Mud — the malleable material — has many benefits. You can even build homes using it. It offers better insulation than steel and concrete structures, says experts, while being eco-friendly

KOCHI: Choosing eco-friendly options has become the new fad, especially among the urban populace. It was architect Laurie Baker who pioneered cost-effective architecture and designs with the embedded philosophy of environment conservation. Now, more people have started looking at eco-friendly construction techniques. And that is where mud houses come in. And the sustainable technique is gaining more popularity among prospective homeowners.

Architectural marvel

Many renowned architects encourage sustainable building options using locally sourced materials such as mud and bamboo. Architect and founder of Habitat Technology Group, G Shankar says he has already completed thousands of mud house projects. He says, “We promote mud because of its sustainability factor. However, there are many parameters of sustainability such as cost efficiency, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, eco-sensitivity and climate resilience. This is the reason why we aim to mainstream mud as the prime material to construct houses.”

According to him, around 80 per cent of the houses in India were made using mud and other biomass waste materials such as bamboo. “Though we used to build houses using burnt bricks, some years ago we realised that it was destroying the ecology. Burnt bricks are not eco-sensitive, especially due to the process of making them. Hence, we shifted to mud,”

However, he reminds us that mud also comes with some disadvantages. “With all its added advantages, mud has some drawbacks. Dampness and the attack of termites are some.”Shankar’s own residence — Siddhartha — is an architectural marvel built with mud. Crafted with a parabolic design, it is a perfect example of a home completely in sync with nature. His other incredible projects include a model of a house made using mud and treated bamboo. It sits in a one-cent plot at the police guest house compound in Thiruvananthapuram.

The building has a living area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom on the first floor and another bedroom on the second floor. While the third floor consists of terrace space which can be easily converted into a room.

Mud bricks have been used to build the structure and recycled mud tiles and treated bamboo has been used for plastering the walls. Shankar prefers to call them ‘earth’ rather than mud buildings. Architects highlight that people with a slight orientation toward nature conservation are more willing to explore eco-friendly options while building their dream homes.

‘Marvellous material’

P B Sajan, a disciple of Laurie Baker and the joint director of COSTFORD (Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development) says, “We have already completed more than 50 mud houses and also houses using bamboo. Mud is a marvellous material which is pollution-free compared to cement. No additional resources are needed while constructing mud houses.“The mud excavated from the house compound itself can be used for construction. In places where there are chances of flooding, the foundation of the house is made using recycled brick. Mud can also be recycled and so it is environmentally friendly.”

The concept is to reduce energy consumption

One of the incredible models in mud done by them is the building of Kanthari Institute in Vellayani, completed in 2008. “The building has been designed using mud and recycled bricks. There are anti-termite channels that help to keep the termites away. Even the stairs are made using recycled brick, mud and bamboo,” he says. Also, General Education Minister V Sivankutty’s house has been constructed in mud. “It is on a 3,000 sq feet of land on the bank of Vellayani lake in Thiruvananthapuram,” he says.

Why build a mud house?

Malleability makes mud an ideal construction material
Low labour and construction cost
Offers better insulation than steel and concrete structures
The maintenance cost is less
Good resistance to fire
Better soundproofing