Bangalore’s Greenest Homes: How mud bricks helped the Hegdes go sustainable

Here is a home made of solid mud bricks, has solar heating and lighting, is natural cooled through its roofs, walls and skylights, harvests water and all of this at a 20% saving over a regular house!


Here is a home made of solid mud bricks, has solar heating and lighting, is natural cooled through its roofs, walls and skylights, harvests water and all of this at a 20% saving over a regular house!

Earthy interiors, lots of green space, intelligent architecture is what you will notice as soon as you enter the abode of Subbu Hegde, besides of course his dog Diego who showers you with a rousing welcome!

The house that covers around 2400 square feet area has been constructed completely from locally sourced material. The Hegde family of four that includes his wife Veena Hegde, daughter Neha Hegde and their pooch Diego planned to shift to a green home in 2004 as they were always interested in following a more responsible lifestyle.

The outer walls of the house have been left unplastered to save the cost on plaster and concrete.

Going natural with every brick

The bricks used for building the house are made from soil available at the site and baked through a ‘solid mud block’ process. The bricks have been made by mixing soil and stone dust and then drying it naturally under the sun for a month, saving completely on energy required to burn the bricks and transport them. The walls are not plastered outside, thus saving cement, sand and water. Only 50% of the inside walls have been plastered and painted.

The walls are weight bearing and only 2 concrete pillars have been erected to support a long-span beam inside.

The roofs have been made partly out of cement concrete and partly out of terracotta sandwich tiles. Air is sandwiched between the two tiles and reduces heat radiation, keeping the home naturally cool. The ‘solid mud block’ bricks, unlike burnt bricks, have the tendency to retain moisture around them, making the surrounding air cool.

“We were not very particular about things like marble flooring, etc. We just wanted to live in a comfortable way in a house which is sustainable,” says Hegde.

Letting the light in

The central part of the house and parts of the dining area has double height and a skylight. The ventilators around the skylight draw the air from inside the house, thus providing natural ventilation. This also keeps the temperature of the house cooler by three to four degrees.

The walls are made of mud blocks that helps to keep the temperature of the house low.

The 200 litre solar water heater installed at the time of building the house provides hot water for bathing throughout the year. The solar light panel at the time of building the house provides energy to light 8 lamps for about 8 hours per day. The storage battery has been changed once, in 2010.

Due to the relative cool temperature in the house, the need for air-conditioners has not been felt and use of fans is minimal, thus saving electricity. “We wanted our house to be cozy and that is what we kept in mind when we asked Chitra Vishwanath of Biome to design the house for us,” says Hegde.

‘It is a myth that a green home costs more than a normal one’

The Hegde family visited a lot of sustainable houses before planning their own. The major reason was to get a clear idea about what and hows of the construction and design. “Lot of people think that these type of houses are very costly, which is not true at all,” Hegde said. The Hegde house costed 20% lesser in fact due to all the saving up on materials.

“We didn’t compromise on material and products, we saved on time. I really wanted to finish the construction in an year, and the success saved lot of time, money and energy,” says Veena Hegde.

On going solar, many of their friends and relatives advised the family to not go for it as solar is expensive. “We were particular about using solar. We recovered the cost in 6 years. Solar just requires initial investment and it pays back in long term,” says Hegde.

It is also a popular misconception that these kind of houses are not as strong as those made of the usual brick. “We had these bricks tested before starting the construction. The material is just as strong. This is again something which people often misunderstand,” says Hegde.

High windows ensures natural light during the day.

Wiser with waste, water and energy

The Hegde family has left no stone unturned to bring sustainability home. They segregate their waste into wet and dry. Wet waste is used to prepare compost which is done in their garden using soil and dried leaves. “Initially it took a couple of months to prepare the compost but now the process has really fastened,” says Veena.

“We are planning to go completely solar in the future. We are still looking at various models and ways in which we can do it,” says Hegde.

The rain water falling on the roofs and terraces is channelled to a 35 feet deep open well, thus harvesting nearly 75% of the rain falling on the site. They are also planning to recycle the water that goes out of their house. Soap water from the bathroom is used to water the garden area. They currently consume 600 litres of water per day.

“The water that I use to wash vegetables, I store it in a bucket and throw it in the garden,” says Veena. The family grows its own food – vegetables like carrot, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, beans and other herbs flourish in their 2000 sq. ft garden. They are also planning to grow a terrace vegetable garden.

Practical advice for green home enthusiasts

One thing that everyone should keep in mind is to plan the whole design before starting construction. “These materials and labour are not easily available, it is very important to finalize the design beforehand and not change anything during or after construction unless it is very important,”  says Hegde. This not only saves money and time but also avoids rework and cost increase due to re-design.

Big skylight fills the complete house with natural light all day long.

Also, when you are using mud blocks you have to be clear about how many floors you want to build and design accordingly. You should have pillars to support the walls and roof.

What sustainability means to me

“Green to me means minimizing the use of natural resources, be it water, energy or material. Also, we take care of the garbage we create. And of course, having as much greenery as we can. This gives a sense or serenity to the house and also keeps the air clean.”

The Hegde residence is at Classic Orchards, Bannerghatta Road, close to Meenakshi temple. Subbu Hegde can be contacted at subbuhegde@gmail.com

Bangalore’s greenest homes is a series on beautiful homes that have been built on strong sustainability principles – from natural building materials to efficient light and space design, water harvesting, off-the-grid energy energy, eco-friendly decor and furniture. And a lifestyle for the residents where less has meant a lot more. 

This series on Bangalore’s greenest homes has been done with the support of ZED Habitats – the largest green  residential developer in India today, and a leader in pioneering building technologies and management systems.

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more

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  • Rajiv Bansal

    Great job Subbu & Veena. I know, besides the mud and solar panels, a lot of love and hard work has gone into making of the house.
    may you all flourish in it.
    Rajiv & Alka Bansal

  • Krish

    Please share what will be the cost of a mud brick and is it available anywhere in Bangalore