Project Description

The brief called for us to design a naturally ventilated, passively cooled, low cost apartment. Locally available materials were used for construction. The structure followed north south load bearing walls within which the various functions were flexibly placed. These north south walls acted as axis for the entire structure. All openings, mostly floor to ceiling, were designed to face the north south direction and the east and west walls were shaded by trees. Non of the units required air-conditioning due to this reason. Lime cement finishing was used for the walls further cooling the interiors. All these elements brought about the reduction in the cost of the building. Usage of rainwater harvesting system, solar panels helped in reducing the energy usage too.

Humility crop 1

Building Details

Residence - Apartment

New building Project

3275 m²



4 nos

131 sq.m. - 3 nos; 146 sq.m. - 1 no. m²


2 nos.

170 m²


1 no.

40 m²

1061 m²

751 m²

751 m²

INR 10941300

INR 10310

January 2011

January 2011

Project Team

Tapasya Design Studio


Dr. Ruslan

Dr. Ambalavan


Architect based in Auroville since 2004. He has worked on a diverse range of building materials. His portfolio includes mud houses to resorts, various buildings using different earthen materials. Most of his project have been defined by using locally available materials and technology which can address the problems specific to the project in a contemporary way.

Climate Analysis

Humility is located in Auroville 15km from Pondicherry along the East Coast of India. This place experiences hot and humid climate. It lies on a relatively flat region with abundant vegetation. The humidity in the area is relatively high throughout the year(60-85%) and experiences low diurnal temperatures.

Climate graph

Design Approach

The apartment situated in the international township of Auroville, had to address the lifestyle of the residents coming from different ethnic cultures/lifestyles. It also had to be part of the overall master plan of the township. Apart from this, the common parameters which the stakeholders were looking at were economic construction practices, flexibility in planning to suit their lifestyles, environmental friendly material usages, technologies which could make it sustainable if not while construction but at least in the future.

The building was designated by the Auroville Town planning board. It was a part of a series of buildings in a circular pattern in the master plan. The building had to be placed so as to cater to the evolving pattern of road network.

The apartment is divided into two sectors by a common access space. Within each housing unit, spaces have been functionally versatile according to the user, yet maintaining the integrity of the entire building. This is also done while maintaining the large openings on both the north and south side for cross ventilation.
Sailam site plan   feb 5 2010 ae sp 1


Special Feature

The north and south have wide, floor to ceiling openings thus having enough natural lighting

Rainwater Harvesting Tank for garden usage. Water comes from the community water tank, where the water consumption is monitored and advised accordingly.

The west and east side walls are closed. Trees have been located on these sides to ensure the walls are not heated. The terrace ceiling has an insulation made of Styrofoam .There are provisions to ensure the terrace could have a structure to accommodate solar panels, which not only will provide electricity, but also act as a shade to the roof. All units, due to the orientation, trap the winds and with ventilators over every door, ensure there is a continuous circulation of air.

The building was constructed using fly-ash bricks.The whole structure is load bearing.There are precast beams at the lintel level which act as spacers.All the walls are parallel and they create a pattern of spines. This technique helped us to do construction at 35% lesser cost than the other apartments in Auroville.

The rain water goes to a series of underground canisters which act as rain water harvesting tanks. The overflow goes to a small pond, which acts as a recharge pit.

Building Material

Load bearing walls using Fly-ash bricks. One way slabs.

Fly-ash brick foundation

Fly-ash brick walls

Anodised Aluminium for windows and sliding doors. Reused Kalimarudu wood for main door and bedroom doors. Flush door for bathrooms.

Vitrified tiles flooring

Lime cement plastering for walls

Reflective ceramic tiles laid on a layer of styrofoam

Energy systems

Minimal, mostly natural





Timer switch control for lobby lighting

Lessons Learned

1.In a humid tropical climate, we need certain amount of community living so as to provide landscaping accordingly for shading. High rise apartments are devoid of landscaping which increases the heat. Landscape forms an important integral aspect of designing to reduce temperatures. 2.Also structurally, good cross ventilation is very much climatically relevant.

The residents are in general satisfied with the climatic parameters. The cost of construction was also highly appreciated by the residents.