The Xaher house:

Xaher house is a house that is being built at Sacred Groves to manifest the idea of Build free. One of our regular volunteers Xaher, needs a permanent house at Auroville and the rest of the volunteers are pooling in their free time and come together to build this house.

The design:

The design was approached in a very rudimentary style. The volunteer Xaher, was asked to enact his activities after he comes back from work every evening. A group of ten people holding each other’s hands formed a boundary accordingly and voila! The design was done! The plan was chalked immediately on the ground right away.

The foundation:

A foundation pit of depth of 1.5’ and width of 1.5’ was dug. The floor of the pit was sloped towards a trench. The base of the pit was rammed and a channel was created by placing two broken stone slabs vertically such that there was a 4” wide gap on the either sides from the wall of the pit and then it was closed with another stone piece at the top.
The 4” wide gap was filled with broken stone pieces. The wall of the pit was lined with huge stones and cement rubble so that the earth would not enter in between the air gaps that is present in the foundation. The broken stone and cement rubble was filled in the middle portion of the pit and was rammed and compacted.

Termite treatment for the foundation was done with calotropis plant juice.

The rubble trench foundation allows water to seep down into its water channel through the gaps present in between rubble and subsequently water flows into the earth. The excess of water can be directed into a rain water harvesting tank. The slow flow of water compacts the earth below and the base gets stronger in time. Since there is no mortar in between the rubble the forces of earthquake will only lead to rearrangement of the foundation and thus the foundation doesn’t get damaged! It is a very easily doable technique with very less labour. The outer boundary of the house was laid with glass bottles placed in an inverted fashion to provide a slippery surface and thus prevent scorpions from crawling up the wall.

The plinth:

The plinth is up to 1.5‘height from the ground level. It is made of sized stone masonry with lime mortar.

The wall:

The wall is made of cob. The cob was mixed with turmeric to give termite resistence. This enabled us to bring out our artistic side.

Using the flexibility of cob we could do different shapes of windows using different materials as shuttering and different ways of bringing in light using glass bottles in accordance with the kind of space that is addressed. The bottles were cut and two of them were joined with a tape.

Since building cob wall is a slow process we switched to adobe bricks made of rice straw.

The toilet flooring:

Lime-crete Floor experiment:


Earth was rammed and then big rubbles (2-3”thk) were put.We walked on it to level it.Small gravel stones (1-1.5”thk) was then put on the bed of big rubbles.

A mixture of kadukkai and jaggery mix was then poured on to the stone base as they get soaked in it and thus become better in gelling with the flooring mix.

The fermented mixture has bacteria which spreads and eventually expands the mixture.When there is a crack in the lime-crete it will get filled with this mixture expansion. Shuttering to shape the flooring mix was laid.

In a tarpaulin, brick bats were laid and kadukkai-jaggery mixturewas pouredtosoak and saturate the brick bats with it.

Then we mixed lime-Quarry dust mixture (3:5) with the brick bats in a ratio of 5:8 (5 parts of brick bats and 8 parts of the lime quarry dust mixture).

We put this mixture onto the stone bed and compacted it while pouring the mix. After pouring and compacting 6” of this mix we leveled the surface.

It was left for a week to dry and then was beaten with a wooden beater (Do not let the lime dry completely). Thisway lime milk will rise up.

The lime milk which is produced was removed out as it spoils the strength of the flooring.
The floor needs to be beaten for 2 hours everyday for a week’s time.Slower the setting of lime gives a better outcome.
After 6 months when the plaster will be ready it will be used as finish for the flooring.

Materials used for the finish:

1.Binder: Slaked Seashell lime (Non hydraulic lime). How to obtain it?
Processed (heated) sea shell lime should be mixed with water, mixed well in a barrel and left in an air tight barrel for a weeks’ time. In this time lime will undergo slaking due to presence of water and settles in three different layers. Lower layer of impurities, middle layer of pure hydraulic creamy lime and the top layer of alkaline water. The middle creamy layer is taken out by attaching a tap at the pre-calculated height in a way that only the middle creamy layer will be taken out.

2. Cactus (prickley pear) juice.
We removed the thorns and skin and cut it into small pieces. Then we added water in the ratio – cactus: water-1:3.
We boiled the mixture at 60 degree celcius. Once the mixture cooled down to room temperature cactus pieces were taken out and squeezed to extract the juice. Then we put the extract to ferment for a day.



Cactus juice and the proteins in egg and curd are additives to provide flexibility, durability and water proofing to flooring.

4. Sieved Surkhi powder- It was added to help lime set quickly. It also gives a good colour to the mixture.To prepare the floor finish hydraulic lime, sand and Surkhi were mixed and ground together.

The cactus extract, egg, curd, sand, Surkhi powderand lime (in the ratio lime: sand: Surkhi powder: curd: egg white: cactus juice :: 1: 3: ½ : 1/8: 2no.: 1½) were put in an earthen pot.The earthen pot was then put underground for fermentation for 3 months.

Time periods of fermentation:
6 months for finish
3 months for plaster
1 month for masonry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *