Pre-literacy school in Vellalapatty, South India, 2007

Project Data

Start of construction: September 2006
End of construction: June 2007
Construction costs of building: 5.750 Euro
Land, machines and tools: 2.750 Euro
Contribution SSF: 8.500 Euro

The Project

The 200 years old village of Vellalapatty is located at 15 km distance from Salem City, in Tamil Nadu. It is situated at quite some distance from the main road and its setting is rural. Here over 4000 families live in an area of about 2 square kilometers. This pre-school, a fairly unknown concept in rural India, will serve about 40 children annually.

In October 2006 we purchased a piece of land in the middle of the village. Beforehand, we tested the soil to determine its suitablility for earth block making. In Bangalore we purchased a block making machine and trained 6 local people for block making and we trained several masons about block masonry.

The school building houses a multifunctional space with a large attached veranda. Here the daily activities take place, such as playing, learning, eating and sleeping. The classroom is split in two parts, and the lower part acts as a play pit. Outside the building we placed a separate sanitation core with two child friendly toilets, and a kitchen where healthy meals will be prepared.

The design contains a variety of alternative materials, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the usual materials and common techniques with concrete, steel and bricks.

The walls are made with SMB; Stabilized Mud Blocks. The blocks were pressed from the soil of our own land, mixed with quarry dust and just a little bit of cement. We used blocks as replacement for exensive wooden window frames, by making ventilating openings in the masonry pattern in the walls. Blocks have also been used in the filler slab, an alternative way of constructing the roof.

The new building is a good example of a safe, playful and child-friendly environment. The school should encourage the parents to continue sending their children to school.

The total project costs were 8.500 Euro, including the purchase of the piece of land, the block making machine, and some tools. The construction cost of the building itself were 5.750 Euro, which turned out to be 2.600 Euro less than the lowest offer from the local contractors. This made this eco-friendly technique 30% cheaper than the common construction pratice!

Our Partners and Sponsors for this project

Technical support was provided by Chitra Vishwanath Architects (now called ‘Biome’) and Mrinmayee, both from Bangalore in India. The project was financed by Jawi Sportcentrum in Alphen aan den Rijn, BEAR Architects from The Netherlands, and Scholengemeenschap De Hoeksteen in Rotterdam.