Earth for Cost Saving
There’s a whole range of cost possibilities with EARTH (Soil stabilized Blocks, Adobe, Rammed Earth, Cobb) as with other construction materials, with costs varying based on technology, labor, availability of material, quality desired, workmanship, details, durability, etc.
High-end designer eco home by established architects in the field, end-to-end services, integrating sustainable technologies for water and energy, proven results in terms of quality and craftsmanship, established details, durability, etc. These homes often cost about 25-35% more than conventional homes that range from about 2000-2500Rs/Sft based on specifications.
Self-Build homes, we have friends who have their own hands built their homes. Using local unskilled labor and exploring what earth can look like without being ‘high technology’, grounded, hands-on, without the involvement of an ‘expert’ or architect. These often also have authenticity and rawness, with personal explorations and artistic touches… the home, in this case, is an evolving model, with defects that emerge and get attended to with year-round attention, and experimentation that can at times lead to rework or rebuilding. These homes would cost less than conventional homes, cost reduction would depend on the extent of involvement of the occupants that impact offsetting of material and labor costs.
We place our work somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. Costing is comparable to conventional homes and ranges between 1500-1800Rs/sqft depending on the material chosen, labor intensity finishes desired, details, etc. as the project evolves.
If costs are the same as conventional homes then what is the need to go through such an effort? Yes, there are advantages in terms of climatic responsiveness, indoor air quality, carbon footprint, energy footprint, etc all proven and yet a little intangible compared to the investment that goes in.
The lurking questions are where or to whom does our money go?
What is the impact of this building exercise on the environment and the community/livelihoods?
In conventional structures, cement and mining lobbies, steel and brick industries, UPVC factories, and more such giants are benefitted. These industries provide employment but profits stay with the management and they also involve the extraction of resources, energy consumption, carbon footprint creation, etc. that’s concentrated and can have a larger scale impact due to scale.
Having said that any building exercise consumes material and energy. It has a detrimental impact on the immediate surroundings that is more visible in Greenfield sites. Even natural building practices, for example in stone, raw material is derived from stone mines. We see so many such missing hillocks as we land in Bangalore, which was the source of local granite for construction. To call a practice ‘eco-friendly’, we would need to reduce the impact on immediate surroundings and larger landscapes as much as possible, in the least harmful way feasible. Given such a consideration, the earth seems like the least harmful material one can use considering the multitude of impacts most other materials seem to have. Championing for earth construction is definitely a worthy cause, with or without cost savings.