Construction: Architecture, techniques and materials
The buildings have been designed using elementary construction techniques using simple materials. The blocks were prepared from the mud at the site itself with very little cement (instead of purchasing regular bricks with embodied energy from a construction market) for the masonry, vaults and domes. Timber frames, pillars, beams and areca-palm reapers have been used along with clay roofing tiles with the aim of reducing the use of concrete and reinforcement steel as they are energy intensive materials with a high carbon footprint. The resulting architecture with its very familiar elements blends in seamlessly with the surrounding hilly rural landscape.
Foundations were made with stones from local quarries. A system of load bearing walls and shallow vaults and domes were chosen because they require minimal RCC support structure (no concrete slabs). The upper most roofing was done with timber. The timber was coco palm, procured from plantations. The timber was glue-laminated at the site to get the desired members. Doors and wooden frames are also made from glue-laminated timber.
The high content of natural materials from local sources as opposed to industrially manufactured construction materials has ensured a lower carbon footprint.
Rainwater harvesting, water recycling, heating and power generation
Active rainwater harvesting is not done at present due to budget constraints, but systems are in place to ensure that it can be implemented when the budget allows for it. For now, a percolation pond has been excavated to receive all the storm water from the campus. All domestic sewage and waste water will be treated in the organic DEWATS (Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System). With society heading towards a sewage crisis and clean water scarcity, the need to decentralise waste management is urgent and immediate.
All relevant buildings are equipped with solar water heaters.
Photovoltaic electricity generation has also not been explored now due to budget issues. It is a field that will be explored and taken up at a suitable time later.
Right from the beginning, Shibumi and L&S Architects, the company in charge of the construction, made an effort to find what worked best for us, all the while saving costs and improving efficiency – an attitude applied and evident equally in the broad campus planning and in the small things like the design for ventilators, toilet doors and roof joinery hardware. In construction, we were helped by construction material donated to us, combined with things we could source, scavenge and then upcycle, often from the dumps and yards in the city. To approach the project this way has been demanding in time and energy, and there were many obstacles to overcome. However, it has been an extraordinary effort from everyone, with the architects, teaching staff, friends and very often the students themselves rolling up their sleeves and participating in the construction and landscaping.