AN ECO-FRIENDLY HOUSING SOLUTION
MUD has been the chief building material known to humans since ages. Ancient history is profuse with architectural marvels constructed with “Mud” and “Mudbricks”. Being found in abundance, clay soil is used as the most popular material for creating sturdy shelters.
Mud houses are known to be durable, low-cost, and most importantly, biodegradable.
With the advent of advance building materials including cement, concrete, bricks, Glass and much more (the list is never ending), the ancient MUD totally vanished from our material list. However, in past few years due to environmental and economical factors, we have seen a slight drift in engaging MUD as a building material.
WHAT IS A “MUD HOUSE”?
A mud house is actually an “Earth-based house” constructed with locally available mud or the soil excavated from the same land where the house is built. The stability of the mud is enhanced by mixing it with natural additives like rice husk, paddy straw, etc. If constructed correctly, they can be extremely durable and even earthquake resistant.
These structures seem to be more sustainable, eco-friendly and are naturally insulated, thus keeping indoors cool in summers and warm in winters. For achieving greater strength and to reduce cracking, MUD-BRICKS or BLOCKS can be used which are prepared by soil tempering – breaking up, watering, and kneading and molded into compressed stabilized earth blocks. Mud bricks are joined with a mud mortar to build walls, vaults and domes.
The rustic charm and simplicity of mud can never be replaced by modern luxuries. The shelter close to mother nature gives the dweller an impression of his local culture, indigenous traditions, and past practices.
Mud is not something that is adopted only by our ancestors or by present day remote village communities, but by renowned architects and designers. One such name is Laurie Baker whose architecture and design approaches keep inspiring a generation of architects to use locally available construction materials.
Lawrence Wilfred “Laurie” Baker was a British-born Indian architect of the late 1960s fondly referred to as ‘Gandhi of Architecture’. He is well known for his initiatives in low-cost energy-efficient architecture and design techniques that encourage the use of locally available construction materials. His designs focused on maximized space, ventilation and light and maintained an uncluttered yet striking aesthetic sensibility. He was a pioneer of sustainable architecture and organic architecture, incorporating modern design principles with local craftsmanship, traditional techniques and materials. He was awareded with severl awards and honors throughout his career. His work features such amazing ways of using recycled material, natural environment control and frugality of designs. The Laurie Baker Mud Foundation was established at Trichur in Kerala in 1989, primarily to popularise and conduct studies in mud architecture.
10 REASONS TO CHOOSE “MUD-HOUSING” –
1. COST-EFFECTIVE :
Shrashtant Patara, an architect at the Society for Development Alternatives (DA), a Delhi-based organization working on alternate technologies for sustainable growth noted that conventional brick construction can cost as much as Rs 1,614/sq m (Rs 150/sq ft), a mud house with modern inputs costs as little as Rs 215/sq m (Rs 20/sq ft). He noted that stabilization techniques like adding cement to mud have done to overcome drawbacks associated with mud-building.
2. REUSABLE :
Mud and other natural additive involved in Mud house construction are all-natural and easily re-usable, and if you break it down, mud can easily go back to nature. The same material can be used so many times to make a new structure. This way, we can reduce the dependency on construction from nature.
3. STRONG & EARTHQUAKE-Resistant :
“While mud houses may cause some problems during rains, these issues can be addressed during construction. Stabilisers like wheat husk, straw, lime, and cow dung can be used to prevent any damage,” Kerala-based architect Eugene Pandala explains. They can be extremely strong if constructed correctly. They can withstand harsh climates and earthquakes. Examples are-
The devastating earthquake of Gujarat in 2001 is classic proof of the earthquake-resistant nature of mud structures. The traditional Gujarati (Kutch) dwelling, BHUNGA, despite being very close to the epicenter of the earthquake, stood firm while many other buildings were collapsed.
