Earth as shelter
Traditionally, people built walls by placing mud mixed with jaggery, grass and such local additives, but today we have scientifically evolved mix with cement and quarry dust.
If asked in a quiz competition, any high school kid would say their immediate shelter is their house. After all, the urge to build a house comes from the need for shelter making and hence these two terms are nearly synonymous. Mostly our exploration of the word ‘shelter’ stops there, but what if we continue for curiosity sake?
What shelters us beyond the house – may be the street in front? Of course yes. As we expand our human zones, the urban neighbourhood or our village nests us, making us feel safe there. Everyone returning after an assignment out of city knows about that ‘feel at home’ happiness when we enter the city of our residence, hence even a big entity like a city is also a shelter, though at a different scale compared to the home.
Come to think of local language, network of relatives, opportunities of earning and such others – it is the state that supports us.
Beyond the state, we can name the nation as a shelter and finally the great truth that the final shelter we have is this Earth. We are born into, live upon and finally buried into this Earth.
As Chief Seattle said, ‘What befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of the Earth’. If this awareness gets deep rooted, hopefully we may change the way we treat nature. Sensitivity towards Earth can begin with building with earth itself, with minimally processed mud.
Rammed earth walls
Traditionally, people built walls by placing mud mixed with jaggery, grass and such local additives, but today we have scientifically evolved mix with cement and quarry dust. This mix is placed and hammered into the wall space created by two side wooden planks or steel plates, to get the rammed earth walls.
Window locations get another side plate to leave them as an opening. Appropriate size of earthen block, say 1’x1’x9” or slightly longer block, can be rammed at one go and one course can be prepared in one day.
Rammed earth walls are extremely cost effective due to natural materials, good for passive cooling due to thermal mass and have lowest possible embodied energy for a wall construction.
Though it is mixed with cement, in case of house demolition in future, the material can be recycled or left to merge with nature.
The surface does not need any plastering, being water proof thanks to the high density surface. Ideally to be left with looks of mud, if need be, it can be painted to get other colours.
Imagine Earth as a part of both the cosmic universe as well as a cozy home. Imagine living in a shelter made of earth with in this Mother Earth – can there be anything more eco-friendly than that?