The interlocking, electric machine-produced, stabilised mud block rises above many other new materials in its advantages.


Are our traditions dead practices? Is there no future for the ideas with which our forefathers lived? Should we believe that continuous innovation and constant change are the only paths towards a better future?

The above questions may lead to many debates, both favouring and countering, due to the mixed and confused state we are now in. While cultural studies may debunk the theories of innovation, technically loaded subjects like modern communication may like to drop the past. However, the construction industry may find itself at the crossroads, it being a synthesis of traditional culture and modern creativity.

Stabilised mud block, also called as soil cement block, is an apt illustration. It is a new technology developed from the age-old mud houses and well established in many areas, yet it has been criticised by many people for not belonging to the modern age of fast production, industrialisation, standardised qualities, ease of operation or skill-sets required. Now, the interlocking, electric machine-produced, stabilised mud block not only answers these critics, but rises above many other new materials in its advantages.

It has been few years since the pre-casting of soil cement blocks started in India, with technology imported from the African company Hydraform, hence has a proven track record. Unlike the manual pressed ones, they are compacted to the set density and strength in an electrically operated machine and cured thereafter. The blocks have grooves and projections on all surfaces, hence can fit one to another without any mortar joints. The interlocking arrangement which needs no pointing of joints is waterproof, besides easy to be fitted even by a semi-skilled mason. Alignments are, by default, guaranteed ensuring faster construction.

Sandy soil is preferred over high clay contents, and the mud needs to be mixed with tested and specified quantity of quarry dust and cement to give it additional strength, surface density and anti-corrosive characteristics. The blocks are pre-cured and construction has no mortar, hence no water curing is required, saving water and labour time. These walls can be load bearing with 9” walls or fill walls with 6” thick or thin walls with 4.5” thick ones.

More than 1,000 blocks can be made at site every working day with a single machine and team of workers. The machine can be fixed in one factory and can be transported where needed without much difficulty. In principle, these walls are made to be left exposed without plastering. However, pigmented blocks can be made or mud and lime mixed with oxides can be painted in case the natural block looks are not appreciated. With the block size of 9×9.5×4.5 inches, they are larger than normal stabilised mud blocks, hence have increased passive cooling capacities.

The house in Mysore by architects Dhyan Belliappa and Rajesh Jain is evolving in this right direction.

There are enough opportunities to make our past practices futuristic, only we need to be willing.

Posted on October 31, 2015, in concepts, fundamentals and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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