More than 30% of world’s population lives in unbaked earthen houses.
It is unfortunate that the houses built with mud are considered unsafe (kaccha) and meant for poorer section of the society. Maybe, it is a selfish narrative created by select some.
On the contrary, mud as building material beats other materials hands down for comfort, health, beauty, ease of use, ecology, durability and affordability.
Let’s look at some of these parameters in detail.
The organic shapes of mud walls are pleasing to the eye.
Naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter, a mud home will keep you comfy year-round. The thermal mass of the thick walls slows down changes in the temperature. Heat from a fire and from the sun will be absorbed and radiated back to you during the cooler nights.
Mud walls also muffle sound, making a quiet indoor space.
Mud structures are nontoxic to both builders and inhabitants.
Mud building as process is good for our body & mind. It stimulates creativity – we get to know the inventor in oneself, the artist, the inspired creator, the designer, the organizer.
Clay, one of the important components of building soil, is curative, a healing material that has been valued for its ability to absorb toxins. During mud building construction, contact with wet clay is noticeably therapeutic.
Earthen houses breathe gently through the entire wall surface. Thus it keeps inside moisture in balance.
There are many research papers published on health benefits of earthing or grounding.
Even though most of us today are conditioned to prefer the new, the shiny, the predictable; yet at a deep level, we respond to unprocessed materials, to idiosyncrasy, and to the personal thought and care expressed in craftmanship.
Nearly all natural buildings, regardless of the level of expertise of the builders, are remarkably beautiful.
Earth for building is dug locally; generally surplus earth from building’s own footprint is used. Processing is minimal, involving no machinery or chemicals, and can be almost silent. No mile-deep open pit mines, no toxic tailings or effluent ponds, fewer trucks on the road. Earthen construction generates no air or water pollution. Excess material goes right back into garden, effectively unaltered.
When earthen building is no longer wanted, it returns to its original components and grows a garden again.
Soil being geological material, lasts indefinitely. There are many centuries old earthen buildings standing tall & still inhabited across the globe.
Mud dwellings are fire resistant. In the tremendous bush fires in 1994 almost surrounded Sydney, Australia, the only surviving building in one entire neighborhood had an earthen roof.
Wayanad, Kerala & Mysore, Karnataka have 300 years old cob houses still in use.
In Europe, some cob buildings built in 16th & 17th centuries are still standing.
In UK, 50000 cob houses are still in use – most of these built in 18th and 19th centuries.
Bhunga houses of Kutch, India are circular mud buildings. The Bhungas stood firm during 2001 earthquake while many other buildings were devastated. They are equally capable of withstanding desert storms.
A mud mansion in Nelson, NZ has survived 150 years in one of the world’s most active seismic zones, enduring 2 major earthquakes without a crack.
Termite mounds are iconic examples of earthen structures that can withstand the forces of nature and remain intact for decades, if not centuries.
Ease of Use
Anyone can do it!
Mud is a flexible and forgiving medium. It is not restrictive – you can have rounded & curved walls. You are not restricted by straight lines & right angles.
As kids, we all loved playing and making things with soil. Clay toys, Sand castles. It all came naturally to us.
When building with mud, physical strength and skills take backseat over dedication & willingness to experiment.
By using local, unprocessed materials, by building smaller and smarter, and by providing as much as labor by yourself, we can create a home that is almost unbelievably affordable.
A well-designed mud home will save money on energy bills too!
Want to know more about building with mud?
Join us for Building with Mud – 1 Day Hands-on Workshops.
- The Hand-Sculpted House by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley
- The Cob Builders Handbook by Becky Bee
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