A traditional mud building in Punjab (Source – WikiMedia Commons)
Today, many recent architect graduates as well as established architects with a penchant for something out of the box seem quite interested in mud architecture.
Mud – perhaps the most primitive earthen element used by human race for building adobes and lean-tos – evokes the spirit of simplicity and closeness to the nature at large. While it’s true that mud architecture would be utterly anachronistic in this day and age, we still need to keep an open mind when it comes to dismissing something that has been used for centuries as a cost effective and reliable housing method.
Advantages of adopting mud architecture
Mud architecture can exploit the variety of topical texture in mud bricked walls (Source – www.flickr.com)
Customarily, small sized residential buildings built up using mud bricks are known as adobes. In Spanish, the word adobe literally translates to mud brick. There are many advantages of resorting to mud architecture – even in utility, as well as novelty.
To begin with, mud architecture is organic and sustainable in totality. Mud bricks are essentially sun-dried block of mud and their preparation doesn’t involve any energy intensive processes.
Secondly, mud bricks are excellent insulators. They have a great capacity to store heat inside the building in winters, while blocking out external heat in summers. In technical terms, mud bricks have high thermal mass.
Shibam: A five-centuries old mud bricked ‘Manhattan of the Desert’ in Yemen (Source – WikiMedia Commons)
Another peculiar advantage that mud architecture has over modern concrete or furnace fired clay construction is that mud walls are known to breathe. This phenomenon – most popularly used in traditional Indian kulhads or matkis for storing curd and milk – allows the retention of humidity to a perfect level, rendering the ambiance inside the building comfortable.
Modern concrete designs have a high intrinsic carbon footprint. On the other hand, mud bricks not only leave no carbon footprint, they are also more versatile in surface design and texture than concrete. While it must be mentioned that mud bricked buildings cannot come close to concrete buildings in terms of comparing strengths of the two, mud bricks leave many more options for creative designers to fiddle with.
Mud Architecture and India
A simple mud bricked house in the district of Raigad, Maharashtra (Source – www.archdaily.com)
It would surprise many urban readers to know that even in 2015, more than 50% of all new housing projects commissioned in India employ mud bricks or equivalents thereof. This has mainly to do with the lower cost of construction and lesser time spent building a house. Even unskilled labour can be utilised in the construction of small huts that are largely symbolic of rural India. That said, it should also be mentioned that mud architecture has been successful in drawing attention of eminent architects and designers in the country, simply because it is something that gives total freedom of thought to designers – a quality that concrete and steel framed buildings desperately lack.