Building a home on a shoestring? Here are some small ideas that make big sense, says Lakshmi Krupa

1. Filler slab roofing

Instead of building a full concrete roof, you can use filler slabs that could reduce up to 40 per cent of the overall cost of your roof. You use far lesser concrete and steel when you use filler material such as bricks, tiles, mud blocks, or broken cement blocks on the roof. Filler slabs also reduce the weight on load-bearing walls and foundation.Anupama Mohanram of Green Evolution Architectural Consultancy says, “Terracotta pots, coconut shells and Mangalore tiles can be used as fillers. With a little bit of planning, it’s quite easy to execute.”

2. The rat trap bond

You can save about 25 per cent of costs on bricks with this simple method. The Rat Trap Bond is a masonry technique that creates a hollow cavity between bricks while keeping the thickness of the wall intact. It reduces the amount of bricks and cement used, while also reducing the overall load of the structure, leading to cost-cutting in other areas. The hollow space in the walls also thermal-proofs the home.

Use only expert masons who are aware of precautions such as keeping the wall edge around doors and below lintels in solid brick.

3. A light foundation

With a light structure, the foundation can be kept lightweight too, saving 10 per cent on the building’s overall cost. “In some cases, a plain stone foundation may be most economical,” says Sumitra Vasudevan, associate, Aprobuild Architects. Packed stone, gravel, broken concrete blocks – stone as foundation has been around for centuries. A stone foundation can even be extended above the plinth level to create seating.

4. Go local

Using locally available and traditional material that’s best suited to both the climate and budget is a great way to cut costs. Says Vasudevan, “Source local tiles for your roofs and look for repurposed old doors and windows. They not only look good but come at a much lower cost. “We reduce 40-50 per cent of flooring costs by using Athangudi tiles,” says Mohanram. Vitrified tiles cost more than the handmade Athangudi tiles, which come in beautiful colours and patterns. “We place our orders in Chennai at the M.Rm.Rm Foundation, which works with artisans. They also help bring labourers from Athangudi to lay the tiles,” she adds.

5. Exposed bricks

The cost of painting is quite a huge part of the overall budget, as it involves plastering, adding putty and then adding colour. However, if you have an excellent team of brick layers, you could actually consider leaving the brickwork exposed, without any paint work. It adds a warm and simple touch and can cut costs down by 10-15 per cent. “Exposed bricks are aesthetically very appealing. On the outside wall, especially, paint serves no purpose,” says Mohanram. The idea works for inside walls as well, where you can mix it up with just one accent wall in a standout colour. But remember, exposed walls cannot hide pipes or wires, so you must either pick walls free of these or find overhead options for your wiring.

6. Brick arch support

Arches are an economical and aesthetic means of spanning gaps. “Brick arches and load bearing walls can be used to support the roof,” says Vasudevan.

It significantly brings down the quantity of steel used, thus bringing down overall costs. Decide upon the structural system for your house based on location and building footprint. If you can opt for load-bearing walls instead of an RCC frame, it can cut your budget by close to 20 per cent.

Check out

Organisations that work with cost-effective building material and technology:

Central Building Research Institute (CBRI)

Structural Engineering Research Centre (SERC)

Centre of Application of Science and Technology to Rural Areas (Castra)

Regional Research Laboratories (RRL)

National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri)