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Appropriate building technology
The term 'appropriate building technology' refers to building processes
and tools that are appropriate to the climate, socio-economic conditions
and natural resources of an area, and which contribute to sustainable
development. In the Auroville context we have two examples of
appropriate building technology, earth construction and ferrocement.

Appropriate architecture
The term 'appropriate architecture' is used for the integration into
construction of all the separate technologies and disciplines involved
in the research and promotion of sustainable solutions. 'Green
Architecture' is another name used for this approach.

Earth construction
Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs) are made in a manual press
(produced in Auroville) using a mixture of earth with 3-5% cement. The
advantages of using CEBs for construction are that they can be made
on site and the manufacture of them doesn't pollute the environment.
A CEB uses between 3-5 times less energy to make than a fired brick.

1. Individual houses- eco
2. Apartments- Prarthana
3. Visitors centre
4. Solar kitchen
5. Auroville library
6. Auroville kindergarden
7. Illangarkal
Vaulted roof structures


The buildings of the first decade, which was
our veritable pioneering stage, adopted the
vernacular building materials of casurina,
keet, palm leaf and thatch. The builders took
these materials of construction to high forms
of self-expression and imagination, and
worked in close interaction with the local
artisans. The large 'Aspiration' settlement is a
lively proof of the durability of
experimentation done at the time.

The present housing in
Auroville consists of
individual dwellings,
community housing,
apartments and youth
hostels. Community
housing provides for
individual and family
living spaces with common
kitchen and other collective


with underground cisterngrey water system

for Ventura
ventilation via inner

Three different types of

experimental roofs
(Hollow concrete tiles,
Prefab brick jack arches,
Madras terrace roof)


The housing of Prarthna started as a
conventional housing development
with an array of Apartment blocks
comprising of different types of Housing
units. But after the first 2 blocks it
became clear that a mixed land use
of row houses and apartments would
be more appropriate for the needs of
The guiding principles are
1. Solar passive design
2. Flexibility of functions within
3. Low input construction
techniques and materials
4. Recycling of waste water
5. Minimalism of built form

The neo-urbanism model of using

streets and semi private green
spaces was adapted into the site
plan. This was enhanced by evolving
a building language that was inspired
from the vernacular forms of costal
Tamil Nadu. The concept of using
transition spaces that are
verandahs, sit outs and terraces as
the living spaces with a cascade of
shading roofs in terracotta tiles as
the skyline. Roof runoffs is collected
in swales for percolation and all the
sewage (black and grey) is recycled
using only gravity flow biological
process to be re-used for the gardens



As the main purpose of the Auroville
Information and Reception Centre is
to introduce the international township
to visitors, the Auroville Building
Centre (AVBC) has taken the
opportunity to demonstrate and
promote the rich potential of
alternative technologies in its
construction, with particular emphasis
on the use of mud as a building
material. An information office,
conference room, exhibition space,
video room, restaurant, handicrafts
shop and toilets were accommodated
in a structure specifically designed for
visitors from all over the world, with
the local climate materials and
building skills influencing the

Special emphasis was placed on
natural lighting and ventilation in the
building, as renewable energy sources
were to be used. Solar, wind and
biomass energy, water management
and recycling techniques, mud and
ferrocement technology, and
reclamation and afforestation were
all integrated in the process.
Stabilised soil blocks for domes and
prefabricated ferrocement channels
were considered as the best solution
to roofing. It was felt the resulting
sequence of arcaded and semicovered spaces would give a clear
sense of direction to people.


The most recent integration attempt is demonstrated in the 'Solar Kitchen', a

community kitchen for preparing 2000 meals a day. The concept began to be
implemented in 1994.
Since solar energy is abundant in southern India, using steam as the heat
transfer medium for preparing the meals was the obvious choice.


innovative decision to integrate in the

building a fixed spherical solar bowl
concentrator of 15 meter diameter
determined, to a large extent, the design and
technology applications used within the
building itself.
The solar bowl is positioned at the western
end of the first floor. Composite granite
blocks were used for the foundations. Walls
in compressed earth blocks support the
whole structure. A total of 96 prefabricated
ferrocement elements were cast and hoisted
in place to form a perfect fixed spherical
bowlA tilted fixed mast supports a moving
receiver which can rotate in all directions
around a double-axis articulation placed at
the centre of the sphere and balanced by a
counterweight. A computer programme
ensures the automatic tracking of the whole
system with scope for seasonal changes.


as an open plan
with the largest area being
double height; to house the
books, administrative and
other services are set to one
side while the entry is on the
opposite side.
The entrance is treated as a
gateway to the back court
where the main library is to
be sited in future. The cafe
makes the other flank of the
The envelope is dictated by
climate hot humid in an
electrical energy deficit zone
of the country. So that
operational energy
dependency for lighting and
ventilation is minimal.

