The most tangible result of the AB Model in housing and habitat development is the network of Building Centres (Nirmiti Kendras). Building Centers are grass root level organisations providing back-up services for cost-effective, environment- friendly and energy-efficent(CEEF) housing , under a single window.
The first Building Centre in India was set up in Kollam district , Kerala in 1985. Between this local initiative and its global manifestation, the Global Nirmithi Net (GNN), lies the Building Centre movement bringing in its fold a plethora of institutions , prominent among them being the Building Technology Centres, Nirmithi Kendras, Nirman Kendras and Centres for Technology and Development .Habitat Initiative and Habitat Alliance. The Building Centre movement has to day grown into a wide network in Governmental and non-Governmental sectors in India and overseas.
Building Centres provide the following services to the public.
- Training - The Building Centres concentrate on training of masons, carpenters, bar benders, plumbers, electricians and skilled workers engaged in different fields of house construction as well as engineers and architectures in all aspects of CEEF housing. Women's training is given special emphasis in the Building Centres.
- Production of building materials - Each Building Center has a production unit, which produces building materials using appropriate technology. Research and development institutions such as the Central Building Research Institute and the Structural Engineering Research Centre in India, besides universities and engineering colleges, provide technology to these centres. Local materials are also upgraded and manufactured in these units (eg. soil -stabilized blocks, rubble filler blocks, borax -treated soft wood ).
- Distribution of materials - The materials manufactured by the Building Centers and those manufactured by the local entrepreneurs accredited to the centers are distributed to the house builders through building material super markets and fair price shops . Building Centres also act as facilitators providing know how and other back-up services to the small scale manufacturers of building materials.
- Information and extension - If intermediate technology and innovative construction practices are to gain acceptance in society, a lot of effort is required at various levels for awareness generation. The information and extension wing of the Building Centres undertakes awareness generation activities by holding discussions, exhibitions, seminars, workshops and hands-on sessions through the women's organizations, youth clubs and the local self-government institutions. Pamphlets and booklets on various aspects of CEEF housing are printed and circulated along with the morning newspapers. Habitat Technology Parks are set up at public places and the precincts of technical institutions.
- Research and Development - Each of the Building Centres has a Research and Development wing to develop new materials and upgrade local materials. It also conducts selection of technology developed by R&D institutions.
- Construction - The Building Centres undertake direct construction of buildings ranging from institutional buildings, residential buildings and allied structures such as mini water supply systems using CEEF technology and construction practices.One of the Building Centres constructed earthquake resistant houses in Latur district in India, which was hit by earthquakes.The housing guidance centre of the Building Centres also provide trained workers, low cost materials, and construction management assistance on a menu driven approach to the intending house builder.
- Consultancy and guidance - Building Centres provide consultancy services to Government, non governmental organizations and the public in planning, design and construction. This is done on a no-profit no-loss basis.The Government of Kerala has accepted a project proposal submitted by GNN for construction of one million houses in the State. Similarly, a project submitted to meet the housing needs of workers, has been accepted by the Government of Kerala in its ‘Labor Agenda’. The building centre movement has been selected by the UN-Habitat as a global Best Practice and the Global Nirmithi Net has been given the status of the affiliate of the UN-Habitat