If you want to build the natural way

If corrective actions are taken, eco-friendly architecture is worth it.

25HAB-greensens_25_1731748eThe idea of building with natural materials is great, but the materials face a major limitation. Being part of the ecological life cycle, they tend to wither by wear and tear; underperform if defective materials are used; and deteriorate much faster than manufactured materials if problems are ignored. As such, with the technical and industrial capacity we have researched during the recent centuries, we have started processing them with chemicals, coatings and additives or even replacing them with artificial materials.

By this, while some of the limitations of natural materials have been overcome to our advantage, we have landed up with huge resource and energy consumption, endangering our civilisation. Hence, the urgent need to return to building with nature.

By watching the performance of structures and materials, one can ensure better strength and durability of any building, especially so with eco-friendly architecture. Letting the walls get direct rain and wind is among the major concerns, where water may penetrate into the joints, space between composite walls or wall cavities. Cracks and surface dampness are the easy indicators.

All possible points of water ingress should be sealed. Conventional wall plastering may have no structural strength, but it seals the walls. The weight of the structure and regular watering of plants result in changing soil characteristics, often leading to unequal settlements. Cracks running diagonally and sometimes even horizontally indicate it, which needs early checking by engineers.

What is adequate

Most eco-friendly houses are small structures, not higher than ground and two more floors. Load bearing walls are more than adequate for them, with no real need for RCC column and beam. Nowadays, RCC frame structures are employed blindly everywhere, so most engineers and masons have lost the knowledge of masonry walls. Out of ignorance or otherwise, if the walls are overloaded, they may compress and cracks.

Also, heavy loads of beams, upper floor walls and such others should not be placed directly upon a small area, technically called point loading. Engineers should be consulted to ensure that the loads are distributed, lest the walls crack.

Under a flat roof, the load bearing walls perform better. In case of sloping and curved roofs, the weight of roof will try pushing the wall at the lower side, hence traditionally there used to be a wall plate beam or timber member on top of the wall. This crucial member, if forgotten in a masonry wall, will put the wall under stress and it may crack, bulge or lean outside.

Walls may otherwise face the same fate if the masonry blocks such as brick, hollow clay blocks or stabilised mud blocks are improperly made, with inadequate density, porosity, strength or curing. In case of doubt, it is safer to get them tested in advance.

As it can be seen, much depends upon quality and professionalism to make a good building, be it conventional or alternative.

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Posted on January 25, 2014, in concepts, fundamentals and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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