Mud houses are back: experts on why you should build one

by Wednesday , February 24 2016 15:53

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From an exotic resort in Wayanad to a sprawling film academy in Thiruvananthapuram and to various monuments and houses, mud as a medium of construction is slowly gathering momentum in Kerala. In addition to being eco-friendly and cost-effective, mud houses reduce the carbon footprint.

Onmanorama caught up with two architects whose works have brought them international recognition. Eugene Pandala, the award winning mastermind behind Banasura Resort and Revathy Kalamandir, and P.K. Sreenivasan, a protege of the legend Laurie Baker and the man behind the organic architecture firm Vasthukam, tell us the pros and cons of building a mud house.

Why mud?

Mud is the most commonly available resource. The availability of mud makes it a cost-effective option, says P.K. Sreenivasan. Ideally, it cuts construction costs by nearly 20 to 25 percent when compared to using other materials for construction. In the olden days, says Eugene Pandala, in Malabar area, houses were built of laterite blocks or vettukallu, whereas in Travancore, they used mud and clay. 'In fact, we are making use of an ancient technology here,' he says.

Comfort and sustainability

A mud house, says P.K. Sreenivasan, is very comfortable because it keeps you in close proximity with nature. The houses are well ventilated and breezy. Eugene Pandala, says that many old buildings, including his ancestral house, were made of mud and it has stood the test of time. 'Sustainability,' he adds, 'should never be a worry, under ideal situations.'

Roof and foundation

Water is the enemy of a mud house, according to P.K. Sreenivasan. 'In a waterlogged area, a mud foundation is not advisable. You can use granite or a laterite base, but in a dry area, mud works just fine.' 'The roofing is equally important',' says Eugene Pandala. 'The roof should completely cover the walls, so that no water will seep in from the top.

Reduce carbon footprint

According to some studies, the carbon emissions in cities are pegged at about 76 percent, of which about 30 percent comes from housing industry. This figure is startling, says Eugene. Mud houses, he says, reduce the carbon footprint. Meanwhile, for P.K. Sreenivasan, mud houses are emotional beings that can breathe too. They are good insulators, and thereby saves on energy, they add.

Pests and maintenance

'If you are not careful about the upkeep of your house, pests such as termites will be common,' says P.K. Sreenivasan. What needs to be followed is a process called curing the mud, which will help fend off the pests. He adds that mud houses do not require painting and can be aesthetically appealing.

The 'R'

The materials used for making a mud house can be reused, recycled and replenished. 'We are taking and giving back to the earth when we build a mud house,' says Eugene Pandala.

Read more about Revathy Kalamandir

Biju Mathew, an environment buff and a nature lover chose mud for his dream house. Read more details about the house here

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