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Pitchandikulam Forest Eco Dormitory



The Pitchandikulam Forest Bio Resource Centre, situated within the 60 acres of Pitchandikulam Forest, showcases the ecosystems of the Coramandal coast with seed collections, an associated library, educational art exhibits, a plant nursery and 800 plant species in the adjoining forests. PBRC has created numerous programs where they work alongside with women self help groups, farmers, and children/students to study and restore ecosystems whether it be forest, wetland or farms. Sometimes groups of visitors to the Bio Resource center, particularly children, stay overnight, sleeping on mats in the Bio Resource Centre amongst the exhibits of local crafts and seed collections. Night safaris show the fascinations of nocturnal life in a Coramandel forest.

Volunteers also bring skills and other professional experience which enhance these activities. Realizing the need of better accommodation facilities and reasonably sized, all-weather meeting space for volunteers, visitors and local groups participating in programs, an “Ecodorm” was conceptualized.

The construction of the Ecodorm is now completed and the building is being utilized as planned - for accommodating visitors and volunteers, and for presentations, exhibitions, workshops etc.

CHALLENGES: Some of the challenges experienced on this project were shortage of funds, climate related delays, and delays due to unavailability of materials and labor.

Anita and Vinayagam were exceptional partners. Their knowledge of the context related building solutions, attention to details and commitment to creating a high quality project was invaluable. Anita was present on site daily, assessing the needs of the project, and was involved in selection and purchase of many materials.


The new Ecodorm building is a 2 storey high, "L-shaped building" with a courtyard between the 2 arms of the "L". Downstairs are:

1. Large dormitory which also will be used as classroom and a Meeting Room,

2. Two storage areas,

3. A kitchen

4. Bathroom facilities

Upstairs are 3 rooms that can be used interchangeably as dormitories, or as quarters for visiting volunteer or teacher rooms. A generous provision of verandas on both levels to allow for informal interactions among visitors, staff, students and educators.

The dormitory downstairs can be utilized as a meeting room, classroom, activity room and an exhibition room for visiting eco-club students, visiting women’s group, farmers, village leaders etc during the day, and as a dormitory at night. It can sleep up to 20 children on mattresses and mats.

The construction type is that of a concrete frame, with brick infill. The materials used include white broken ceramic tiles used to surface the roof and terraces (white in color to reflect heat), terracotta flooring in covered areas, wooden doors made from recycled timber, metal grills, louvered glass windows and insect aluminum screen meshes.

Drawings have been uploaded onto this site, however, please note that these are initial drawings. As the project evolved, we used quick, often on-site, sketches to communicate, and the drawings are in the process of being updated.


PRIMARY BENEFICIARIES: (As reported by Anita, Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville and Purnima, Architecture for Humanity)

Womens self-help groups -25 per group, ages 18-60, female, generally low income. Foresee 15 groups/year

Childrens/student groups - 15-20 per school group, ages 6-17, boys, girls, generally low income. Foresee 12 groups/year

Villagers, including farmers, traditional healers or "nattu vaidyas" 50 per year, generally low income

Staff meetings - 15, ages 18-60, 1/week, 40 weeks

Staff Training - (teacher groups) 6-10 people, 5/year

Volunteers -local and international, numbers: Generally ages 18-60, female and male, varied income brackets, mostly educated. Minimum 2 users per day

BUILDING REACH: Based upon above information: 1965/person/year (If a volunteer stays in the Ecodorm for 3 nights, it's been counted it as 3 persons, for simplification in forming comparisons.)

In the last 6 months:

(1) British male, volunteering with computer maintenance;

(1) Russian female geography graduate, teaching classes to village children.

(2) groups from Eco dorm funders - one, a study tour from QSA of 8 people for 2 weeks, and, second, from Ceres Environment Park in Melbourne - 6 people for 2 weeks

Additionally we have had several sleepovers of teachers from Naddukuppam, and students from Naddukuppam, each time about 10-15 people.

We have had weekly staff meetings of 10-15 staff, and several big planning meetings 15-30 people each time

Presently -

(1) Australian male, EWB GIS expert, coordinating a village GIS mapping project which wil link with village planning;

(2) teachers from Melbourne, working on environmetal education packages for Adyar Poonga Project and new Coastal Environment Center at Kadapakkam


Upstairs bedrooms+dorm: accommodates 8

Downstairs: Large Dorm: sleeps 15, accommodates up to 40 for meetings

Downstairs: Kitchen: accommodates up to 10 at a time

Outdoor courtyard and covered walkway: 40 people

Max. people that can use the premises at one time: 58 (98 including outdoor courtyard and covered walkway.


Schools, women's SHG's, villagers from the Kaliveli Bio region, as well volunteers from all over the world. PBRC has received enquiries from other groups within Auroville for using the premises for conducting workshops and seminars. PBRC may consider these, as a way to generate some funds towards the building costs.


Labor: 25. An additional 25 only for concreting.

Architecture for Humanity, and PBRC Staff: 5




Design innovations include the following:

Use of temporary mud plaster on shuttering/ formwork prior to pouring concrete. This allows for a better exterior finish of concrete so the concrete can remain permanently exposed, which in turn reduces cost.

Natural ventilation, open design (free flowing spaces, with as much natural light as is possible in a dense forest), with a entry courtyard, verandahs, indoor-outdoor spaces.

Eco toilets, with wastewater treatment tank with additional baffles designed to use with EM (Effective Microorganisms) for a more efficient breakdown of effluent. The treated water will be used safely for groundwater re-charge or gardening.

Solar panels placed on the flat roof terrace upstiars. The solar power charges batteries. The electricity is supplied from batteries through an inverter for 220V AC and and is used for running low energy use electrical fixtures, such as lights and computers, in the ecodorm and the neighboring buildings.

Brick jaalis (openings in brick walls) for increased ventilation at staircase, parapet walls, kitchen walls

Large sliding doors to have unobructed space. Allows for larger gathering of people when needed in the Main Hall downstairs.

OCCUPANT/CLIENT FEEDBACK: (as reported by Anita Truchanas, Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville)

Generally people are really happy using the building. They appreciate the airiness and light and spacious feel, and the outlook into the trees. There are enough terrace areas and balconies for quiet corners for different users.


All funding is from the following partners:

Quaker Service Australia

CERES Environment Center, Melbourne?

Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville


Approximately USD 44,000

Reported by Purnima McCutcheon, unless otherwise mentioned.


Pitchandikulam Forest
Auroville, Tamil Nadu


Project Details

NAME: Pitchandikulam Forest Eco Dormitory
PROJECT LEAD: Purnima McCutcheon, Architecture for Humanity
LOCATION: Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India
START DATE: September 11, 2006
CURRENT PHASE: Construction complete
COST: $44000 USD (Final)
SIZE: 290 sq. m
PROJECT TYPE: Community Center, Education Facility - Training Center
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: Vinayagam, Vinayagam Construction, Auroville
INTERN: Melanie Wong
DESIGN TEAM: Purnima McCutcheon, Anita Truchanas, Vinayagam, Melanie Wong,
PROJECT PARTNER: CERES Environment Center, Melbourne
, Quaker Service Australia