| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Habitat Alliance approach to housing which began as a modest innovation in housing has, within a short span, been able to make perceptible impact in the housing sector. This has been made possible through the progressive expansion of the activities of the networking centres. The spectrum of Habitat Alliance activities range from direct construction of houses for the clients and production of cost-effective building components to publication and academic service in this field.
At the micro and macro levels of Habitat Alliance constructions a holistic approach to habitat management is evident. The dependence, to the extent possible, on locally available materials and technology itself ensures environment – friendly dwellings. Laterite, which is a gift of nature and present abundantly in most of the housing plots is extensively used in Building Construction Centres (BCC). Rubble filler blocks, soil stabilized blocks concrete hollow blocks and funicular shells are some of the several innovations the BCCs have popularized, to ensure environmental protection, thermal comfort and cost- effectiveness. It has been accepted that developmental work often leads to environmental consequences, normally with a negative fall out. The Building Construction Centre has been trying to evolve development strategies in housing that minimize the amount of negative environmental consequences.
For material production, Habitat Alliance now depends extensively on solar heat to get mud-blocks stabilized, thereby preventing the cutting down of trees for fuel and environmental pollution from smoke. HA reduces the quantity of cement and steel. In the place of the traditional 4" thick roofing slab, the BCCs have introduced the 1" thick slab which not only saves money on the roof, but by reducing the weight on the walls and foundation, helps reduce cost in those areas as well. In funicular shells, the very shape itself ensures reduced use of materials, increased strength and thermal comfort. Utilizing the technology for treating softwoods to make them more sturdy while the use of, woods such as rubber and coconut reduce the cutting down of forest. The main features of these materials including their durability and cost effectiveness, vis-a-vis, that of conventional materials, are discussed below.
To reduce the cost on roof the two main innovative roofing systems that are popularized by the Habitat Alliances are the filler slab system and the pre-cast roofing.
Pre-cast RCC door and window frames are produced in most of the BCC in Kerala. They are perfect substitutes for costly wooden frames.
Through up-gradation of local skills, and new techniques developed at the BCC, cutting and polishing of laterite have become easier than before. Substitutes for timber like ferro-cement rafters, ridges, joints etc., as also door and window frames in ferro-cement and concrete are manufactured and distributed.
The government's decision to entrust the construction of village offices to the BCC has given a fillip to their activities. Construction of public buildings by the Centres has a good demonstration effect in that it removes, to some extent, the misconception of people that the low-cost buildings imply low quality and are meant for the poor people.
Constructions for the weaker sections is undertaken in remote tribal areas, fishermen's colonies, and in localities where workers in the traditional industries of coir and cashew reside. The constructions are undertaken with the active participation of the people living in those areas.
The Consultancy and Guidance cells of the Building Construction Centres show the ways of effecting savings in public investment.
Habitat Alliance has already started work on developing Eco-Villages which will demonstrate how human life is possible in perfect harmony with environment. In these villages, cultivation will be done using organic manure avoiding pesticides and chemicals, construction will employ locally available cost-effective materials and energy requirements will be met from alternative energy sources.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The major stakeholder of the Habitat Alliance are the NGOs who have net – worked to it. However, Structural Engineering Research Centre of the Govt. Of India offered to send their trainers to demonstrate low cost technology and train the engineers, masons, architects, carpenters and artisans. Technology transfer which started in 1985 has later on triggered off a movement for affordable housing through transfer of appropriate technology, the world over.
Institutions in the country, such as the Housing and Urban Development Cooperative (HUDCO) and the Regional Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), and the Regional Research Laboratories were also gradually drawn in. The masons, carpenters, engineers and architects collectively learnt the art of constructing houses using alternate technology and locally available building materials are the functional stakeholders of the movement.
