Students work with communities in India to protect homes from flooding

Architecture students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are helping to improve homes in one of the poorest parts of India, protecting residents from devastating floods.

Each year heavy rains in the Gujarat region force hundreds of people to leave home while their dwellings are flooded.

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But now working in collaboration with a local architect Anand Sonecha, DMU students have helped develop designs to modify homes in the Loving Community –  populated by more than 430 residents, of which, 40 are former leprosy sufferers. 

These designs are currently under construction and are aimed to be complete in time for this year’s monsoon season.

The community is served by Manav Sadhna, a local charity based at the Gandhi Ashram – former home to Mahatma Gandhi – and which built the Loving Community Centre and which provides free food, workshops and educational programmes for residents of the community.

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DMU works in partnership with Manav Sadhna and has carried out other work in India through collaboration with the charity.

The idea was originally conceived by DMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard, to be delivered through the university’s Square Mile India project, which carries out public good work throughout the country.

Professor Shellard was inspired to draw on the skills and experience of students and academics on the Architecture course during a visit to the Loving Community in January this year.

He said: “Because the community is situated in the bed of an old river, the monsoon waters in May and June rise up through the floor of their dwellings. This means the people living there have to move out and sleep on the floors of a community centre for several months.

“I felt that trying to provide a solution to enable the community to remain in their homes through the monsoon season was exactly the kind of project that DMU and Square Mile India should embrace.

“At DMU, we aim to utilise the skills and experience on our campus for the public good, both in our local community and across the world. This project shows the true mutual benefits of this commitment.”

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He then tasked Simon Bradbury, DMU’s Head of Architecture, to fly out to the community, near Ahmedabad, with several Architecture students, to assess the site.

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The team identified two properties as prototypes and developed a design to raise the home above flood level.

Work on these modifications has now begun, with contractors remodelling the foundation s of the two prototype homes, with the aim being that the properties are ready ahead of this year’s monsoon season, in June.

The cost of the works has been met by fundraising carried out by DMU students, staff and friends of the university, with activities being held on campus, including a sponsored abseil.

Mr Bradbury said the project was a powerful illustration of the social value of architecture.

He said: “This project offers students an opportunity to experience first-hand construction processes – which are difficult to replicate in the classroom - in a very different cultural context, working with significant resource challenges.

“This will provide them both with technical skills but also importantly an understanding of the social value of architecture.”

Over the coming months, the aim is for the project to expand, involving all of the year two students with the intention of designing and building a further two homes and designing and fundraising for the construction of up to eight additional homes by April 2019.

Posted on Wednesday 23rd May 2018

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