Building a Community Centre from Waste.  

Creating a model for sustainable, accessible and locally sourced construction.

Project No.2







In our second project on the Vasudhaiva Ride, Prashant and ben collaborated with Nivedita Joshee Chopra: a woman with a dream and a plan to create a community centre in the desert in her native Rajasthan. For one month (March, 2017), they worked to create the building that would host this centre. In the process of building the centre, a goal emerged: to create a model for

AFFORDABLE, LOCALLY SOURCED and SUSTAINBLE design for rural India and beyond, based on a zero-waste constuction process and much creative, collaborative effort! 

This project quickly became a community process involving dozens of people from the local village and international travellers from nearby Pushkar. The largest project of the Vasudhaiva Ride so far, the creation of the Saral Shambala Centre has been a challenging, emergent and very meaningful process.

Read on for more on the "Home from Waste"... 

big peace, 
-Ben, Prashant and Buddy (the dog). 


The journey so far.

We’ve ridden 1,000km from Bombay, Maharashtra to Pushkar, Rajasthan and decidedly into Northern India. We experienced a night with a Sarpanch of Gujarat, met our first school in rural Southern Rajasthan and reached our destination for the second project and next 5 weeks: Pushkar. We experienced our first long haul on the bikes with the added steel boxes we’ve built for storage, and with Buddy the dog riding like a pro in his specially designed seat.




PROJECT No.2 - Building a community centre from waste


Nivedita Joshee Chopra wanted to leave the corporate world, move back to Rajasthan, the land of her roots, and open a community centre. Nivedita and Prashant have worked together once before: to create Rebirth, an upcycling design firm that turned Prashant from a future of conventional engineering to a path of sustainable creation and design. He has run Rebirth in Pune for the last three years. When Nivedita reached out to Prashant to collaborate on the creation of this community centre, Prashant knew this was a chance to do work with sustainable design in an entirely new way. Ben's work is in community building and training. Soon a plan was in place. Ben and Prashant would ride North to Rajasthan, and together with Nivedita, create the Saral Shamabala Centre: a centre to bridge the gap between rural and urban India, providing exchanges of knowledge, perspective and skills, for sustainable, peaceful living.

What follows are the two updates as this project took place: the initial goals and process of beginning the work; and the final story of what emerged.



A building from sand and waste. 

- FEBRUARY 16th, 2017



We are helping to set up a community learning and sustainable living centre, just outside Pushkar, North India. To do this, we are constructing the first building: a human home and community centre, built entirely from a combination of local waste and natural materials

THE PROCESS: Beginning.

Prashant is leading the design and construction, with local workers bringing grounded knowledge, traditional techniques and locally sourced materials to this fusion of waste-upcycling and natural construction. Ben is working with Nivedita—the woman who is opening the centre—to connect with the local community of artists, schools, community leaders and more. We are now bringing in people from the surrounding area to help with the work of building the home, in creating the community space around the building and in ideating programmes for the centre itself.

THE GOALS in this project. 

We want to build a home that demonstrates: 
1/ That waste can be transformed into functional, reliable and beautiful design.
2/ That this can be done entirely with locally sourced materials.
3/ That this can be done very cost effectively, and therefore is accessible for rural families and other low-budget contexts. 



We want to show people--both urban visitors and local villagers--that this kind of construction is not only possible, but: cheap, sustainable, functional and beautiful. In doing so, 

we want to help people see waste as a resource.

We are living in a world with finite resources that we are quickly using up in unsustainable industrial processes and ways of living. And many people are unable to afford the traditional materials for construction of a home. In order to collectively sustain and thrive, we need to shift to a circular economy of resources, which means using and reusing, rather than discarding: minimizing waste in landfills and making homes--and other resources--accessible to lower income brackets.

In this project, we aim to provide a model for a cheap, locally sourced home: built entirely from materials available in the local area (approx. 25km), and most importantly, financially accessible: 1 Lakh rupees total (approx. $1,500 USD).



The building of this home-from-waste is also helping in the creation of

a community learning and sustainable living centre.

Envisioned by Nivedita Joshee Chopra, the Saral Shambala Centre is in its nascent stages. When we arrived here it was nothing but flat sand. By the end of February, it will have a first building built, to function as a community centre to begin hosting people and programmes. The centre seeks to bridge urban and rural communities, providing a space for co-learning programs, involving local community members and school children, as well as people from urban centres around India and beyond. The centre will thus facilitate exchange of knowledge, skills and perspectives, between local and global, rural and urban contexts, while providing a common space for connection in nature.

 [end of first project update]



Project Update No2

March 01st, 2017

The build. Updates and reflections.

We set out to design and build a model home for rural, sustainable and affordable housing.
We have since used local waste and natural materials to construct this home/community centre. At time of writing it is Day 18 of the build, and construction is largely finished.

Here are some details of the build itself.

The foundations of the house are twelve foot stone pillars, sunk three feet into the ground and cemented in place. To ensure structural integrity, we have used a cement-sand mix in all foundation work.

The walls are made of glass bottles and bricks and finished with traditional mudding. Glass bottles are a globally available waste material, they are also strong and can be laid between bricks to lower the total number of bricks used. They also act as windows: glass bottles positioned outwards bring sunlight into the house by day and those positioned inwards light up the house from outside by night—given you have lights on inside.

The mudding is a mix of local mud, cow dung and hay husks to bind the material, mixed by feet and thrown and smoothed by hand. The mudding goes on in several layers, building up thick walls that provide heat in the cold months and maintain a cool temperature in the summer, all without added fuel or air conditioning. Mud walls are a form of natural building found around the world. The floor is also mudded, resulting in a strong, smooth surface that can be touched up as needed.

The roof is made of hand-woven grasses laid on a bamboo and wood-beam frame, mounted on a central metal pole. Both roof and walls can be maintained by hand on an ongoing process, and all the skills and materials to do so are available in the village in which we have done this build.

Other aspects of the house include: the tree-house balcony, large enough for twenty people and made largely of bamboo. This balcony is built off the back of the house and into three living trees. Using living trees as supports means not only creating a space that is literally alive with nature—woodpeckers, parrots and hanging vines—it also means decreasing the amount of cement needed to bolster the weight.

The build also included the following features: a pathway to the house made of left over brick and broken glass, and finished with a sand-cement mix; a hanging garden of recycled jars and scrap rope; and a plant-filtered toilet that will provide grey water to a system of gardens, thus filtering the water. This toilet separates solid and liquid, storing solid waste in an underground tank and sending liquid waste that, after plant-filtering, is useable for gardens surrounding the toilet itself: reusing water, transforming (human) waste and helping to green one more patch of desert.

It is in every sense a green building: from the cow dung to the recycled bricks. But more important to this project has been the constant use of waste material. Every scrap of construction material produced during this build has gone back into the house itself: not just a green building, but a zero waste build