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By Aviral Sinha
Sacred Groves is a community in Auroville, India that aims to transform the toxic building processes employed in modern times. The project is an effort in an ecological development and a sustainable model of construction.
It is essentially an alternative housing solution for Auroville, which removes itself from the cement and concrete trap we call a house. It’s a completely off the grid housing system made with as many alternative materials as possible, ranging from construction debris to petrol hoses!
Protection of wetlands
The project reuses construction waste with adobe, in an attempt to lessen the burden on wetlands. Construction waste is the largest in terms of volume in our country, and this waste is currently dumped in wetlands. Wetlands hold the highest ecological diversity and are essential to river water ecosystems. However, with the current trend of dumping in wetlands, the oxygenation of river water is under direct threat. Wetlands are neglected by the government because they hold no economic value. They are unfit to be built on or farmed on, and thus have become dump-yards.
A sustainable life is not achieved only by using green building techniques and materials; social and economical sustainability are key points as well. Social sustainability is about equality and sharing, and equal livelihood for everybody. By using materials like lime instead of cement, it benefits local producers instead of supporting a few who control the cement industry. It provides residents with shared facilities, like laundries, workshops, co-worker hubs and so on. It promotes a better social life and stimulate sharing of knowledge and resources among the residents.
Materials like earth or lime have no expiry date; on the contrary, cement-based constructions have a limited lifetime. When well maintained, the lifetime of the constructions at Sacred Groves will outlast cement-based buildings. At Sacred Groves, all basic needs are provided within the community and as such avoid the usage of money. Reusing or recycling of waste adds an additional economic value to waste.
Life at Sacred Groves – Community Building
The project is open to everyone who aspires to work towards a more sustainable world. Sacred Groves makes it possible to live in affordable houses which are healthy for the environment and its inhabitants.
The work at Sacred Groves is majorly powered by volunteers and some hired labour from the neighbouring villages. Volunteers are required to stay on site and build the houses along with managing resources such as food water and electricity themselves! If one is short on a chair or even a cup, they just go ahead and build one!
The morning routine starts with the sacred circle where everybody has breakfast together while collecting their heads about the tasks and team for the day. Volunteers are divided in teams for different roles in the construction process.
Sacred Groves aims to become an alternative to conventional construction. It wants to become a place for those who believe that creating unity in diversity is more than just words. A place that can proudly show the world that there is a better way to build and to live together.
Aviral Sinha is a Delhi-based architect with a deep interest in sustainable urban design. He was involved in the Sacred Groves project over the course of 2013. He holds an M.Arch from Milan’s DOMUS Academy. More from him here