable energy sources• Photovoltaic panels for the electricity (12 V DC)
• Surface solar pumps for the gardens
• Submersible solar pump and wind pump
Water management• Rain water harvesting to aim zero run off during the monsoon
• Biological wastewater treatments
Earth management• Soil for building was extracted from the site itself
• Percolation systems to harvest rainwater
• Wastewater treatment pond
• Reservoirs for garden water
• Basement floor
LAND CONSERVATION AND RAINWATER HARVESTING
Tree plantation and landscaping
Protection against water erosion
Landscaped percolation pits
The percolation effectiveness is increased tremendously with vegetation. It is essential to cover the percolation system with grass and to plant bushes. Their roots drain rainwater much faster in the ground. The biological systems with microorganisms, which are present in humus, aerate the ground and increase also tremendously the percolation. This was shown by the first percolation system created for the park near the collective kitchen. The percolation system had just been shaped when a heavy summer storm occurred. No grass cover and landscaping had been done yet. The depression was flooded and rainwater took nearly a week to percolate through the topsoil, which had no humus. Once vegetation completed the system, the heaviest rainfall during monsoon would take one or two days to percolate.
Principle for the percolation pit
Landscaped percolation pit
Percolation pit of the third building: hole of 70 m3
BIOLOGICAL WASTE WATER TREATMENT BY LAGOONING
The macrophyte water treatment is covered with diverse species of floating aquatic plants. The first 2/3 of the watertight pit is fully covered and the plant covering in the last third is restricted to 20 % of the surface to promote more re-oxygenation and photosynthesis. The aquatic plants were at the beginning water hyacinths and duckweeds. This wastewater treatment worked well but it is a fragile system, which requires a lot of maintenance.
Therefore the aims of the concept were fulfilled. But social acceptability remained one main problem. For most people a house is a life’s investment and a dream, even in Auroville. It must fulfil the need of being rooted to a place and the sense of property, which is given by a house rooted in the ground. Therefore these moveable houses, as they had no foundation, were “un-rooted” and did not fulfil this psychological need.
More “rooted” houses were built by self-builders, who were really happy to build them and who are feeling at ease inside. These people got a three-week training course and we gave them the basic plans of the houses. They were left alone to manage everything and they finally developed the original concept, with additional alcoves, and six houses were built in a year time.
Community participation with soil sieving
Team for the first development
Practicing “Kalaripayat”, the martial from Kerala
Multi aspects of sustainability
The attempt to holistic development is to integrate an alternative building process, various appropriate building technologies and renewable energy sources, so as to promote eco-friendly and sustainable development.
In this field earth, as a raw building material, plays a major role, but other appropriate technologies such as ferrocement, biological wastewater treatment, solar lighting, wind and solar pumping are also extensively used.
Vikas community near the centre of Auroville has been our main achievement. The implementation of the project was based on appropriate architectural design, on which people collaborated with the architect of the Auroville Earth Institute, formerly named AVBC/Earth Unit.
“Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
World Commission on Environment and Development
|• Respect of Nature but also people
• Needs of people, from most basics ones to economic, social and spiritual growth
• Interdependency, between people and between Nature and people
• Limits of the environment, as the earth resources are limited
Dimensions of sustainability
It requires first a proper management of resources, but also: waste reduction, proper wastewater treatment, low emissions, use of renewable energy and eco-friendly materials, etc.
It integrates all group categories and levels (ethnic, religious, economic, health, etc.). Quality of life, uplifting local skills, impacts on local communities, etc, should also be taken into account.
It promotes endogenous growth, which is linked with the creation of new market opportunities, cost reduction through efficiency improvements, creation of additional added value, etc.
That building with earth can be synonymous with sustainable development and a harmonious integration of buildings in the physical and social environment.
Sustainable habitat requires a holistic approach. This needs to integrate first the human aspect, which implies a different process, where people’s participation is essential for its success. Secondly, only a sustainable habitat needs to integrate various technical parameters, such as:
• Appropriate urban planning – the population in its environment and technical means
• Appropriate architecture design – adapted to the environment (physical, social and technical)
• Renewable energy sources and appropriate building materials
• Management of resources and use of environmentally sound building materials
• Water management – drinking water supply, rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment
• Earth management when people are using earth extensively as a building material
One should not forget that materials and techniques are just tools to achieve sustainable habitats. It goes further than just structures and urban development, as it deals with social relations and patterns. Habitat and especially sustainable habitat cannot be understood just as a finished product. It is a constantly evolving system and the process to develop it is always essential.
Therefore, the matter is not only to create eco-friendly facilities for everyone’s wealth but also to imagine different relations among people – to create a synergy going towards respect on all levels and towards a different lifestyle based on harmony, friendship, disinterestedness and compassion rather than the usual egoistic behaviours of indifference, competition or strife.