State-level roundtable cum conference on Climate Appropriate Self-Built Housing, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

Date: July 28, 2022

"The Habitat team of CSE in association with Piloo Mody College of Architecture (PMCA), organized a state level roundtable cum conference titled ‘Climate Appropriate Self-Built Housing’. The aim of the conference was to identify levers and strategies for reinventing local materials, guiding climate appropriate self-built housing and capacity building along its wider uptake and implementation in the state of Odisha. The conference involved a panel discussion and seminar in which experts from various domains such as policy, professional practice, academia, researchers, and journalists participated. 

CSE released its publication titled Reinventing local material, techniques and skills for sustainable self-built housing: Case study of Odisha and West Bengal’ along with other panelists Dr. Santosh K. Mishra, Dean, Architecture, Biju Patnaik University of Technology and Professor, PMCA along with Prof. S. B. Acharya, Faculty PMCA, Mr. ParthaSarathi Sahoo, Team leader of Odisha Urban Housing Mission, Dr. Geeta Vaidyanathan from CTxGREEN and faculty of Sri Sri University, and Ar. Bibhuti Mohapatra, Principal Architect, Studio Rupantar. 

The welcome speech was delivered by Ms Maitreyee Mishra, the academic head of (PMCA) and the event was inaugurated by the panellists. Ms Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director of CSE, in her keynote address introduced the findings of the publication which highlighted the relevance of climate appropriate development, the environmental connect, the livelihood connect and the larger gaps within the domain on aspects such as the loss of traditional construction technologies thermal comfort and material density.  Ms. Roychowdhury talked about the major challenges that arise out of housing in India - the fact that self-built housing is the biggest segment of formal housing in India, and yet has been unguided, unregulated and lacks any systemization. Mr Rajneesh Sareen, Programme Director of the ‘Sustainable Buildings and Habitat Programme’, elaborated the methodology and the entire process of the research, which involved expert interviews, literature study, field investigations through stakeholder surveys, photo documentation, mapping, and discussed the key strategies for a way forward, such as the gradual transition in the construction sector through the usage of hybrid technologies, educating on the , skill & capacity building of involved workers and respective policy levers of these which can help in guiding the self-built housing sector. 

Dr.Antarin Chakraborty from the Centre for Policy Research and State team lead of Jaga Mission, presented on 'Building Climate Resilience through Slum Upgrading'. He presented how Jaga mission provides a safety net for communities living in environmentally vulnerable regions and is one of the largest slum empowerment initiatives in the world focusing on in-situ land rights, slum upgrading, delisting of slums and organizing the dwellers into associations. He discussed how Jaga mission acted as an enabling agency which converged the beneficiary led construction vertical of PMAY with spatial analysis, bottom-up participatory processes, and technical assistance to contribute through a comprehensive ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for the ‘New Liveable habitat’ scheme of the government of Odisha, which prioritizes and safeguards the interest of slum dwellers. 

Mr. Partha Sarathi Sahoo from Odisha Urban Housing Mission also presented on 'Reconstruction after Cyclone Phailin and Fani' and discussed the learnings, best practices such as skilling of local masons on disaster resilient construction, challenges such as budget constraints, lack of skilled labour, aspirational conflicts of the beneficiaries as well as key strategies and interventions under the shelter schemes which used modern technologies for the structural systems such as a concrete foundation, raised plinth with protection, while using traditional technologies such as the four-way sloped roof which proved to be more disaster resilient. He discussed the potential of fusion technologies and prototype designs within this housing scheme and introduced the toolkit which the government had also adopted for making transit homes. 

Ms. Roychowdhury moderated the panel discussion which addressed key issues related to reinventing local materials, skill development, micro-macro integration in development and the gaps in administrative frameworks and hurdles for implementation of sustainable practices. 

Prof. B Mishra opened the discussion with key issues in the self-built housing sector such as tenure security, use of durable and locally available materials, lack of technical assistance, providing environmental equity and the potential within incremental housing designs, participation of women as well as empowerment for slum dwellers through housing schemes.   

Dr. Santosh K Misra brought up key points on how habitats should be redesigned to be more climate sensitive and disaster resilient considering the increase in extreme weather events and climate change.

Dr. Geeta Vaidyanathan pointed out the lack of comprehensive understanding of ground realities and the disconnect between fund allocation and the implementing bodies such as ULBs. She also pointed out the need for skilling in Odisha and the systemic gaps in acknowledging as well as certifying the skilled laborers in the state.   

Mr Parth Sarathi discussed his experience from reconstruction after the Phailin cyclone and how traditional row housing has been disaster resilient. He also addressed state-specific issues when it comes to implementation on ground and strategies to tackle them on a practical front.  Prof S B Acharya, discussed the end-user expectations and his experience in the implementation of housing schemes. Ar. Bibhuti Mohapatra, Principal Architect of Rupantar highlighted how the rural communities withstood the increase in extreme climatic events in rural Odisha and talked about the scope for innovation by learning and adopting techniques from these communities.  

The discussions pointed to apprehensions around the use of fusion technologies mainly because of a lack of technical validation of their durability and performance, certification and address in schedule of rates, etc. This has inclined the user towards a market comprising conventional building materials and technologies with little to no room for alternatives or experimentation. 

Mr Rajneesh Sareen, Programme Director of Sustainable Buildings and Habitat Programme at CSE concluded the discussion by bringing forward the need for research on traditional and fusion technologies along with their performance validations, certifications, recognition of these technologies by the state government by revising the academic & skilling curricula and rolling out capacity building for the masons on these technologies as the key next steps. Ms Roychowdhury closed the panel discussion by raising the need for appropriate policy and schemes that provide an ecosystem for such climate-appropriate and thermally comfortable housing solutions.