Ullas and Brijith Lal have much in common. They are both police officers and thick friends. They began hunting for an ideal plot for building a house almost at the same time. They chanced upon a 8 cent plot at Karakulam in Thiruvananthapuram that they both liked very much to let it go. And then they decided to buy the plot together and build two houses that would have some amenities that were shared.
Being hard-core nature lovers, both Ullas and Brijith were particular about constructing houses that had the least impact on the environment. They used as much eco-friendly materials as possible. They met the Joint Director of Costford, Architect P.B. Sajan. The green signal for the buddies came from him. He assured them that a house could be built on 2 cents even
The 8 cent plot was divided into two separate 4 cent plots for building the houses. The space in between became the front yard of both the houses. A well that used to be in this part has been retained and both the houses share this for their water requirements. The car porch of one of the house comes over this part. There is only one bio-gas plant and rain-harvesting system for both houses.
When seen from the front, you can't make out that these are two separate houses. The houses are 4-storeys high. The ground level of both houses are used as car parking areas. There is a sit-out, living area, kitchen and one bedroom in the second floor. In the third level there is a living space and 2 bedrooms. In one of the houses the fourth floor has been converted into an editing studio for the son whereas in the other one, this is used as a family living area.
Though the house is set on just 4 cents, there are no compromises as far as room size or space is concerned. The house on the right side of the plot is 2600 sq. ft. and that on the left side is 2100 sq. ft.
Nothing was wasted
Wood of the coconut tree has been used for the railings of the stairs. Old recycled bottles was used as light ventilation. The plot was located with a side orientation beside a road and so the mud from the edge was removed and the remaining left as such to build the houses. The walls of the two houses were made by forming bricks from this mud. The mud was mixed with limestone and water and made into a thick paste and left overnight, before setting it in moulds to make Adobe Mud Bricks. Each brick measures 1 feet long, with 9 feet width and 6 feet thickness. They required close to 15,000 blocks for completing the construction of both houses.
Only the point load sections of the wall used concrete blocks. Specially made blocks called stone constituted blocks that use low levels of concrete has been used for this purpose. In order to make this; at first one layer of concrete is poured into the moulds. Over this randomly collected stones, sand and other mud debris is added followed by another layer of concrete. These type of blocks are sturdy and strong.
Cement plastering has not been done on majority portion of both houses. Paint has been avoided too. Instead of this, a coating of mud plaster made of lime, mud, clay and fine straw was used.
Roofing with BambooThe ceiling was done with treated Casuarina poles and bamboo ply. The main aim was to reduce the usage of concrete. Hence in both houses concrete was done only for the roof of the living room and the kitchen. Bamboo was predominantly used as roofing material for the rest of the house. Treated bamboo is first laid and on top of this a mixture of lime with mud and this is followed by a thin layer of cement plaster. Flooring can also be done in this manner by laying tiles or wood over this cement plaster layer. The screens of the balconies in the two houses were made with bamboo. Around 800 bamboo was required for this purpose.
Treated Casuarina poles were used to make the beams and frames of the roofs on the top floor. Bamboo ply and roof tiles completes the roof here. The treated bamboo ply has been joined together with water-proof silicon sealant. This ensures that no rain water will seep through even if there are any cracks on the roof tiles. The roof tiles are all recycled old ones purchased at Re.1.5 per piece. Except for the main door, all the other doors and windows are old and purchased from dealers in materials of old houses. The architect helped them choose the best raw materials for the house. Some old wood planks doubled up as flooring too.
Another highlight in the twin houses are the in- built furniture like sofa and dining tables. The families did not have to spend much money to buy furniture. Only the kitchen walls have a plaster and paint finish and tiles for the floors.
P.B. Sajan, The Joint Director of Costford set up in 1985 with the objective of providing cost-effective, energy efficient housing using Eco-friendly raw materials. The organisation, with thirteen centres in Kerala, creates and implements design and construction strategies sensitive to indigenous building practices, environmental considerations, and integration of appropriate modern technology.
Are houses built with mud bricks sturdy and solid enough and what about the security factors?
Mud houses have just the same level of security or safety or solidness as the concrete houses. You don't have to have doubts or second thoughts when taking a decision about the choice of materials. It is high time we gave a thought to the hazards of not using environment-friendly raw materials, of how the delicate balance of the eco-system gets affected.
2 houses on 8 cents?
This is a great idea to adopt especially for friends. There are numerous advantages when you share the space to build your dream homes. In cities where there are space constraints, methods like this can be useful.
What is the major highlights?
The fact that the entire construction was completed without leaving any carbon footprints! This is the highlight that nature was in no way harmed at any stage of construction.
At a glance
There are many differentiating elements in the twin houses that friends Ullas and Brijith built together by sharing a single plot.
Mud bricks were used in building the 4 floors of the house.
Most of the roofing was done using bamboo instead of concrete.
The top most level have roofs of Casuarina poles and Bamboo Ply.
Doors, windows etc. are all reused and not new.
The houses share a bio-gas plant, a well and a common front yard.
'We want to set the right example for friends like us. It is important that people come to know of eco-friendly building practices', says Ullas and Brijith.
(In agreement with Veedu)