Similar structures in Rajasthan’s Barmer district were built by the Delhi-based non-profit organization Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) in the aftermath of the devastating flood in 2006, which uprooted thousands of houses and rendered hundreds of villagers homeless.
4. EASY BUILDING TECHNIQUES :
The basic building material- MUD, is compatible with all the following easily found natural additives to optimize the core strength of the structure. The techniques are –
- Cob: A mixture of soil, clay, cow dung, hay, cow urine, and lime is kneaded with tools, hands, or feet to make lumps that eventually form the foundations and walls.
- Adobe: Sun-dry clay to form bricks.
- The Wattle and Daub: Wooden/bamboo strips called wattle are ‘daubed’ with a sticky material made from mud, clay, sand, etc.
- The rammed earth technique: Ramming a mixture of the earth (mud) along with sand, gravel and clay until it becomes rock solid.
Mud can easily be blended with other materials and adjusts to all four construction techniques.
5. THERMAL INSULATION :
Traditional earth buildings with few metre thick mud walls offer reasonable insulation than concrete or steel but contrary to popular belief mud bricks are not good insulators. They are extremely dense and thus lack the ability to trap air within their structure.
But, the insulating capacity of Earth and clay can be enhanced in a few ways. The Mud or clay can be mixed with certain materials to increase the porosity or by attaching a light lath or frame over mud wall, and stuffing it with some sort of insulation such as:
- Cork granules
- Paper adobe.
- Cotton batts
- Slip Straw
6. DURABLE :
Ancient history is profuse with architectural marvels constructed with “Mud” and “Mudbricks“. These examples range from all over the globe. Their durability is seen in ancient Mud marvels standing intact even today. It is an architectural heritage suggesting the durability of Mud structures.
- Egyptian structures from 2500 BC indicate the production techniques of adobe bricks.
- The Middle Eastern settlements combating arid harsh climate developed their buildings entirely using mud brick. The masonry vaulted forms, presumably developed in the Middle East before the Egyptian Dynastic Period.
- In South-West Spain, explorers found mud villages dated back to 1540.
7. BIODEGRADABLE :
Popular building materials like concrete, plastics, metal, glasses, and copper take years to decompose. This has burdened our planet and water bodies with tonnes of waste. With no other alternative, they continue to pollute the environment. Here, mud and adobe can be an alternative as they have the lowest impact on the environment as compared to all other construction materials.
Mud is an excellent example of a circular economy. However, for this purpose, mudbrick must not contain any organic matter — the bricks should be made entirely from clays and sands. It easily goes back to nature, from where it came.
8. CARBON FOOTPRINT :
V Suresh, who is director of corporate planning at HUDCO, pointed out that “Conventional burnt brick buildings use up energy even before they come into existence. A house with 100 sq m area consumes 7.5 tonnes of fuelwood just to fire the bricks”.
On the contrary, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with unfired mud bricks can (and should) be very low. To keep emissions to an absolute minimum, the consumption of fossil fuel and other combustion processes have to be avoided. The carbon footprint of mud houses is extremely lower than that of cement or steel as –
- They stand steady after decades, and when dismantled, do not generate carbon emissions.
- Easily recyclable
- Excavated from the earth and goes back to it.
- Sourced locally, eliminating transportation (from quarry to construction sites) that otherwise would have left carbon emissions.
9. AVAILABILITY :
Easy availability and low-costing made MUD a promising solution to the housing problem of several countries including India. Some schemes have been undertaken to take this technology to the people. According to Revathi Kamath, if a technology is to work, the people must be involved in it. “People should be involved in building at least the walls of their houses with their own hands, using traditional mud technology,” she said. Women, she added, have traditionally been both the builders and designers of mud houses and it is essential to recognise this.
10. Breathability and toxicity :
Earth houses claim to be healthy with no irritant chemicals incorporated within the mixture to cause any allergies, etc. Ideally, the earth should be used in, or as near as possible to, its natural state to avoid bitumen, which potentially results in some outgassing of hydrocarbons.
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