Relax, mud houses are safe
Most people reject mud walls not out of knowledge, but out of ignorance, fear and apprehensions.
Let us ask ourselves a simple multiple-choice question. Among all existing structures in the world, what could be the most commonly found wall material? Choice of answers – stone, mud, burnt bricks, wood. Anyone with common sense can answer it as mud and anyone with green sense may try using it again.
However, during colonial rule, mud construction was so discouraged that it had be popularised once again. In Bangalore the credit goes to civil engineering scientists at IISc., forming a group called ASTRA, who not only re-discovered mud, but also researched to make it stronger, durable and applicable everywhere. All this is now a 30-year-old history. The buildings are standing the test of time.
You may argue that I could preach it, being an eco-friendly architect designing with mud, but wonder how a prospective city dweller would react. It is true, majority of prospective owners outright reject the idea, with very few who are curious to explore this alternative. However, if an architect takes the trouble of explaining with past projects and publications, suddenly there are some takers.
For over 12 years now, since our first mud building was built, we have realised that most people reject mud walls not out of knowledge, but out of ignorance, fear and apprehensions. We think it is an outdated material now, which melts in water and crumbles under weight. We fear, our kith and kin would laugh at us.
We are apprehensive that no more are experts available to build with mud.
No other material replacing mud is yet to equal all the qualities of mud walls. It is the lowest cost material around Bangalore even today with the maximum insulation from heat gain, thereby addressing the challenges of both cost and climate.
Mud walls can be colour coated or plastered with mud once again, requiring least maintenance. Steel reinforced load-bearing mud columns have already been built, while bamboo reinforced construction ideas are also in progress.
There are thousands of designer buildings built over the last decades using mud, and now rammed earth walls, another traditional approach, have started gaining popularity.
Naturally, one would wonder how it is possible, knowing well that mud dissolves and cracks. We also see village mud houses lasting for centuries and wonder even more!
Mud in natural state will last only a few rains, but when stabilised with additives, gains the strength required to be a durable building material.
The secret of durable mud houses lies in the process of stabilisation.