When Biju Mathew decided to build a home, he was particular that it had to be something which was eco-friendly. And ardent environment buff and a nature lover, he was particular that the home, should in no way be a threat to the natural ecological balance. His wife Annie Mathew, was a bit apprehensive when Biju mooted the idea of a mud house.
Annie Mathew, who was under a lot of peer pressure was not sure about the longevity of a mud house. Neither was she sure about how difficult the upkeep would be. However, Biju managed to convince her. He then went about with the job of finding the right person who would give help his dream to become a reality.
That was when he came across a feature about a mud house designed by Vinu Daniel on the ‘Veedu’ channel. Biju was impressed with the architect’s design sensibilities. He obtained the contact details from the channel office and got in touch with Vinu directly. There was absolutely no looking back after that!
The house was to be built on a 9 cent plot located in the Housing Board Colony in Pathanamthitta Town. On one corner of the plot, there was an old house that had to be retained. The plot was almost 1.5 metres above the road-level. Both the family and the architect were particular about not removing much mud from the plot. So it was only to build the car porch in the front that some mud was taken away. A stone pathway was laid to get into the house from the porch. There are stone steps provided in the centre of the plot to reach the main door.
The major highlight of the exteriors is the debris-wall that gives a wave like feel. The wall that starts from the porch goes along the centre of the house till the courtyard and then ends over the porch. The aim here is to secure the privacy of the bedrooms and the dining space.
The plot had been, for some years used as a dump-yard and it had a lot of debris. These were all collected and instead of disposing it off, they decided to put the waste to good use. The ratio of the contents in this debris was as such; 80percent building remnants, 15 percent gravel, 5 percent cement and 5 percent manufactured sand. On a frame built of 6 MM rods, a 22 gauge chicken wire mesh plastering was done. A solid layer of the debris was added to this and watering was done at intervals. With the addition of mud and further plastering the wall was complete. All the waste on the plot was reused in this manner.
The remaining mud on the plot was used to build the other walls in a ‘rammed earth’ method. This style makes use of mud mixed along with 5 to 7 percent cement. No concrete blocks were used to make the walls. A small concrete beam was given on top of the foundation and it was over this, that the mud wall was erected. A small lintel beam comes on the top, close to the ceiling level.
Coconut Shell Roofing
Almost half of the roof is built using coconut shells in a filler slab method. The ceiling has been left without plastering. The coconut shells that are visible on the ceiling double up as the light fixtures . Plastic bottles worth Rs.7 were attached to the coconut shells and LED lighting fixed into this. Expenses that could have gone to thousands stayed in tens! The remaining roof portions were made with the help of pre-cast Ferro cement slabs. The slabs measuring 60 cm x 4.5 m was made first and then these were joined up using concrete to form the roofing.
On the left portion of the house, which is the South West facing side, are the bedrooms and private area. Towards the left side of the central courtyard and dining room is the kitchen and work area. The living room is right in the front.
1000 electricity boxes for the windows
You will not find even a single wood beam window in this house. The entire ventilation has been done using 16 AMMS iron rods. To beautify this, the recycled top parts of the old KSEB electricity meter boxes were used. When the new ones replaced the old meters, KSEB sold these off to scrap yards. They were purchased in bulk for Rs.15 per piece. For all the windows, around 1000 boxes had to be used. These parts were welded onto the rods.
As for the furniture, there is a twist here too! The architect himself designed the sofa and the dining table using plywood and mild steel. This helped in a way to keep check on the otherwise exorbitant amounts spent on interiors and saved space. The dining table, book shelf, wash basin and partitions are all part of this custom-built ‘Multi-functional furniture unit’. The dining table is the kind that can be pulled down only when required. The wash basin is fashioned out of an old bronze ‘Urruli’ bought in from a scrap yard.
The works are progressing on a small compound wall made of mud and a rain water harvesting set-up in the front yard. Once everything is in its rightful, natural place, life in its truest sense can begin here!
Architect Vinu Daniel Speaks
A young ‘Earth Architect’ who focuses on experimenting with mud architecture. According to him sustainability is not a choice, it is a necessity. He completed his B.Arch degree from Trivandrum Engineering College. Vinu later went on for further training in Earth Architecture under Satprem Maini of the Auroville Earth Institute. He has worked on a number of signature mud based architectural projects.
What was the brief for the house?
The main aim was to work inside the preferences and likes of the family. The owners were 100 percent sure that they wanted an eco-friendly and sustainable home. This was definitely the deciding or rather influencing factor here.
Does working on such houses give you more happiness?
Certainly! It is only then that you are able to put across what you believe in and work towards achieving it. The family was very involved in every stage of construction. The best part about building a mud house is that the owners themselves can directly be included in the building processes unlike in concrete construction projects.
What are the most important things to keep in mind?
Workers and supervisors that are skilled in such type of projects. They need to have adequate experience in dealing with mud architecture. Few architects that came in to study about mud buildings like Archana, Gincy, Shobhitha, Melvin were a great help for this project.
Area - 2000 sq.ft.Architect - Vinu Daniel, Wall Makers, Kochivinudaniel@gmail.comOwner - Biju Mathew & Annie, Kuttikandathil, Photos - Harikrishnan, Anand Jaju