While several people were exploring various hobbies to pursue during the lockdown, Kerala’s Aji Anand and his friends decided to build an eco-friendly house.
“During the lockdown, my wife Thaniya Leela and I decided to build a house on a piece of land that my father-in-law had given me. But we wanted to keep the costs low and make it as eco-friendly as possible,” says Aji in an interview with The Better India.
With help from family members and friends, Aji constructed a mud home in their 1000 sq ft property within six months, for only Rs 6 lakhs. The entire structure was constructed using mud blocks made from the subsoil removed on his plot and by recycling various materials, including 2,500 beer bottles.
Of Bamboo Canes & Beer Bottles
A resident of Kannur, 36-year-old Aji owns a clothing store while his wife is the Vice Principal of a private institution. Their family, including two children, were residing in their ancestral home as part of a joint family.
However, Aji always had a dream to construct a house of his own.
In 2020, with the extra time on their hands, the couple decided it was the perfect time to pursue their dream project. However, they did not want to spend too much money from their savings. So, they approached Aji’s cousin Akash Krishnaraj, a final year architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal for advice.
“He suggested a variety of solutions to follow that could help us keep construction costs to a minimum. His primary suggestion was to use the earthbag method to build the entire structure, as it creates a sturdy structure and is followed by many in flood-prone areas,” says Aji.
By January 2021, when the lockdown restrictions were eased, Aji gathered the necessary materials. This included 850 metres of plastic bags for bagging the subsoil that were used as bricks, barbed wires to place over the soil bags to ensure they do not move, beer bottles, bamboo canes and coir to add as filling material between the walls and the roofs.
While some plastic bags were recycled, Aji says that others had to be purchased to maintain a uniform size for the bricks.
“The process began with levelling the plot to create the base and digging tanks, including the water and septic tank. The subsoil was dug out and collected in one area. Since there was other construction work going on around our property, and we even used the subsoil they dug out from their land,” says Aji, adding that the digging work was done by his friends and family, including his children.
However, to do some heavy lifting he had hired two skilled labourers for a few weeks.
Every day, Aji, his cousin and his friends would spend several hours at the plot pursuing the construction work. While one of them would pack the subsoil into the plastic bags, the others would lay them according to the design.
Once the house took shape, there was a gap of a few meters between the walls and the roofs, to fill this, they used 2,500 beer bottles, bamboo canes and coir material.
“Three walls were filled with beer bottles that we gathered from our home, our friends, and the kabadiwala. The bottles were cut in half, placed over each other, and set in place using a mix of clay and a little cement. The same was done for bamboo and coir on other walls,” says Aji, adding that they did not paint the building so that it would have a rustic finish.
The roof was layered with second-hand terracotta tiles. They were repurposed from older homes demolished in their locality. The window and door frames, and cupboards were also made using scrap wood gathered from demolished buildings.
Within six months, the house had a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, one bathroom and an attic sit-out. All this cost him approximately Rs 5.5 lakhs. Further he spent Rs 50,000 for electrical fittings, plumbing and toiletry work.
“By July, after taking a break owing to the lockdown, we were finished with the entire structure. My wife was ecstatic to see the house, it was like a dream come true. My children also could not believe that the entire structure was created from mud that they helped to dig out,” says Aji.
With help from Akash’s friends, Aji even added a few decorative art pieces made from clay to the outer walls. The family plans to move into their new home within a few weeks, and are waiting for electrical and plumbing fittings to be in place.
Edited by Yoshita Rao