Construction to Combat Climate Change

by Auroville Language Laboratory
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Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change
Construction to Combat Climate Change

GLOBAL GIVING REPORT, OCTOBER 2021

The last three months have been an enormous challenge on the personal front. Tapas and I are being displaced from our home of 30 years to make way for a road in the Auroville Master Plan. We were allocated another house and welcomed by the community in which it is located, but there has been an appeal against this decision for procedural reasons, which has left us hanging in the air for the moment. We have been living through moments of really extreme stress, and this has naturally affected our work severely at all levels. 

Still, thanks to our marvelous team and very committed volunteers, and all the systems set up, the Tomatis programs continued, and the Language Lab as well, with all its classes and projects. 

Work on the building continued as well, thanks to Tapas’s indomitable commitment to the building and our great team of workers: Iyyanar, Selvam, Kathir, and Selvi!

Roof Maintenance Work: We bought two sets of casuarina scaffolding and movable coconut wood planks, and hired a very professional experienced team to put it up in our main courtyard.  We also purchased harnesses to ensure the safety of our team! The work has been on in full steam on the battens and purlins.  The wood is being sanded and treated with a mix of linseed oil and turpentine, and the metal is being sanded, painted with primer and Low-VOC paint.  This will give an additional lease of life to the roof.

Roof Repair Work: Even though our building is extremely well-built and solid, one of our biggest pain points has been our second-floor roof, which was done by a different contractor and has developed leaks. Even though the vermiculite insulation layer on top of the roof slab was covered by a screed layer of cement, this developed cracks (exposed as it is to direct sun over 42 degrees Celsius) and the vermiculite started absorbing rainwater, creating leaks in certain areas.  Not that it is any consolation, but we found out that several places in Auroville are suffering from the same problem. The repair work is going on in sections.  

We are experimenting with a sustainable way to heal cracks in concrete: Probiotics!  We are using the Probacillus powder from our friends Margarita and Guidelma of Probiotics House.  After years of research and experimentation, Margarita has been able to isolate this strain and impregnate it into ceramic powder.  There has been a lot of work on using probiotics for construction in Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines, and most recently in Holland.  Our building is, of course, a probiotics building.  Tapas has been getting the workers to make boxes/layers with slope to cover the weak areas with a mix of our lime, kaddukai nut, liquid probiotics mix into which the probacillus powder is added.  The idea is that if water reaches the bacillus, it immediately activates, and the chemical reaction creates lime, which fills the cracks or spaces in the concrete, preventing water from intruding.  Thanks to Iyyanar, combined with the advice of a visiting engineer, we also cut through the vermiculite in small channels, to let the water seep out and removed the excess water, before filling the channels with a concrete and waterproof compound mix.  Altogether, all of this seems to have given good results, and the leak in the north-western part of the courtyard has stopped!!!  In spite of the huge recent rains induced by cyclonic storms in the Bay of Bengal!  This is laborious and painstaking work, but holds great promise, not just for our roof, but also we can share the knowledge with others in Auroville and around the world.  A great thing about this Probacillus powder is that it is not expensive at all, and only a small amount of it is necessary to cover a large area.

More information about the use of probiotics in healing concrete:-  

 We will also be covering the northern section and the north-western section with a lightweight second roof. The materials have been bought for this last week.

Other News
Besides the roof work, we have set up a beautiful new project management room equipped with shelves, pinboards, and a brand new laptop for our volunteers. And we have new whiteboards for all the classrooms. New cupboards were made as well so that each language has a dedicated space for its books—our library is now on its way to getting much more organized and easy to browse through. We are currently in the process of cataloging the books and digitizing the directory.  

We are lucky to have a stellar volunteer, Vismai, who is working with Mano, our all-rounder technical whiz, on our new website, which is coming along really nicely.  Vismai and I are also working on the final editing of Resonanz, a fantastic book by our German friends, Franz and Dirk, on the Alfred Tomatis Method and the Listening Therapy; which we hope to bring out in February.  The Language Lab itself will publish the book!  The Lab is growing, with more students and teachers, thanks to dedicated efforts by some great volunteers, Enzo and Devna, who manage the front desk and all the admin work involved. A Japanese class has just started, which brings back Japanese to our offerings after many years.  With one of our English teachers, Miko, away in the US for a while, Rupam has been holding the fort teaching English and Hindi along with another volunteer, Vatsla, who has additionally been working on translating all our recent films, and an excellent film on Auroville afforestation into Hindi. 

