Nadukuppam Colony Community Cente

Location and Description: Nadukuppam Colony Womens’ Center and Balwadi (NCWCB) is located about 130 km south of Chennai, in the Kaliveli Bioregion, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Next to the colony temple and adjacent to a large banyan tree, the new NCWCB stands proud, a symbol of the efforts of the community in realizing their dream.

Process: The local women’s SHGs, the village leaders and other community members were actively involved throughout the process, including the participatory program and design process, securing the land, and in the physical construction of the building.

The completed building will be used for the balwadi/day-care program, regular WSHG meetings, tailoring classes, literacy programs and the like.

Challenges: Some delays were experienced due to the inclement weather. Lately, the delays have been related to other community projects in the region tapping into the same resources – human and materials. Hence shortage and unavailabilty!

It has been observed that constant monitoring is required on these projects as often work just stops due to a host of reasons, few of them valid. One nevers really knows the true status unless he or she visits the site. On future projects, especially low budget projects in rural India, I would recommend the local project representative for Architecture for Humanity live close to the sites to facilitate frequent monitoring, and/or, there be funds allocated for a full time staff on local partner’s team who would be exclusively responsible for the daily supervision, coordination, and timely execution of the Architecture for Humanity project.

Overall, the team and partners worked well together, all desiring and achieving the best possible for the community.

From here forward: PBRC (Pitchandikuklam Bio-Resource Center) is continuing its outreach work in the region. Their work involves assisting local WSHGs in numerous areas including direct income generation through facilitating direct low interest loans from the State Bank; trainings in medicinal plant use and cultivation; organic farming principles; health and hygiene awareness; and family planning. Further income generating activities are also being implemented through tailoring courses, nursery training, spirulina production and local investment in ecologically sustainable initiatives. Additionally PBRC runs an environment education center at the Nadukuppam Government High School to encourage environmental awareness among the children of the community.

Concept: The site was divided into 3 areas, based upon the programmed uses
1. Southern Entry Area including trellis covered space and storage room (renovated TV room)
2. Central Multi-purpose Hall (Balwadi during week days)
3. Northern Children’s play court and toilets

The entry area has a large shaded space that can be used except in wet weather by the WSHG’s while the Multi-purpose room is being used by the Balwadi program.

The Multipurpose room, oriented East-West, is an interesting space with curved walls, and a split roof, and a variety of openings. It will be a space for creative play, focussed learning and productive interactions.

The play court, dedicated for use by the Balwadi children, adjacent to the multi-purpose room is enclosed and secure. Toilets, located off of the enclosed play court, are also secure.Previously, the Balwadi program was held under the banyan tree which proved impractical, distractive, and unusable during inclement weather. The Balwadi teacher, Sumathi, was very involved in the initial community meetings, rallying the community on the importance of education for the children of the community, and the urgent need for a building to house the balwadi program.

Construction materials include locally made, compressed mud bricks, mangalore clay roof tiles, timber framing, compressed mud tile flooring interspersed by recycled glass mosaic tiles as accents.


Balwadi:30 children, 11 boys and 19 girls, ages 3 to 5 years, daily;
WSHG members 20 women, 24-40 years old, 3 times a week;
40 WSHG Federation members, married women, ages 25-50, once a month
25 Children’s Parliament members, children ages 11 to 14, once or 2 times a month
50 Community members, male and female, 0-100, once a month
Literacy teacher, 1, male, age 30
Balwadi teacher, 1, female, age 30
Occasional snack sellers on the outside verandah, 2, female

The colony population is 1020


INCOME LEVEL: Annual income approximately Rs. 12000 ($240) to Rs.20000 ($400). (mostly agriculture and agriculture labour)

BUILDING REACH: Based on the above information, the premises will be used by 179 persons.

BUILDING OCCUPANCY: 50 persons max. (100 including the additional 50 people that can be accommodated in the areas around the site).

Labor: 25. Additional labor of 20 for making CSEBs.(The masons, having learned the skills of CSEB block making, are not only earning income through their newly acquired skill, but are also demonstrating and teaching their skills, in places as far as Chennai city.Architecture for Humanity Design Fellows: 1
PBRC Staff: 11

Auroville volunteers, PBS/Frontline film crew and a journalist, have visited the building. People from neighboring communities and villages are visiting the building. OAN Website visitors??

The project is being viewed as a model project in the region. Not only have the villagers from this (Nadukuppam) village of 3000 have been visiting the project site, but also there have been many visitors from 6 nearby hamlets and villages. PBRC has received requests for providing a similar building for their villages. A couple of communities are very keen to build a similar project. Additionally international and local volunteers, PBS/Frontline film-making crew, a journalist, have visited the building.

1. CSEB: The building is constructed using primarily CSEBs (Compressed Stabilized Earth Bricks). The CSEB’s were prepared by compressing raw soil (with stabilzers) in a manual press, and then curing for 4 weeks. The advantages are that the raw materials are locally available, limiting transportation/fuel; the brick produced is a strong and low maintenance product; and the production technology requires semi-skilled labor and is easily transportable and transferrable providing work opportunities for the community members. Additionally it is eco-friendly as the CSEBs are bio-degradable, and non-polluting (very little energy is consumed in its production).

2. Natural Ventilation and lighting: The high, mangalore terracotta tile roof over the Balwadi is similar to a gable roof, except that it is multi-level, i.e. split at the ridge, with a protected opening in between allowing indirect light and ventilation. Additionally numerous wall openings, and open gable ends at the roof, provide many inlets for cross ventilation and indirect light.

3. Fenestrations: The windows are secured with grills, and provided with metal insect screens. Window shutters are deliberately not being provided, the idea being to observe the rain pattern and then adjust as required. The dilapidated window in the Storage Room has been replaced by a terracotta ‘jaali’ or a screen, an economical and aesthetic way to facilitate ventilation and light in the building.

4. Toilets: A toilet for use by WSHG members and the balwadi teachers, has been provided off of the play court. Adjacent to it, another toilet, with low walls and a bamboo trellis above, has been provided for use by the balwadi children. The children’s toilets are being provided with the additonal intent of educating the children in the use of it and in personal hygene.

5. Outdoor meeting space: A large verandah was built using kadappa stones laid flat over compacted soil. Above it is a bamboo trellis with coir connections. An inexpensive, ecologically friendly structure, it provides a space that is soothing and comfortable, and can be used at all times except very wet weather.

6. The existing TV Room which was in a state of disrepair, has been renovated and will be used as a storage room. Renovating it allowed for extra usable space at a low cost. Additionally, since as it is the only plastered building on the site, it has been used as a canvas for murals.


Reported by Purnima McCutcheon, Architecture for Humanity