The institutional stakeholders include GNN, Institute of Habitat Education, SPP Architects and Designs, Centre for Technology and Development, Orion Projects, Prakriti Green Concepts, RD Constructions etc. Besides, State Government, District Administration, Housing organizations, educational institutions, NGO/CBOs, Construction Workers Cooperatives and Private Entrepreneurs joined the initiative as stakeholders. The end users or the beneficiaries are the perennial stakeholders of the movement.
Habitat Alliance also provides affordable housing concepts to other countries. Some of the stakeholders have formed the following partnerships with Habitat Alliance through African Alignment, Window to Egypt, voyage to South Africa, Algerian corridor, road from Istanbul, passage to Africa, Norway connect, Bridge to Nigeria, Nepal pass, silk route to Ukraine, Gulf Stream, Swedish Gateway.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
While considering the important resources required for building construction activity like money, materials, man power and machinery, it may be noted that one of the critical areas where least attention has been paid over the years is manpower development. This gap is evident with respect to different trade groups of the building process such as the masons, carpenters barbenders, welders, plumbers, electricians, concrete workers and so forth. In most cases, they have acquired skills over a period of time through a net-work of informal and personal apprenticeship.
In a situation where the demand is more than the supply, the unskilled and semi skilled construction work force take up the role of the skilled workers, though not with the right level of proficiency. Construction work force is not tuned for application of most of the cost-effective technology options. There is scarcity of adequate number of trained personnel for various trades of construction.
In view of the increasing complexity of construction technology, the training programme of the Habitat Alliances has included all trades related to housing in the skill improvement programmes.
Although the main technology package in housing disseminated by the Habitat Alliances is an amalgam of elements received from various research institutions such as the Central Building Research Institute, National Building Organization, Structural Engineering Research Centre and Engineering Colleges, Habitat Alliance also undertakes research and development activities of its own.
Financial recourses of the organization are raised through:
Membership fee, sponsorships and contribution from the network partners, grant and other contribution from the Government and Non Governmental agencies, construction fee, proceeds from conference, seminars, social dialogues and colloquia and exhibitions, sale of publications, fee for transfer of technology and proceeds from consultancy in habitat management, environment management, water conservation etc;
After the Govt. of India took it up as a national project in 1998 additional financial resources came in the following manner. Resources were made available from different sources like Govt of India grant assistance for establishing initial infrastructure development and training facilities through its budgetary support, annually, totaling about Rs 236 million. In addition Govt of India's training fund of over Rs182 million under NRY was released.
BMTPC has made available significant resources for procurement of machinaries and equipment’s for upgrading the capacity of the Habitat Alliances. In addition, the State Govt Educational Institutions/ NGOs/ CBOs provides land forthe Habitat Alliances besides funds under various training programme.
Technical resource by way of research and development, provision of appropriate technology for house construction, water and wastewater management, production of building materials and carbon sequestration come from our institutional partners such as the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, Indian Institute of Technology, Government of Indian agencies such as the Building Material Technology Promotion Council, and the Council For Scientific and Industrial Research and national institutions in the countries of the network partners.
Personnel required for the activities of HA come from the members of its network partners, from the beneficiaries and members of the Women Assembly and Youth Assembly which mobilize women and youth power for HA activities. Students from the academic institutions also provide adequate human resource back up for HA.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Movement provided an effective mechanism of selecting and transferring appropriate technology from R&D institutions in the country to the ultimate user.
Tangible output was also brought about through manufacturing and marketing cost effective building materials and components to the user.
Habitat Alliance’s ability to perceive and plan for human re- sources developmental needs of the housing sector was another important output contributing to project sustainability. Training programmes in different skills (masonry, carpentry), related to CEEF technology, for different target groups (women, handicapped, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes etc.) and educational programmes (Masters and Diplomas in Habitat Technology) organized as an integral part of the project facilitated these tasks.