Another wonderful volunteer, Karan, who is with us half-time, is working on our Network Documentation and Optimization, besides working towards our BREEAM-in-use certification, a project proposed by Tom Abbott, whom I mentioned in the last report.  Still another volunteer, Ramesh, a data miner, internet fiend, and excel whiz, has been preparing a huge database, which we will use for our upcoming Giving Tuesday Campaign coming up on GlobalGiving on November 30th.

As for Tomatis, another volunteer, Veronica, has done an excellent job on updating the Tomatis Active materials for both British and American English, bringing in themes for the work with sibilants. She is also now working on cataloging and evaluating all that we have developed over the years for Indian Languages.  And even though our housing situation has been de-stabilizing and extremely draining, leaving me little energy for new consultations, thanks to the steady and dedicated work by the Tomatis staff - Raj, Kushboo, Jayanthi, and Pascal - we’ve had some marvelous results for children and adults doing the Tomatis program. We are so lucky to be able to assist in miracles! You can read one of these stories here :

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/aurovillelanguagelab_audiopsychophonology-audiopsychology-alfredtomatis-activity-6850158225367683072-nHg4

None of this work, especially on the building, could happen without your donations and support.  Our deepest thanks to all of you for participating and enabling it to happen.

(PS : Photos will follow).

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Great news : Tapas is fine now!  I had downplayed the fact that she couldn't eat in the last report.. it was actually very scary to see her deteriorate in front of one's eyes... she lost 22 kilos!  Until I found a fantastic homeopathic remedy that helped her to start eating again.  We take something like eating so completely for granted!  When that is challenged, life itself becomes a question mark!  OOOOF! I am SO glad that awfully challenging period is over!  No more tremors, balance is fine, and we are taking long walks together every single day, without fail, in the Auroville forest.  She also walks in the early morning.

And, she and I have started discussing all the minute aspects of the building all over again!  With Tapas becoming well, finishing our building becomes a possibility again!  I have already mentioned that she is the heart and soul of it.

And in other news :-

  • Work on the Building Documentation and Knowledge Share started again.  It will also have two expert interviews : On Probiotics in Construction, and on Lime, Passive Cooling, and the difference between "Sustainable" and "Green".
  • We made a film on our building.  Please do have a look!  27 minutes and it covers many different things that make this building special and why it is an example of construction to combat climate change.  Please click on the video title (rather than the video preview window) to make it play : https://www.linkedin.com/posts/aurovillelanguagelab_auroville-language-laboratory-sustainable-activity-6789489311386615808-wxwl
  • Incidentally, my post on this in LinkedIn has received 2941 views!  It has been a wonderful opportunity to connect with people from around the world and spread the message of sustainable building. In case you haven't seen the film, please go ahead and do so, and help us get over the magic 3000 views!  Please share this link widely!
  • Actually, we did that film for Climate Action Week here on GlobalGiving, and a BIG HUGE THANKS to all of you who contributed!  You know who you are, and you know we hold you in our hearts!  We collected Rs.1,73,000/- that is, 2368$ out of which $1450 were donated by 13 donors, and we got $918 in matching from GG!
  • We have also applied to be part of GlobalGiving's "Climate Action Fund".  If selected, we will get $10,000 per year for 3 years.  Our fingers and toes are crossed! (Please do the same!)
  • We bought more old second-hand wood and Iyyanar, the carpenter, has prepared several cupboards for spaces upstairs and downstairs.  Now we have two cupboards in the Special Needs Kids room, one in the Tomatis Waiting room for the children's books, one in the children's control room plus tables, and two for the English library books in the large room downstairs.
  • We have also bought scaffolding to access our very high courtyard roof to clean it.
  • Thanks to your donations and the fact that we managed to buy the old wood earlier, meant that the work on the cupboards could continue during the Second Wave of Covid lockdown. (Construction work thankfully was and is still allowed).
  • Unfortunately, we didn't manage to finish the NZEB application but an amazing thing happened :
  • On Linkedin, we met Tom Abbott from a UK company called Green Easy which is a sustainable construction company.  Tom not only donated to our project here on GG, but actually has started fundraising for us by opening a fundraiser linked to our page on GG.  He also proposed to do a "Breeam-in-use" assessment of our building, with the idea that we could get a Breeam Outstanding award.  He has even offered to pay the costs of Certification!  BREEAM is a very robust academic certification for sustainable buildings. 
  • And just today, Tom organised a meeting with the head of Breeam, Dr. Shamir Ghumra, as well as friends of ours who are senior sustainability consultants from the UK and Germany.
    - You can find out more about Breeam here https://www.breeam.com/
    - Here is a link to Tom's post about the meeting, where you can see some of the attendees.https://www.linkedin.com/posts/twabbott_project-architecture-construction-activity-6809042961238638592-_iys
  • Our friends, Andreas Von Zadow (from Germany), Clare San Martin and Fred London (from JTP, London) supported us in this meeting making very relevant comments about the special features of our building like the fact that it is built in lime, and that our cooling system (which needs finishing) is very important as a low-tech system which does NOT use water, as opposed to high-tech inventions which are high-maintenance and costly. And that our building is a very important pilot project which needs to be completed.
  • Tom requested that the certification charges be waived and the Breeam team said they would consider it and get back to us!

