Architects of the New Age are creating organic, sustainable, energy efficient houses that draw on local traditions of construction, craft and labour.
Building Castles of MudSelf-taught architect Didi Contractor speaks to Life Positive on the art and craft of building holistic homes
You build with mud. Can one build such houses in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore or Delhi?
Building, like most other human activities, makes destructive demands on nature and disturbs ecological processes. In the past nature had the upper hand and human activities had to comply with nature's demands or risk extinction.
Architects in each situation can try to create ways to do the least damage.
Any holistic or ecological approach has to be sensitive to diversity: the particular character and the different problems of each place, each building site. Different materials and technologies become "appropriate" in different contexts. Here in rural Himachal Pradesh I use local building methods and harvest materials such as mud and bamboo from each site. In any other place I would explore the time-tested building traditions of that place. In Bangalore, Chitra Vishvanath, for instance, (www.biome-solutions.com) uses compressed bricks made from the earth dug from basements at the site.
How do houses designed by you compare with those constructed with concrete in terms of durability, functionality, repair costs and cost of construction?
Various forms of cost should be considered. Monetary costs, which are by nature easy to measure, only affect individual purses and pockets. Ecological costs affect everyone, and even the as yet unborn will have to pay. Concrete has a very high ecological cost. The monetary cost of the houses I design can be up to one third lower but my main concern is to lower the ongoing ecological costs. Good design can save energy at the time of construction and throughout the life of the building. The houses I design have proved durable and are easy and cheap to repair. Repair costs for conventional buildings are VERY much higher but conventional buildings can survive longer without repair.
Concrete houses cost around Rs 900 - Rs 1,400 psqft. How much do your houses cost?
There are costs at the time of construction and there are ongoing energy costs for the duration of the life of the building. I can usually build the same carpet area for one-third the cost, but I urge clients to spend that difference on energy saving and on the quality of amenities.
What is your advise to city-dwellers who can only afford small apartments?
Energy and ecology affect us all; our common (holistic) environment is experienced by us all. City dwellers may not have the luxury of living in ecologically constructed buildings but we all contribute to our surrounding environment by the way we live. By being sensitive to common needs in common spaces and being active in addressing such common issues as conservation, pollution, poverty and waste we can contribute to the (holistic) welfare of all.
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