Made in EARTH

ಮೇಡ್ ಇನ್ ಅರ್ಥ್ | sustainable architecture & building practices

4. TECHNIQUES - Adobe -

When you build with earth, you have to get your hands into it!
Here are glimpses from a series of HANDS-ON workshops;
introducing various earth building techniques to students of Architecture,
at Archcult, National Institute of Technology, Trichy.

The Diversity of Earth Architecture

Earth is the oldest and has been the most essential building material over centuries.
The tradition of making sun dried raw earth bricks popularly known as adobes,
goes back to the beginning of human society.
Adobe is versatile and viable.
Adobe buildings can be found across continents,
where it has been spontaneously and continuously adapted
by people of different cultures,
for housing as well as monumental structures.

 

Archcult-Adobe

Heiress of the wattle and daub,
the Straw & Clay technique is spreading quickly, especially in Europe,
due to its remarkable thermal property
and the comfort that it can bring to our interiors.
It’s main ingredient; Straw, is available virtually everywhere
(wheat, rice, hemp straw, etc)
and when sourced locally,
makes this wall filling material one of the most ecological.

 

Archcult-StrawClay

The world wide tradition of Rammed earth construction
has shown that it is possible to achieve strong majestic buildings
that have withstood the test of time.
The grandeur of Rammed earth architecture has been expressed historically
in houses, forts and palaces;
even the great wall of China is largely built in earth!
Rammed earth is a load bearing technique where earth is compacted
in successive layers within a formwork. 
It has deep roots in countries such as France, South America, Spain, Morocco, China,
and all over the Himalayan area;
where it has proved to be a durable construction material.

 

Archcult-Rammed earth

 

A traditional walling system with a history of 6000 years,
Wattle and Daub is a composite wall building technique
using tightly woven wooden sticks or split Bamboo : the Wattle,
coated with a clay rich subsoil mix,
with chopped straw, hair or Animal Dung : the Daub.
Many historic buildings include Wattle and Daub construction,
and the technique is becoming popular again in more
developed areas as a low-impact sustainable building technique
that is effective in high seismic zones.

Archcult-WattleDaub

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“For us, it goes in circles, move and continue, and move and continue
and keep moving.”– This brief from the team at Kashi Education Society came a long way in shaping our design process.
We imagine children running, walking along walls, a casual finger trailing a texture or a motif along a wall, stopping to peep through a little window unto the green fields, escaping into a class and resurfacing somewhere else, oblivious to the building around them.

Benaras 01c

Benaras 01d

Benaras 01e

Benaras 04a

Benaras 04b

Benaras 04c

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2015 Cute and Care2

Suma and Shuba are two sisters from Bangalore with secret alter egos. They are setting up an organic farm near the small village of Seegehalli, in the outer reaches of the city. The quaint farm is a 400 m long strip of land jeweled with a row of coconut trees on either side. They dream of eventually retiring here to a quieter and more natural lifestyle. We have started to visualize the basic requirement for life on the farm. Nicknamed ‘Cute’ and ‘Care’ by our interns, the two cottages would be the first step in realising Suma and Shubha’s dream. The ‘Cute’ cottage is to accommodate the two on their weekend visits and enable them to spend more time on the farm, while the ‘Care’ cottage is to house a small family who would be present to take care of the farm at all times. It seems to us that this is the perfect place for a small adobe home, as we have wonderful soil as well as a local skill set to produce Adobes. Follow this thread to see how these designs evolve as we walk Suma and Shubha, gradually towards their dream.

