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Save the environment: Build homes with mud, not cement

Architect Revathi Kamath explains the economic and ecological benefits of using mud to construct homes

Architect Revathi Kamath believes in adhering to green ideologies. Delhi-based Kamath, is hailed as a pioneer of mud homes in India. “Mud is cheap, is a ‘breathable’ material and helps to maintain fairly even temperatures inside the house. Besides being eco-friendly, it is malleable and offers better insulation than concrete structures,” says Kamath, explaining the benefits of using mud to construct homes. Moreover, it reduces dependence on the traditional supply chain of construction materials, as mud can be procured locally. Mud bricks are also strong and last for years, adds Kamath, who left no stone unturned, in building a sustainable home for herself.

Setting an example

Her two-storeyed mud house in Anangpur village, Haryana, is situated on a one-and-a-half-acre abandoned quarry. It has been constructed, through a rearrangement of natural materials found on the site and its surroundings, along with minimal and prudent use of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and fossil resources, like metals, stone and cement.

“It used to be a barren land. Now, there are over 200 trees, all around the house. We used mud from our land, moulded the bricks on site and sun-dried them. During the warm summer months, earth-based houses are naturally insulated. So, the home is cool in summers and warm in winters,” Kamath explains.

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There is no air-conditioner in her house. A green roof, with live grass and vegetation, covers the house. Atomiser sprays in the courtyard, keep the home cool naturally. The air in the courtyard, which is cooled by the atomisers, is drawn into the living spaces by low-speed blowers, through the traditional wet ‘khas tati’ (a curtain made of khus-vettiver roots).

The drainage system of the house, has a natural recycling process that purifies the waste water through an anaerobic chamber. Above the chamber, plants draw up the water and purify it, as well. Three such anaerobic digesters, treat the entire waste water produced by the household and discharge the clean treated water to an earthen embankment, to irrigate the land.

Creating sustainable habitats

Kamath is a post-graduate in urban and regional planning, from the School of Planning and Architecture, in Delhi. She and her husband set up Kamath Design Studio in Delhi, almost three decades ago and have built eco-friendly projects across the country. Three of her projects were nominated for the Aga Khan award. Her famous designs include the Mud Resort in Madawa, Rajasthan; the Museum of Tribal Heritage in Bhopal; the Lakshman Sagar Resort, the Jiva Ashram animal shelter in Delhi, and many others.

Kamath has also designed the Gnostic Centre on the outskirts of Delhi, entirely out of bamboo and mud. She is presently working on a healing centre in greater Faridabad, which is designed using bamboo extensively.

“Architects should realise that the purpose of humanity, is to give dignity to all forms of life. Sustainable architecture is the need of the hour. It is important, to use materials that least destroy our environment. Everything should go back seamlessly, from where it has come. Mainstream developers and architects, have to be ecologically-sensitive and create sustainable habitats, using construction standards that focus on conservation of water, energy and materials,” maintains Kamath.

Kamath, who is known for conceiving the ‘Evolving Home’ concept for redevelopment, also has several suggestions for individuals:

  • It is better to avoid synthetic paints. Instead, opt for biological products, such as plant-based and water-based colours.
  • Bamboo can be used for door and window frames and window shutters.
  • Grow plants at home, wherever possible.
  • Use solar cooking devices.

“Do not do things today that make tomorrow worse. Man and nature should live harmoniously,” she concludes.

Author:  Purnima Goswami Sharma

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