Friday, 10 July 2015


The idea of "earth construction" or mud houses is not an invention of recent times. Adobe of this kind of construction is sometimes goes as far back as 7100 Bc in Mesopotamia's Neolithic farming villages. in Indian villages also especially in Rajasthan this method of construction is still practiced. When we talk about mud houses we do not refer to the small, one-room village huts with thatched roofs which you may have seen. It is actually a construction technique in which mud blocks are used instead of lured bricks and cement as construction material. An eminent professor has built a three storied mud block residence in BEL layout. 

The structural consultant of Mrinmayee who was once a part of the team at the Indian Institute of Science which started the mud block compression technique says that using mud-blocks is not only environmental friendly but can also bring down the cost of construction your side walls by 25-30 percent. 

Those who are doing research in the field urge return to this technique for making the construction industry environment friendly and sustainable, as it has been rated as the one largest polluting industry. The transportation costs in this technique are removed as the material of construction is made on site. in addition the caved out area gives space for a basement In the house plan. As there is abundant availability of mud this kind of construction it is sustainable. It is also affordable as the cost is approximately the same as building with bricks that are kiln baked. 

According to the principle behind this method earth or mud from the site of construction is kept in moulds and compressed or rammed by hand into blocks and further dried by the sun and after that it is used for construction. The many advantages are: firstly that since the blocks are dried by the sun instead of fired or kiln-baked there is a saving on fuel or electricity.

 Secondly as manual labor is used in this process for compressing the mud mechanically into blocks it creates employment for semi-skilled laborers. To make these mud blocks any type of mud can be utilized. Mud is basically made up of sand, clay and silt and at times organic ingredients. The best kind of mud should have clay (10-12 percent), sand (75-80 percent) and the remainder silt without any organic material. This can be compressed into blocks and stabilized with lime and cement as stabilizer (about 5-7 per cent) to increase strength and characteristics of weathering . 

The mud from the site has to be tested by an expert before producing these mud blocks. He may propose the proportion of substances such as lime and cement that must be added to it. Wet mud of another consistency i.e. one part of cement, 2 parts of soil and 6 parts of sand or quarry dust is the mortar that holds these mud blocks together. 

Lesser quantities of mortar will be required to glue these blocks together than is used in cementing kiln-baked bricks as the factor of the larger size of these blocks (that is usually fixed at nine inches by seven and half inches by four inches) implies a lesser joint area as compared with kiln-baked bricks that have dimensions of nine inches by four and half inches by three inches usually. 

It is necessary to be as environment friendly as one can. You can have filler slabs for the ceiling of the garage composed of junk material such as computer keyboards, metal scraps and other waste things instead of opting for regular RCC slabs. One architect who has constructed more than 200 such houses of different sizes advises adding these waste materials into the mud before it is compressed into blocks. Two things are achieved through this: additional muscle (strength) is added and so is weight (mass) to the mud block. The construction site is also made free of litter. 

The construction methods will be almost the same and the mud blocks are approximately as strong as other bricks. You can have many floors with mud construction which depends on the number of columns inbuilt into the construction that buttress the weight. The best scheme is to have the basement+ground+one floor format. Aesthetic roofs like vaults and domes built with mud blocks are also possible. 

It is also possible to have colored mud blocks through the addition of pigment to the mixture. However it is not economical so you could experiment by adding quarry dust which has a gray color or of red earth to have a red color for your house. The mud blocks can be in any shape and size; it is only required to make a mould of that shape and size. Maintenance is easy as painting every year is not needed. This is because the color of the mud block IS inherent and will not fade. 

Having earth construction does not mean that the structure has to be one hundred percent mud. The roofing can have arched panels of mud blocks (held together by iron wires for extra strength) that can be made on the floors and raised up to it from the ceiling. To support this beams made of wood across the ceiling will be needed and a thin layer of concrete between the arched panels of mud blocks below and the flooring tiles of the floor above that may be of terra cotta tiles or kadappa slabs which are all eco friendly materials. 

Rain water harvesting that could supplement a good amount of your water supply per year from rivers through the city corporation along with tackling the water bills, is another technique that complements this kind of earth construction towards complete environment friendly. It can be done by recycling of gray water (kitchen and wash water) for toilet flushing that is the single most water consuming procedure in a dwelling. 

Other techniques are roof gardening to re-green the site which has been cleared off to give room for constructing the house, using subtle sky lights for lighting, a solar water heater that pays for itself over time, fluorescent bulbs powered by solar panels that can replace ordinary bulbs and use only a quarter of their energy plus large windows and wise positioning of air ducts that remove the need for fans or air conditioners. 

Mud blocks come into the interior picture too. You can have a wall jutting out a foot's length into the room for bookracks and keep kadappa or shah bad slabs instead of wood boards as shelves. Window frames in which security is not an issue can be made with unpolished linear granite stones for an ornamental look. 

Wood is not an eco-unfriendly material. If you plant three fast growing trees perhaps on-site, for each tree that you chop, wood can be an eco-friendly material for construction accounting for the fact that quarries, ore-mines and factories that make metal out of the ore cause the clearing away of big parcels of trees that are in it. 

The point is that the building should be recyclable and the construction site and activities should be looked upon as a small ecosystem. Earth construction is something that becomes a part of your philosophy of life.

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