building sense Design

Made of mud

This form of construction uses less cement than conventional buildings.  

I was not really thrilled when my husband, Amit, started talking about constructing a mud brick house. “Like the palace in Leh?” I asked, imagining a regal, but dusty, crumbling old building. “Won’t it collapse in the monsoon?” Unplastered walls give it a rustic feel, but I don’t think I could live in a house like that. I wanted beautifully plastered and painted surfaces where I could hang my mother’s art work. Amit found an architect who specialises in mud brick construction. After much research and detailed discussions with the architect and visiting several mud brick houses in Bangalore, most of my doubts were allayed.

Mud brick houses use some or all of the mud that is excavated from the site itself. This form of construction uses less cement than conventional construction. Even the cost of transportation of material is low, given that the bricks are made at the site itself. All this contributes to a lower carbon footprint during construction and lower costs as well. Besides, you get the thrill of actually seeing the manufacture of bricks that go into making your house. There is a simple metal press with a long lever and a handle. They pack the mud into a mould, press down firmly on the lever to compact it into a brick, and then pop it out and stack it up neatly to dry in the sun. And yes, these bricks are strong and durable. Mud brick has the ability to absorb warmth and store it. It helps keep the house cool during the day and warm during the night. The arched panels on the ceiling contain air pockets, which help regulate the temperature in the house. The first floor of our house does get warm, but on the ground floor, we don’t need to use the fan often. I was worried that the dull mud-coloured walls would make the house dark, but our architect had the answer to that. In addition to a lot of windows, we have skylights in the walls and ceilings that let in sufficient light throughout the day. Even on cloudy days, we never need to turn on lights during the day. In fact, daylight streams in through the skylights so beautifully that sometimes we think we left the lights on.

The basement is the best part of the house. When you think of a basement, you tend to think of a dungeon, or a cellar — a place that’s dark and dank. Our basement is nothing like that. It’s vast, bright and lovely. Light streams in from windows at the top of the walls and from the sunken garden just outside. And here the mud brick walls are replaced by the unpolished granite of the foundation walls. Many visitors to our house have loved the rustic look of the unplastered walls. For my part, after living here for two years, I don’t notice the walls anymore. I wouldn’t say I’ve grown to love the rustic look; but I don’t mind it as much as I thought I would. The brick exterior looks nice, though, especially when it’s surrounded by greenery.

This is a first of a five-part series about the green initiatives the writer has used for her home in Bangalore

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:54:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/design/constructing-houses-made-of-mud/article6708017.ece

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