A community in one of the poorest parts of India is set to benefit from dozens of new homes – thanks to a partnership between independent property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Pick Everard and De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
The ‘Loving Community’ is populated by more than 430 residents, 40 of which are former leprosy sufferers. They settled together on the outskirts of Ahmedabad over four decades ago through rejection from their native villages and fear of endangering the healthy population.
DMU’s Square Mile India project – in partnership with Leicester-based business Pick Everard – has been working to provide 50 homes for the community through fundraising and staff and student participation. DMU alumni and architectural assistant at Pick Everard, Nish Tailor, has been helping to project manage the life-changing scheme.
Nish, who visited India in January to coincide with construction work starting on the community’s fourth house, said: “Being involved in this project, which is a powerful illustration of the social value of architecture, is truly an honour.
“An architect’s job is to design buildings and create the physical environment in which people live. But the most successful architecture goes beyond building four walls – it changes people’s lives, and this project reflects that.
“The ‘Loving Community’ residents had to fend for themselves after being outcast by society more than 40 years ago. Despite no longer being contagious due to the disease being treated, the stigma surrounding leprosy is so strong that they are still not welcome in their native villages.”
Due to poor infrastructure and local topography, the community is prone to flooding during the summer monsoons and many people have to leave their homes as they become uninhabitable.
Since February 2018, DMU’s school of architecture has been working in collaboration with architect Anand Sonecha to develop designs to raise the homes above flood level. Construction began in early April 2018, with the cost of the works being met by fundraising.
Each house costs approximately £5,000 and these designs include the potential to be enhanced further when funding is available to families.
Mark Charlton, associate head of public engagement at DMU, said: “Working with the ‘Loving Community’ has not only been transformational for the families involved but also our architecture students.
“Being able to work on a project like this and see the immediate benefit to the people who live there has been inspirational and we are grateful to our partners Pick Everard for their support on this incredible project.
“The homes are funded through support from Pick Everard and contributions from DMU staff and students, as well as the local community in Leicester and we are thrilled with the positive impact that this collaboration has brought to the ‘Loving Community’.”
Paul Rothera, national director at Pick Everard, added: “We have developed a great working relationship with DMU and it has been fantastic to partner with the university on such a rewarding scheme that will benefit hundreds of residents and future generations.”
Steve Cummings, director at Pick Everard, added: “As well as working with DMU on the Square Mile India project, Pick Everard has also provided a number of architectural assistants. This has enabled the university to create a new four-year part-time level 6 and 7 apprenticeship course for RIBA Part II and Part III professional qualifications, and mentor up to six students each year in support of DMU’s RIBA Part I mentor programme.
“We also have a fantastic graduate scheme here at Pick Everard, which enables young aspiring architects to grow their design, technical and professional skills while working on large projects in multiple sectors. As part of this programme, we have partnered with DMU and employ some of the university’s graduates, such as Nish, once they have completed their courses. It is great to see Nish being able to take part in life-changing projects, such as this one, while working for us and we look forward to building on this success in future years.”
Students witness a community being transformed thanks to DMU volunteers
DMU students to support innovative building programme in India
DMU Architecture project transforms lives in India
The ‘Loving Community’s’ old homes were built with poor quality bricks and asbestos roofing. Each house had only a single opening, which didn’t allow for sufficient lighting or ventilation, making them almost uninhabitable. The new houses have been designed and tested to be efficient and effective and there are now carefully positioned openings for cross ventilation, providing a cool and light environment.
Among the first residents to benefit were widow Narshama Bhan and daughter Akshera, and mum Fula Koli and daughter Geeta. The new homes will not flood, have light and space and even their own courtyard area.
Speaking through an interpreter, Narshama said: “Before I was so fed up and tired and every monsoon it was a very bad and unhealthy situation for all of us. I never had a thought, or even a dream that I would be living in such a nice home. I thank the Lord that finally I have a nice home.”
Paul Rothera continued: “The development of the new houses has been tremendous. There are no shortcuts in the construction and the quality is superb. Anand has thought meticulously about every design decision, raised floors for flood prevention, small courtyards for working spaces and unique designs for each resident to make their home their own.”
Pick Everard employs more than 500 staff across its 13 UK offices, providing a range of project, cost and design consultancy services. For more information, please visit www.pickeverard.co.uk
Posted on Thursday 14th March 2019