Building with local materials

Having struggled over two months to complete a 100 sqFt storage room built out of steel, bricks and cement, it was delightful relief to complete, in about a week, a 700 sqFt space using just half a bag of cement and 250 gms of steel wire. The other materials that went into creating the space -bamboo, coconut mats, coir ropes, reeds for thatch, and granite pillars – came from within 20 kM of the site. It’s a locally grown building.

The pointReturn site is quick to comprehend when looking at this drawing. Most of the action so far is taking place in Grid-1, and so here’s a view of it. Referring to it, the windmill has been erected and is functioning. The regular and irregular shaped water bodies are yet to be created. You can see the channel connecting the two ponds and the overflow channel from the larger. Spaces earmarked for the roads can also be seen.

Roughly midway between the two water bodies is the brick and mortar strong-room. On top of the room are four plastic water tanks of 1,000 litres capacity each. Discharge from the windmill is led up to these tanks and stored. From these, water can flow to any point on the 17 acres site. The main reason for the strong building -with a strong steel door, too!- is to safe-keep tools and materials at the site which is unmanned at night.

For living and working however one does not require a strong walled room. In fact, to enjoy the views and breezes all one needs is a canopy to shield against the sun. For pillars, I chose granite hewed by hand from hillocks in the next village. These were 7′ long; a stone mason sculpted cradles at one end to receive runners. The other options were to use brick walls, concrete columns or wood, the last, if one did not have concerns about termites which I had. I chose rough stone pillars.

These were lined up five on each side, 9′ apart. The two rows are 20′ apart, on either side and in front of the strong-room. The pillars are let in 2′ into the ground and 5′ stood above the ground. The soil here is gravely red earth. Lacking in humus it’s hard and compacted. The pillars were let into holes, a few small rocks were thrown in and the hole backfilled and tamped down: no cement or concrete was used.

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