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Temporary Shelter for Salt Farmers

By: Aniruddh, Jaswant, Meru, Parvaiz and Shyam

May 2017


In the monsoon months, Rann of Kutch is submerged in sea water. As the water recedes from October, the Agariyas move in to set up their salt pans. They dig wells to pump out the brine groundwater which is further pumped into the salt pans where the natural evaporation process leaves behind salt crystals. Braving a relentless 40 degrees during day time, the Agariyas live for seven months in the shacks beside their salt pans.



An interdisciplinary group of five students took upon the project for designing a temporary shelter for the Salt Farmers of Little Rann of Kutch. The project started with a basic literature review of Kutch and the life of the salt farmers which was followed by making a preliminary mind map for conducting an efficient user study. In order to understand the target users, the team visited Karaghoda. The visit helped build empathy for who the Agariyas (the salt farming community) are and what is important to them. The visit began at Rann where the team investigated a temporary settlement that had been left behind by the salt farmers and proceeded to the off season permanent settlements of the Agariyas. The team watched and interacted with the salt farmers in their homes as well as in the local temple. The interactions with the Agariya community helped us learn what they need. The team returned from the field visit and conducted a team share to define five problems which were then taken back to the target audience the following day to be sorted. On the basis of the sorting, the problem statement was defined. The team returned to Grambharti for ideation. Brainstorming sessions were conducted to generate wild ideas and widen our thinking. The team was fortunate to be able to use positive deviance from a pre-existing style of architecture prevalent in the Agariya community. Different concepts were further generated by finding design directions to various parts of the problems. A 1:2 scale prototype was constructed at Grambharti with the help of other summer schools participants and other residents of Grambharti. Different materials and methods were used for different walls to decide upon the final design. The final design was then constructed at the Little Rann of Kutch itself by the team, with the help of a few workers belonging to the Agariya community. The final prototype had to make some compromises in terms of unavailability of material, such as grass obtained only after the monsoon season. However, the final prototype was a success in terms of withstanding environmental extremities and impressed a salt farmer enough for him to accept it as his home.


Mind Map for conducting User Study

Field Visit

“पानी और रहने का, दो चीज़ हो जाए तो खाना तो हम ढूंढ ही लेंगे” - Guga Bhai

The team greeted Guga Bhai, introduced themselves and SRISTI and explained the purpose of the visit after which we listened to him talk about the problems of the Agariyas and understood how they build their temporary shelter in Rann.

Excerpts from the interview:

Guga Bhai: “Now when the rain arrives, nobody will be able to go to Rann. In the ninth month, the Agairyas will take their ration, water, oil, petrol etc. and move into the Rann.”

Team: What do you take to build your house?

Guga Bhai: Bamboo, sacs, rope and grass.

Team: What all materials do you have to buy from these?

Guga Bhai: Bamboo, sacs and rope have to be bought, we have to spend on petrol for travel as well

Team: Where do you get grass from?

Guga Bhai: This grass grows in water, we cut it with hands on the way to Rann, from ponds in the way. We make the structure with bamboo and put sacs on it and put grass on top of that. The grass keeps the house cool and protects us from the heat and wind

Team: Doesn’t the grass catch fire?

Guga Bhai: No, we remain careful. It can catch fire but there is no other option.

Team: Why do you use grass only?

Guga Bhai: Grass keeps the house cool and is available free of cost.

Team: How much does setting up a house cost you?

Guga Bhai: It takes around 5000-6000 including transportation every year

Team: Don’t you get the bamboo back with you when you return to the village?

Guga Bhai: We get it back but it’s not enough, moreover it deteriorates. We have to buy new bamboo the next year.

Team: Why doesn’t the community build houses in pits anymore?

Guga Bhai: We started building it above the ground because we started receiving unseasonal rainfall even in the months of salt farming and water started getting collected in the pits. Earlier, we used to build the house with mud and it took lesser building material like bamboo and sacs but now our belongings get destroyed in the rain.

Team: Why don’t you use stones?

Guga Bhai: Our houses in the village are made of mud and stone but the Govt. doesn’t allow us to make permanent shelter in Rann. 5-6ft of water gets collected in Rann during the rains and mud houses will not be able to sustain that. Moreover, the mud available in Rann is not very good for building a house.

Team: Are there any other discomforts that you face?

Guga Bhai: We face problems till the house is not made and we have nowhere to live. A certain type of flies breed in stagnant water after the monsoon and sometimes we are even forced to return to the village because of them. If the Government could make a house for us and provide us with a tanker of 1000l water, water and a place to live is all

Team: How many times do you have to repair the house?

