Project Suitcase- Prototype 03

Building the third suitcase prototype


Prototype 03 was assembled in contractor JMC’s site inside RMZ Ecoworld campus, Bangalore to test the suitcase unit in external weather conditions.Both JMC and RMZ project managers were supportive of our undertaking.

The unit was given public access. We welcomed inputs from the construction workers who were working on the construction and after it.

Even during the assembly stage, there were curious questions from on lookers “Is this our new site office or a house?”, “Is there a window?”, “Can we enter inside?”, “This structure is becoming stronger day by day!!”. Slowly and steadily they saw the unit come up to settle all their doubts. This was a truly inclusive process!

From the previous version, the size of the structure was reworked. A 12 inch high plinth of size 10 feet x 12 feet was laid for the structure to be assembled on. This was done by JMC workers themselves, under RMZ’s instructions. Each panel was 4 feet wide making the core size 8 feet x 8 feet. The corrugated galvalume sheet was replaced by plain sheet which was easier to fix, making the joinery simple and easy to execute. This however makes the structure more open to dents, though strength is not compromised. Provision for storage was made in the rear, to thermally insulate the structure from the western sun. The kitchen and the verandah were 4 feet x 4 feet each. Prototype 03 was assembled in 7 days, but over a period of 3 weeks due to non-availability of fabricators. 

Over the period of construction we received inputs from fabricators, contractors, architects and civil engineers, and non technical people too. Our team was not happy with the finish, the final outcome. We invited a slotted angle fitter who installs shelves for a living to study the structure for bettering the joinery. We realized that the structure could be assembled by a slotted angle fitter with minimal drilling. The plinth tie was critical to hold the entire structure together. We monitored the prototype for a year. During monsoon season we noticed seepage at the plinth level and quickly responded to it by having a 3” cement band internally and externally touching the plinth tie. We noticed that the core needed more ventilation during summer afternoons and the kitchen front panel had to be of a thicker heat absorbing material to accommodate a chullah for cooking.


We invited slum dwellers to visit the structure and documented their responses. They asked for a slightly bigger core area so that a family of four could sleep comfortably. The verandah space was well received. A demarcated space for kitchen and storage racks were appreciated. Construction labourers on the JMC site were excited to see the final outcome. “We never imagined building a house was so easy!”,”Can we build this in our camp?”,”We use this space to relax during our break time and it is comfortable.” were some comments we received. The responses received from the people were over whelming. We were now equipped with the knowledge needed to assemble a suitcase unit and build confidently for a family to live.

Project Suitcase- Building the second prototype

Prototype 2 was assembled in RMZ ECOWORLD, Bangalore site office in the interior of a construction site.
Corrugated sheet was used for wall paneling and roof along with 14 gauge M.S slotted angles and palette rack.
• The structure had to be assembled by a slotted angle fitter.
• The corrugated sheet couldn’t be used as wall paneling because the nut and bolt joineries did not align with the corrugation.
• The door for the unit needed a lighter material and single shutter.
• A horizontal tie was needed to hold the structure together at plinth level.


Project Suitcase- A response to housing needs of the urban homeless

Our observations and surveys helped us in deriving concepts of housing which would address to the needs of the urban homeless. How do we cater to their  ever-shifting, ever-changing dynamic lifestyle? What would be the apt material to build a temporary shelter? Could they move along with it? Could it mould itself according to the users need?

Our quest for an impact full solution led us to market research and prototyping various designs and material options, testing them for structural stability, climate and user response.We now started working on our first prototype.Throughout this process we focused on the fact that the unit had to be  assemble-able by home owner or any unskilled labour, within a short span of time and the materials used for the unit should be economical and easily accessible.




After examining various materials we zeroed in on slotted angle palette racks for walls. These storage units cladded with Galvalume sheet on the exterior doubled up for thermal comfort as well. The basic design gave segregated space for sleeping, kitchen and verandah. The modular design of the assembly catered to expansion and flexible usage of spaces. The sheet thickness and material could be varied as per availability and budget.

Our learning from prototyping and testing stages were immense – we realised corrugated sheets would not work well with slotted angles; the door had to be of a lighter material; a fabricator was not able to handle slotted angles, and so on. This gave us even more room for thought, and gave us the impetus to work on our second version.



Towards Dignity and Empowerment


After two houses were built, everyone came forward to form their own teams to make their own blocks in quick efficient time. We were not needed to drive them; they drove themselves and us. We completed 14 houses in one year, on a need basis. It took us longer to work people! We learnt from a veteran NGO that a test of our success is to see how many leaders sprout in the village in the time we are working there. Jayamma was the first to express need for a smokeless chulha which Canara Bank would fund. When we had the inauguration and hand-over ceremony, Sakamma, Kempamma, Madappa came on the stage along with Kalappa and village elder Chikeliappa. This was true empowerment!

The Timmaiyanadoddi model was an experiment, with an outlook to make it a replicable model for intervention. Apart from providing for the basic need for decent shelter, the model inquired to ascertain the impact of holistic design of built environment on the human psyche

Once you are the proud owner of a house, and are involved in the rebuilding of the spaces around your houses, the level of sensation of well-being, self-worth and responsibility towards oneself and on the surrounding environment is likely to increase.

We found that it certainly has increased. This made our hard journey and efforts worthwhile. Thimmaiyandoddi is a success story. Thimmaiyanadoddi- NIVASA’s flagship project towards dignity and empowerment.

Nivasa is an Architectural NGO that is based out of Bangalore. We seek to provide professional design and construction support for rural housing and infrastructure in India’s villages as a Design and Build Venture. The organization is run by a small group of dedicated individuals. Our philosophy is “Improving the quality of lives of people in villages in a holistic manner”. NIVASA’s vision is for every villager in India to own his permanent home. We are an Architectural NGO that is based out of Bangalore. We seek to provide professional design and construction support for rural housing and infrastructure in India’s villages as a Design and Build Venture. The organization is run by a small group of dedicated individuals. Our philosophy is “Improving the quality of lives of people in villages in a holistic manner”. Five areas of intended Impact in villages, where Impact is the enhancement of human capability towards self-reliance, are Housing & Infrastructure, Health, Access to finance, Education & Skill development.

Our values are shaped on: Purity of Purpose, Integrity of Thought & Action, Patience & Perseverance in Execution, The Community as the locus of Interest, The Cause is greater than the Self.

Our direct focus is on housing & infrastructure. It is our belief that long term sustainable changes can be made to any society if a few organizations with specialist skills in these five areas work in a non-competitive, complementary manner to bring about the change. This is what we did in Thimmaiyandoddi.


Supporting the Village

Mr. S.S. Bhatt has been the chief general manager of Canara Bank for the last 33 years. He looks after the priority credit financial inclusions as well as CSR initiatives.

He narrates to us, his experiences working on the Thimmaiyanadoddi project.


“Corporate Social Responsibilities is in the DNA of Canara bank. We have been doing CSR activities since 1906 when the bank was established. The founder of Canara bank, who has been a supporter of the lower caste and the people of weaker sections said, ‘A good bank is not only a commercial heart of a community, but also the social heart.’ Accordingly, he made the bank interested in common people’s causes and found ways to help them. These ethos have been continued in Canara Bank over the years. Year after year, we all work towards developing the CSR concepts.

The bank has been taking up CSR initiatives in fields of education, health, family welfare and many other areas. The development of villages has been one of the great initiatives. Many of our initiatives are associated with villages, where we have helped with development. These interventions have happened with the help of other banks and NGO’s in the field too.

Thimmaiyanadoddi village, near Bangalore, is a hamlet with about 60 families. It was quite a backward village. When Nivasa came up with a development plan for the village, Canara bank was really interested in associating with Nivasa in creating good infrastructure in the village and also to make sure that the interventions required for the development is supported by Canara Bank. A preliminary survey was conducted in the village. A gap assessment was also made in the village in the study.

As the name suggests, Nivasa was working towards building houses for the people there. They encouraged the people to decide to build new houses through the funding arrangement. Canara Bank wanted to support this initiative by giving support for laying out roads, drainage systems, water harvesting systems, drinking water supply, and some non-credit interventions like supporting the children through education, building a community hall for the meeting of village people and the women there. We also wanted to identify the unemployed youth and women providing them with some skill-based training to take up self-employment ventures.

Over time, we noticed many development changes in the village. In December 2014, new houses, water tanks, central road with drainage, water harvesting system were all constructed and set up. The community hall, an important part of the village, was complete and provided the village with a place to meet. It also provides space for workshops and programmes organised for the children by volunteers. We also provided computers in the school for computer education for the children.

Providing support for infrastructure alone in a village is not sufficient. There should be some growth in the village so that the people find ways to get income through a productive venture. In order to do that, we provided farmers with the right credit facility. We identified entrepreneurship among the women, trained them in some activities (candle making, tailoring, etc.) We have a self-employment training institute exclusively for women in Harohalli where these women were trained by expert faculty. There was an arrangement made, wherein the women were connected to a merchant in Bangalore, so that whatever they make is sold easily and they get their income.”

Watch the remainder of the interview in the video.

Sharing Values

Dr. Usha Vasthare is the founder of YogaKshema Rehabilitation & Wellness Centre. She conducts support group meetings for various sections of the society ranging from home-makers, professionals to survivors of chronic illnesses and their caregivers. So far she has conducted more than 500 such meetings.  Her workshops are based on the most recent advances in Neuro-scientific research and are geared to the participants in improving their quality of Life.  Dr. Usha Vasthare’s objective is to introduce positive psychology, practical and scientific methods to lead a holistic living. She aims to bring the confluence of science and ancient wisdom in her talks & workshops. Her target audiences come from all stations and walks of life.


She has shared some insights into working alongside Nivasa.

What is the collaboration and complimentary relationship that Nivasa and Yogakshema have?

“For less than two years, Yogakshema has been involved with Nivasa. Our goals and philosophies match and there is a synergy between our values. Both organizations believe in improving quality of lives of people, although we do it different ways. Yogashema believes in improving people’s lives through internal means- physical, emotional and environmental health through education. Nivasa believes in improving the quality of live by improving the infrastructure (external means).

This synergy has brought Nivasa and Yogakshema together to work together in the village of Thimmaiyanadoddi. Yogakshema placed Prema, a community worker, to work in the village to improve people’s lives by improving their health and hygiene through education and also by empowering the community workers there.”

Can you tell us about the values of Nivasa?

“What attracts us to Nivasa, are its values. The first thing that Nivasa believes in is the Purity of Purpose. They also believe that the Cause is Greater than Self. It is such a unique value. Nivasa believes in integrating thought with action and working towards a purpose. Nivasa’s main interest is to keep community as the locus of interest. This is proof that they put ‘cause’ ahead of ‘self’.

Through patience and perseverance, Nivasa works at the grass- roots level.

What attracted me to Nivasa is Akhila’s infectious enthusiasm and her interest and passion in learning through the process of redefining rural landscapes through culture- sensitive, site-driven and cost-effective means. This enthusiasm she uses to reach this goal also brings people together.”