And finally, we have some absolutely FABULOUS volunteers working on different projects, and it is so heartening to see such committed young people with such amazing skills, contributing wholeheartedly to the project.  More on their work in the next report!

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Dear friends,

This is the first report of 2021.

Life has been crazy the last few months.  It was already crazy since June (when I had my hysterectomy and then had an inflammation that delayed recovery) and then August (when I had a scooter accident, which took forever to recover from - in fact I still haven't fully recovered).  But it got even crazier in November, and we are still reeling with the effects of that till today.

On 04th November 2020, Tapas had a brain hemorrhage due to a ruptured aneurysm. Except, we didn't know that. She was suffering the worst headache she had ever experienced, and we tried several things to ease the pain, none of which worked.  Finally, a doctor from Sante Clinic of Auroville came home, did a few tests, and diagnosed her with a "Sub-Arachnoid Hemorrhage" (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/subarachnoid-haemorrhage/) and said she needed to be in the hospital.  She'd had this "brain bleed" for 5 days before we got to the hospital and started treatment.  We were in a government hospital in Pondicherry where they did a scan that revealed an aneurysm. They said it was very serious, that she could die at any moment, and that she'd have to be operated upon - but that the operation could be life-threatening or could leave her paralyzed on the left side of the body because the aneurysm was in a very delicate and hard to reach place.  They also said that all ICU rooms had been given for Covid, and for the same reason, they could not guarantee an operation date in the immediate future.  They also said that there was a much less risky but much more expensive treatment option available in Chennai.  So we ended up taking her there on Divali day, thanks to a friend of her daughter's who is a doctor.  There a repeat angiogram found a second aneurysm, and we managed to get a double endovascular procedure done the very next day. It was successful and her life was saved!  She spent a night in the Neuro ICU and then was brought to the room.  

I must share something really incredible.  She was in deep sleep, and observing her, it was as though she was working to integrate these two new devices in her brain. Suddenly, she woke up, saying "Il faut faire le platforme!, Il faut faire le platforme!"  "We have to make the platform! We have to make the platform!" and went promptly back to sleep.  The "platform" is the one that is to connect the building to the south-west tower once we finish the towers! 

In the middle of these life-threatening adventures, it was the building that was in her consciousness!!!

Once we got back home from Chennai, in her first walk, she walked to the building and spoke with the carpenter, about the work she was doing with him before all this happened - the cupboards in the special needs room.  She asked about the stools that had been ordered in end-October!

That she has recovered with all her senses, sense, memory, speech, etc intact, after 5 days of a hemorrhage and two devices installed in her brain, is nothing but miraculous.  That the first thing she thought about, and the first thing she did, was to go to the building, just goes to show how she is connected with that building's Soul!

Entering the building after this utterly intense experience, one felt a beautiful sense of calm and wide peace.  One could sense how special it is. How nurturing and life-giving.  And that possibly, her life was saved, to allow us to finish the building, to bring it to completion.....

Of course, her recovery is paramount.  She still has tremors in all four limbs, and her balance is somewhat affected, but she is such a champion, she is walking every single day, twice a day, for almost an hour at a time. We walk together.  Nausea possibly from the medicines has made it tough for her to eat, and we are trying to overcome that.  Nights aren't smooth and easy either.  I too am exhausted, and my entire body feels like one big ache.  However, I have started osteopathic treatment.  The osteopath told me my entire body is a mess, but she has started working on it already.  

In spite of the lack of our presence, (though of course phone support from me for the Tomatis programs), work continued. Classes continued, people continued their Tomatis programs, work on the building continued thanks to Iyyanar, Selvam, Kathir and Selvi.  The team - Raj, Mano, Ranjini and Jayanthi -  held strong and up, and many people didn't even realise Tapas and I weren't there.  What can I say, our team members are rockstars!