Guga Bhai: A bit of repair once a month is more than enough, doesn’t cost much.

Team: We hope we can come up with a solution for shelter that can be of help to you.

Guga Bhai: That’s good, everybody should get it. It’s the need of not one or hundred people but of over a thousand people. There are 5000 Agariyas in Rann and not one has a proper house to live in. If the Govt could just provide us with a house to live in and a tanker of 1000 litre of water, water and food-two things if made available, then food is something we will manage.


Themes Identified

  • Building Material catches fire easily

  • The house gets blown away

  • Exteriors and gaps allow water to pass through

  • Extreme temperatures in the house

  • Expenditure in buying materials every year

Problems Sorted

The team revisited the Agariya community the following day and asked them to sort their problems as per their priority.


Problem Statement “Design a relatively cool home for the salt farmers such that it reduces the building cost the following year.” WOMEN MEN Extreme temperatures in the house Expenditure in buying materials every year Exteriors and gaps allow water to pass through Exteriors and gaps allow water to pass through Expenditure in buying materials every year Extreme temperatures in the house The house gets blown away.


Mind Map to Analyse Data Collected on the Field

Design Concept

Design Direction

  • Extreme temperatures in the house - Low cost cooling system

  • Expenditure in buying materials every year - Reusing building material

  • Exteriors and gaps allow water to pass through - Direct water away from the house and prevent seepage

  • The house gets blown away - Reduce effect of wind velocity on the structure


Positive Deviance

We used an approach called positive deviance, which looks for solutions already prevalent among individuals and families in the community. For positive deviance, we tried to build upon the previous architecture that was prevalent before unseasonal rains struck the Rann. The Agariyas used to build their house in a manner that a part of the house was below the ground. Using naturally available mud as walls maintained relatively lesser temperature in the house. The effect of wind velocity was also lesser as the house was at a lower height than the present structure. However, due to global warming, the region started receiving unseasonal rainfall during which water started getting collected in the Agariyas’ homes. Therefore, the challenge was to improve upon the previous architecture while catering to the problem statement and minimising the reasons due to which it had been abandoned.



"The burrow of the black-tailed prairie-dog constitutes a respiratory dead-space of extraordinary magnitude in which diffusion appears inadequate for gas exchange. But the burrow is arranged in a manner appropriate for wind-induced ventilation, typically with two openings at opposite ends and with mounds surrounding these openings of two-forms, with one form on each end. When a breeze crosses the mounds, air enters the burrow through the lower mound and leaves through the higher.” Design Direction: Air vents at different levels

Concept Generation

To prevent the house from collapsing due to wind velocity by using a cylindrical form.

To provide evaporative cooling by rerouting brine towards the house before it reaches the salt pan.

To prevent water from entering into the underground part of the house.

To provide cooling by funelling cool air into the house.

To direct rainwater away from the house using mounds of mud.

Space Ergonomics

Minimum Length required = 10ft (Maximum body breadth, relaxed X 5 for a 95th percentile male)

Minimum Height required below the ground level: 3ft (Erect squatting height for a 95th percentile male)

Minimum Breadth required = 8ft (Prone length, arm for a 95th percentile male)

Maximum Height allowed above the ground level: 5ft (Upper position length for a 5th percentile female)

Prototype Development

Mud mounds To prevent water from entering into the underground part of the house

Mud mounds To prevent water from entering into the underground part of the house

To provide cooling by funelling cool air into the house

To direct rainwater away from the house using mounds of mud

To provide an escape for the warm air

Rannveli: Rann ki Haveli

Full Scale Prototype at the Little Rann of Kutch

Mentor Inputs

Ted Moallem

Appreciated: Use of biomimicry for ideation and the concept of underground living. Suggested: Think about making a completely underground house. Consider insect attacks in the dry house during unseasonal rainfall.


Prof. Anil Gupta

Appreciated: To provide evaporative cooling by rerouting brine towards the house before it reaches the salt pan. Suggested: Try a different approach for preventing water seepage by designing a drainage system for the house.


Prof. PVM Rao and Prof. Ramendra Baoni

Appreciated: The design process. Suggested: Try using a single panel for the underground walls such that it can be easily attached and detached. Consider using a more environment friendly material instead of polythene.


Bill of Material

*Not to be purchased every year

**Not part of building cost for the Agariyas



Behavioral: The users may not wish to return to a design that has been abandoned in the past.


Road Ahead

  • A system to provide evaporative cooling by rerouting brine towards the house before it reaches the salt pan.

  • A system to collect and reuse rainwater from unseasonal rainfall.

  • A system to reduce transportation cost for getting materials from the village to Rann.

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