Back to Nature, Natural Building/ Mud Construction
Natural building, in my opinion, is a holistic approach to construction that incorporates regional and traditional abilities with modern engineering. It's going back to nature through the usage of natural materials with environmental and sustainability perspectives. Natural construction is a vital step towards a happier, healthier, and more sustainable future for all of us.
In early 2021, I had the privilege of participating in a ten-day Natural Building Workshop at Thannal, where I learned natural materials, techniques, and processes through hands-on work for their projects. We built a mud wall with Cob (a thick monolithic wall made of mud and fibers) and elevated it with Wattle & Daub (bamboo is braided and mud is placed on top) that was flexible enough to accept any shape. We also made mud bricks using Adobe (Sun Dried bricks of Mud and Fiber). CSMB (compressed mud blocks with very little water) and rammed earth, which can also be used to construct walls (pressed together using high pressure to make it completely solid).
Mud wall in progress using Cob (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Wattle and daub structure by weaving bamboo (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Bamboo can be used to create supporting beams and lintels. Depending on the weather conditions at the site, thatch, bamboo, wood, and tiles can be used for mud house roofing. The walls are plastered with mud and additives sourced from plants and animals. Mud buildings have flooring made of cow dung, lime, and terracotta tiles. Earth-bag (bags filled with earthen elements) as a building unit is also used in mud houses.
Wattle and daub structure after applying mud paste on weaved bamboo (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Bamboo used to create supporting beams and lintels. (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Earth bag house (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Mud also can be used for building stove, oven, and furniture. Mud houses stay naturally cool and breathable and have proven to be healthy for us as well as the environment.
Rocket Stove built using mud (Shot at Thannal Workshop location)
Interiors of a Mud house built by mud bricks using Adobe (Shot at location during site visit)
Another type of natural building that is being used is the bamboo house. Natural building is seen as a means for the construction sector to strive toward environmental protection and sustainability in building projects. The challenge for designers is to find new ways to combine these sustainable needs. Every design option must be considered in terms of its influence on the natural and cultural resources of the local, regional, and global contexts in the new design approach. These requirements for sustainability will apply at all stages of the building life cycle, from design to use to demolition and waste disposal.
Vinod Rao B