Naturally, this medical crisis has caused a delay on several fronts, especially on the building documentation and knowledge-share project.  We had made great progress on that in October.  I hope to re-start work on that soon and will have news for you in March.

One good news is that our building is being considered for inclusion on the website of the Net Zero Energy Buildings initiative in India. https://nzeb.in/case-studies/

Other work on the building happened too :

- Lime and Kaddukai Nut paint for the external walls which had suffered some fungal growth in the rains.  Selvam and Kathir have become pros at this.  Absolutely no chemicals and no fevicol.  It looks fabulous.

- The parking and workshop roofs were finished to protect from the rain.

- New tables to re-arrange the Tomatis office and new cupboards.

- New lights 

Meanwhile, the place is humming with activity both in Tomatis and in the Lab, while following Covid guidelines.  Classes in English, Tamil, Hindi, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and as of yesterday, Sanskrit.  Lots of wonderful progress for the Tomatis kids, and several adults as well.  We're getting more and more kids from around India, all through word of mouth. We also have a wonderful volunteer who is working on redoing our website, and new teachers in the team.

So, you see, we are down, but absolutely not out!

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Hello friends,

My computer went Kaput for a bit this afternoon.  And I had to leave it for a backup on our servers at the Lab, so I could not bring it home to work on the report. Doing this on the iPhone!

In brief, the carpenter has been intermittently in and out as he is working on his own house at the moment.  But Tapas got him to make beautiful cupboards.  We lack storage space so this fulfils an important need. We’ve also just set up the Tomatis waiting room. S, a friend and volunteer (and donor!) did a fab job of arranging the books!  Pics to follow!

The most important thing is that, thanks to those of you who replied to our last mail, and gave permission, we could use the building monies to help pay the salaries of the staff and workers for September.  With Covid, we are open in a small way and the income wasn’t enough.  So a very big thank you to all of you. You saved the project!

We wrote to the Covid Task Force of Auroville saying we would open with several precautions in place, to avoid ruin and closure.  They gave permission and added some more precautions, which were useful suggestions. So we are open.

I am not sure if I have reported about my accident.  Or my operation.  I have had health issues since early June.  Still not fully ok, still limping, but able to walk again and slowly regaining strength and energy again!

Meanwhile, we were able to give the parking and workshop proper roofs to protect from the rain. 

A lot of work is happening on documenting the building and its special features.  Will share more about that soon. 

Warm regards to all and a HUGE Thank you for ensuring the young team and the workers got their salaries this past month.  We are all really grateful to you.

Best,
Mita


--
Om Namo Bhagavate!
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Nila 1 - Upstairs with the new grills
Nila 1 - Upstairs with the new grills

These days, there is a new measurement of time here : Before Lockdown and After Lockdown.


The Covid-19 lockdown was extremely severe here in Auroville and nearby Pondicherry. Everybody had to stay home and the border between Auroville and Pondicherry was closed from one morning to the afternoon. Since we are dependent on Pondicherry for many things including construction items, this affected us.

One thing we did manage to do was to buy the glass for the inlet shafts downstairs on the West side. They were delivered the Friday before Pondicherry went into lockdown. Something told us to rush and get that glass. Thank heavens we listened to that little voice!

Unfortunately, we missed the chance of buying the super adhesive needed to join wood to glass. We managed to buy a sample along with the glass, and tested it, and it was perfect. But then, we needed to buy five more. We were meant to go pick them up Monday morning. Our carpenter reached there Monday afternoon, and the shop was closed and didn't reopen until last week!

But blessings were there too. Our carpenter came nearly every single day for a half-day during the lockdown and his presence was a security for the building. And he was able to fit the glass for the inlet shafts. The reapers were fixed partially, as you can see from the pictures.

It was all very discrete with all measures of Covid security including frequent handwashing, masks, sanitiser, were in place.

There has not been a single case of Covid in either Auroville or any of its immediate villages. We kept close tabs the whole time. It was even reported in the media.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/no-covid-19-cases-so-far-in-auroville/article31187845.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/remaining-covid-free-the-auroville-way/article31627028.ece

From March 16, we've been officially closed. No students, no Tomatis until very recently when we opened up in a tiny, very measured way. All the workers (with the exception of the carpenter) and majority of the staff stayed home for almost two months. A skeletal staff kept the Lab building secure day and night.