The long facade is north-south to minimize heat gain

while allowing for a 45 angle of incidence to the
prevailing wind directions; maximizing the wind
shadow to increase the indoor wind velocity.
The openings are deep set within fins and roof
overhangs to prevent glare and heat gain without
compromising on the ventilation and lighting. There
are solar chimneys introduced to create an induced
ventilation cycle.


large spanned main hall is a truss

roof with insulated aluminium sheet
roofing. The high embodied energy of
the aluminium roof is offset by having
a light weight roof, reducing the load
on the building supports to minimize
the foundation and RCC frame size /
load. Free standing columns mirror the
Palmyra trunks while the walling is in
stabilised rammed earth.
These non-load bearing rammed walls
are made from earth excavated from
foundations trenches and water
harvesting swales on site. The texture
of the earth walls is off-set by exposed
RCC columns, aluminium roof and
stacks of solar chimneys.


design of the buildings is a

reinterpretation of the local vernacular style
in a minimalist architectural language using
earth as the predominant building material
from foundation to roof. The spaces emerge
out of a central space to the scale of a child
to lessen the trauma on his/her first
experience of spending time away from a
non-domestic environment without an
intimate adult around.
The sizes of the rooms were designed such
that it allows the children to use it in a nonstructured manner, allowing large or small
groups to work. The furniture is all floor
seating with cushions and low tables that
could be moved around. The pin boards are
placed between deep windows that double
as seats where 2-3 children can sit, this
makes these spaces become spaces of
interaction rather than only display.


rooms allow a free progress

system of teaching which allows each
child to learn at his/her own pace.
The design of the classrooms allows
the users find flexibility within the built
environment that allows them a wide
range of usage.
The educational facility includes more
than the reading/writing and play. This
project has was awarded innovative
design award by designshare; an
educational design group in the US.
It has also been recognised by
HUDCO as best practices in earth
building design



School is the hub for some of

these programs with class rooms / workshop
spaces / crafts centre / library / dining
+kitchen / admin / computer training and 2
dormitories for residential students.
The campus is designed a Mandala around
a stepped pond cum amphitheatre. The
compressed earth blocks used for the
buildings are made from the excavation of this
pond and roofs of the buildings are turfs that
collect rain water and channel it to this pond.
During the monsoon the pond is a brimming
water body framed by the buildings and in the
summer it becomes the outdoor multipurpose
learning and gathering space during the
evening and night adult literacy program. The
earth buildings clustered tightly together also
re-imagines the central courts of the Tamil
Nadu temple complexes with its multiple
pavilions of worship within a walled



research in Auroville with this kind

of roofing aims to revive and integrate in
the 21st century the techniques used in
past centuries and millennia, such as
those developed in ancient Egypt or
during the period of Gothic architecture
in Europe. all vaults and domes are built
with compressed stabilised earth blocks
which are laid in Free spanning mode,
meaning without formwork. This was
previously called the Nubian technique,
from Egypt, but the Auroville Earth
Institute developed it and found new
ways to build arches and vaults.
The traditional Nubian technique
needed a back wall to stick the blocks
onto. The vault was built arch after arch
and therefore the courses were laid
vertically. The binder, about 1 cm thick,
was the silty-clayey soil from the Nile and
the blocks used were adobe.



even regularity of compressed

stabilised earth block produced by the
Auram press 3000 allows building with a
cement-stabilised earth glue of 1-2 mm
only in thickness.
The free spanning technique allows
courses to be laid horizontally, which
presents certain advantages compared to
the Nubian technique which has vertical

Depending on the shape of vaults, the

structures are built either with horizontal
courses, vertical ones or a combination
of both. All vault shapes are calculated
to develop catenary forces in the
masonry. Their thickness and span can
therefore be optimised.