2015 Cute and Care

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Then came Kali, he gave me a hundred kisses on my cheek, I hugged him and did not let him go. He was excited. He was one of those to whom the school belonged.
I had been waiting on the rope bed for one of my friends to ask for a brick or some mortar. We were constructing a Nubian vault, over the toilets. The arch, to be extruded, was beautiful. We were constructing portions of the much awaited Cuckoo Forest school.
Cuckoo being an NGO, needed help to make this dream come true. And help came, it came from far and wide, from as far as Nagaland and Delhi. The soon to be ‘never forget me’ friends came together to put up the dome form.
We had just started to intern with Jeremie, who had been incessantly guiding the architecture/ construction, for the whole week. Work had started on the 5th of July 2015, under Varun Thautam, another earth conscious architect.
I turned to see into the kitchen, Azhageshwari akka, our superstar, whose kitchen churned out the most amazing meals right from the morning herbal tea, to the fibre rich breakfasts, and full fledged lunches and dinners, complete with fried appalams.
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Some volunteers, I had seen in the morning, were collecting firewood for cooking. The bamboo in the forest, rustled as they had moved past me, not knowing my incognito-doing, closeby.
The place had so much life, so much aura. The energies were quite literally flowing from every direction. The people and their stories made me feel minuscule. People were there not only to give a hand at the construction, I understood.
They were of varied professions: Architects, Engineers, IT professionals, farmers, psychologists, journalists, photographers, theatre artists, entrepreneurs, writers, even aspiring cricketers. No two artists had the same story to tell. They all seemed to be exuberantly glowing in their own ways. No two volunteers had the same reason to come.
But all of them had one thing in common. They cared. They valued something. They valued earth.
Earth construction was perhaps the most apt technique. Five brick makers had made 4000 bricks a day, before I had reached the site. Eight volunteers churned out eight wheel barrows of clay mortar, each day, as they got themselves muddy pedicures. The work went on till lunch, and continued after tea. The happy ice-cream man had been having the time of his life, as we all craved, for the frosty sugar, under the flame thrower in the sky.
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That night was the last night, under the serial lights of the deep sky. Moon rise, star song, what beauty, I felt in the reflection of my view. The void seem to grow, more and more, as talks of parting, seem to hang in the air. Poetry and theatre in the dead dark forest came alive with the vermilion of flames and echoes from within. The passion seemed to consume everyone from the inside out. And it ended, with deep question.
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Indeed, the cuckoo volunteers served a lot of revered love to us. It is this love that has drenched children like Kali in. I felt so small in the company of the mighty mountains, the tall trees, most insignificant when I was shown their huge hearts and ever open minds. I feel I took so much more from cuckoo than I could have ever given.
I paid reverence to the land by sprinkling seeds and spreading life.I felt something very new, something that I can never describe when I removed my sandals that day. The Earth was breathing heavily under me.
By Santosh Shyamsunder, Team Made In Earth
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Photographs by Kaveer Rai
The Cuckoo Forest School brought together 40 volunteers from all over INDIA to build a handmade adobe school at the foothills of Javadhu, Puliyanur village in 10 days. Read more about the project here
Read an article about Cuckoo Forest School in the New Indian Express here

 

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Inthenews
Together with Cuckoo Movement for children and Varun Thautam

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Most people often remember earth as a crude material; it’s plain looks that are so contrasting from the aesthetics of finished industrial products. But the irony is that the principle virtue of this material lies in its aesthetics, one that is natural, subtle and simple, adapting itself to the diversity of techniques, cultural aspirations and skills; sometimes in response to tradition, while sometimes contemporary. Along with the artisans from Inventerre, we used earth for a completely different purpose…earthen floors! Today we tell you how it was made :
1-Earth Floor

You are probably wondering : “Which layer did they stabilize? Where is the cement?”. There is no cement, no lime, no bitumen! Only earth and linseed oil!
1. First the floor was dug and leveled with a layer of 3 to 5cm of sand.

2. Next, a 10 cm of cork board was laid for insulation purpose. Cork is a very interesting material in Europe for foundations since it is water proof, resistant to humidity and dense enough to carry some weight.

Earth Floor

The building heating system is done through the floor. Pipes are fixed on top of the cork and will be “trapped” in the slab to get the best inertia. As you can see on the photo a compression seal was also laid at the point of contact between the slab and the wall to avoid cracks and movement due to the changes of temperature of the floor complex.

3. Then comes the earth concrete. There is a debate with the word “Concrete”, we like to say that concrete is just a mix of aggregate together with a bonding agent and water. Therefore earth mixed with water is a concrete. Clay particles play the role of holding the aggregate together to form an solid mass.

Several layers of 5 cm mix were applied and then rammed to reach a final slab thickness of 11cm. The mix is composed of : 3 vol of calcareous gravel + 2 vol of earth + minimum of water to reach a semi-plastic state. Each layer is rammed by feet first and then with a ramming machine.

Water is your best friend and your worst enemy when building with earth. Put little less and you won’t get any cohesion, put a little extra and you will have fissures. Even though we put a minimum amount of water, we had to wait 3 months for the entire volume to dry! It is not like cement which will react with the water, here most of the water needs to evaporate till the earth mix has found its water balance with the surrounding materials and the air.

Laying an earth floor

4. The earth mortar is the final layer. It is around 1.5 to 2cm thick and is composed of 4 volumes of calcareous sand (0/4) and 1 volume of earth. It is the layer that will be seen and needs to be “perfect”, the slightest crack is filled and fixed before the final coating.

Finishes

Earth floor laying

5. Linseed oil is then applied 4 to 5 times to give rigidity to the floor surface and to make it water proof.

Je and shru

It is impressive to see that after applying the layers of oil, you can wipe the flour with a wet mop without altering the surface at all! Here is the final result!

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This is a restoration project of an old countryside house. The restored adobes, stone and cooked bricks and the wood are brought beautifully together by the earthen floor.

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You have to really want an earth floor in your house. It may be most ideal for living areas, reading rooms or bedrooms while kitchens and other wet areas could be a challenge. Remember that having an earth floor in any part of your house requires a special attention. It is sensitive to shocks and point load. The linseed oil coat has to be renewed every once in a while to make sure that the floor does not take any stains. If you would like more information about earth floors, please write to us

Who is Inventerre? coming up soon.

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