Other tangible outputs are:
1. 30% reduction in construction cost
2. From 14 BCCs in Kerala(1988) to about 500 BCCs in India.
3. Training-over 15000 youth, including 200 mentally retarded youths in CEEF technology.
4. Education – hundreds of Engineers and Architects & thousands of diploma engineers completed MS & Diploma in Habitat Technology and other academic courses respectively. More than 500 professionals trained in specialised areas of Habitat Management.
At the local level HA has established its social relevance and overcome the initial resistance by holding social dialogues among the stakeholders and stepping in to provide tangible help during disasters.
HA has also roped in cultural leaders to bring about cultural change in society in favor of affordable housing.
The impact of Habitat Alliances have been measured quantitatively and qualitatively by Govt. of India, HUDCO and Management Institutions.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Habitat Alliance (HA), being a networking organization of autonomous institutions mostly in the non – governmental sector, did not embark on a hierarchical and centralized monitoring system. However, a system of monitoring evolved at the grass root level, regional level, state level and finally at the national level. The rural centres at the grass root level reports to the regional centres. the regional centres monitor the activities and sends feed back and problem solving advisories. The regional centres report to the state centre which monitors the activities at the macro level. The national monitoring cell managed by Prakriti Green Concepts concerns itself with monitoring of larger issues regarding the adaptation, application and quality aspects of technology transfer and project implementation.
To streamline the monitoring mechanism and make it more systematic and measurable a six phase monitoring protocol has been put in place. They are as:
Standard Setting and Capacity Building Phase – Norms and standards are
prescribed and capacity to
comply is built.
Information Collection Phase – Information on implementation processes and
impact is gathered and reported upon
Reporting Phase - Compliance to regulatory framework is measured and
learning by doing leads to best practice promotion
and collaborative problem solving
Follow up Phase - Interventions are designed and implemented and
evidence based decision making supports policy adjustments
Results Achieved - Transparency and accountability is improved and service
delivery is improved
Objectives Attained - Improved governance and enhanced service effectiveness
The crux of the monitoring system in Habitat Alliance rests on the people’s committees formed at various levels. The committee system operate through rural centres, neighborhood groups (Ayalkoottams), local resources persons, development simities and task forces drawn from the experts and volunteers within the local area. These are made up mostly of retired professionals like engineers, architects, academicians, managers, civil servants etc. who volunteer their services for the cause of affordable housing and sustainable human settlements.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
There has been serious resistance to change from the part of engineers and architects whose preferred line is the conventional materials and methods of construction. Innovations and techniques propagated at the Habitat Alliance are yet to find a place in the Code of the Public Works Department. There is also some concealed resistance from suppliers of conventional building materials also.
The obstacles faced by Habitat Alliances in the formative years were
The reluctance of the house builders to use cost-effective and environment friendly technologies
Lack of field level delivery system to transfer technology from 'lab to land'
Inadequate financial support for transfer of technology, organization of training programme and skill upgradation
Non existence of legislative and policy support for CEEF and low-cost technology vis-à-vis high cost conventional technology
Lack of institutional mechanism to provide back-up services for affordable housing under a single window
Gross inadequacy of an effective network of NGOs in the less developed countries to convey the lessons learned in CEEF housing from country to country
There was a misconception that low cost means low quality or low cost technology is poor man’s technology. HA’s credibility came to be established when it began to add in its track record public buildings, ranging from village offices, schools, hospitals, anti-disaster shelters, government servants’ quarters, industrial estates, shopping complexes, auditoria, indoor stadia, working women’s hostels, T.V. relay stations, tourist resorts and residential houses for high, middle as well as low income groups and economically weaker sections, with a saving of up to 30 per cent in costs.
To overcome the obstacle paused by lack of awareness Habitat Alliance spread its message through audio-visual programmes, seminars, interactive sessions with villagers and circulation of literature (pamphlets, brochures, and others) in the mother tongue in cost effective technology. All construction works undertaken by the HA were completed at below the conventional cost. The construction culture popularised by BCC gained the confidence of people.