When it seemed like we could, within measure, start some work again, we managed to do the grill work upstairs for Nilavan. If you follow our GlobalGiving Women's project reports, you will remember reading that Kushboo went on extended maternity leave of a full year. Well, she started back in February, and we allowed her to bring her child with her to work, since she had no other choice and no one to look after the child in the day. Thus Nilavan or Nila for short, joined our team as its littlest member. He keeps us smiling and laughing and is a huge element of joy. He and Foxy have a thing going. Well, since he started walking, we realised that the railings of the first-floor corridor were too far apart for him. It was dangerous because there was a chance that he could fit through and possibly fall! We hadn't planned on such a small child being a regular user of the building! Anyhow, we realised we needed to do something pronto. So we gave the order for more grillwork to fill in the in-between spaces. But, Covid lockdown! Getting the metal rods was next to impossible! Towards the end of May, after the first easing of lockdown restrictions, our welder managed to procure those and work started. We're happy to say, it is all finished and it is 100% secure now - not just for Nila, but for any other smaller child who might come to us. The painting work is over too.

One more thing we managed in the lockdown was the purchase and commissioning of a professional floor cleaner and polisher for our stone and cement floors. This too happened after the first partial easing of the lockdown restrictions. It got delivered but could not be commissioned because the Service Engineer from the company who was responsible for Pondicherry had returned to his "native place" - ancestral village - and all bus transport had been stopped. (This still is the case). Finally, the company managed to send us another Service Engineer who taught 3 of our staff how to use it. It was a huge decision > to make an investment at the height of Covid. But this thing is incredible, wow, what a fantastic cleaning and polishing job it does, and will last us for 10 years at least!!!

Another thing we are extremely proud of is the fact that we could pay our entire staff their salaries for March, April and May, without any cuts. Tapas and I don't take any salaries of course, but the salaries of the entire team - workers and staff all together - does come to a tidy sum per month. It is a matter of great pride for us that we were able to make these payments.  For a non-commercial, service unit of Auroville that is trying to be self-sufficient, this was a real achievement.

Of course, throughout the lockdown, our thoughts went to the Tomatis kids. We wrote to the parents to find out how they were doing, and were really happy to hear the vast majority had managed to survive the special conditions of the lockdown without too much of a problem.

For the Women's project, we couldn't do much, and the volunteer who was working specifically for that project, had to stop since the Lab was closed.  She volunteered at another Auroville project making masks.

When we started working again after the easing of some lockdown restrictions, while the Lab was fully closed to the public, we went through a wonderful experience together: we did this HUGE cleaning and sanitization of the entire Lab, upstairs and downstairs. Every single piece of furniture, every book, every computer, every stand-alone item was cleaned and sanitised using a probiotic cleaner and sanitizer. Volunteers came and helped us too (bless them!). It was needed, and a wonderful thing to do, and to do it all together was special. (Photos of that will follow).

So we are still in this hanging, in-between stage. We are still officially closed to the public, so the Lab and its classes are not open at all. The Tomatis children can't come back until lockdown is officially removed, and then, there will be many restrictions including 14-days of quarantine for those coming from other states, etc. The workers can work again, so we are doing many things to prepare for when we will be allowed to be fully open to the public.

So in brief, yes, the lockdown severely affected our projects.

But for the building, what we managed to do included :
- fixing the glass and some reapers for the air inlet shafts on the Ground Floor - West side,
- fixing safety grills upstairs
- cleaning and polishing the floors downstairs
- the Covid sanitization.
- The Transsolar data collection (which is still being collected and sent monthly to Germany to Transsolar)
- increasing our LinkedIn connections with people, experts involved in sustainability in the hope that we can get the message out about how unique this building is, with its system of cooling without Air-Conditioning.
- recalculating our building load and consumption including future consumption to see how many solar panels we will need to be energy-positive. We're also going to redo our Electrical Consumption paper.

 

Finally, we are happy to report that the building still stays cool inside, with a substantial difference felt as soon as one goes out of it or comes into it from the outside. This, without the cooling system being finished! What will it be like, with all the towers and shafts finished one day? It is an exciting thought!

Nila
Nila
Nila - Our Littlest Team Member
Nila - Our Littlest Team Member
Kadhir and Selvam with the Floor Polishing Machine
Kadhir and Selvam with the Floor Polishing Machine
Air Inlet Shaft Almost Completed
Air Inlet Shaft Almost Completed
Air Inlet Shafts Still Incomplete
Air Inlet Shafts Still Incomplete
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Organization Information

Auroville Language Laboratory

Location: Auroville, Tamil Nadu - India
Website:
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Project Leader:
Mita Radhakrishnan
Auroville, Tamil Nadu India
$9,608 raised of $70,000 goal
 
105 donations
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