40% of the world population lives in earthen dwellings.
For centuries, man has used earth as a raw material for construction of his shelters, refining it to suit local climate and topography. This refinement over the years has developed various technologies in earth construction, most of which are based on common sense and trial and error approach. Earth construction is sustainable, not affecting nature and also allowed ordinary people to build their own homes without depending on master craftsman.
Today, with the advent of technology, earth as a raw material has been replaced by concrete and cement; materials which are energy intensive and unsustainable. Moreover, the arrival of the ‘International style’ in the previous century has led to the creation of monotone flat boxes throughout our cities and even villages, thereby deviating away from the beautiful vernacular architecture in earth.
The challenge before us today is how to build with earth on a larger scale, while respecting Nature.
There is a lot of renewed interest in earth among architects and related professionals. The challenge is to convert this interest into a solid movement, spreading the technological knowledge on earth construction and implementing projects using earth. Internationally, Ar.Hasan Fathy has done a lot of commendable work in Egypt using earth. At the forefront of the earth architecture in India is Ar.Satprem Maine, practising in Auroville. His work of over a couple of decades with earth is recognised the world over, covering projects from schools, residences, community centres, apartments, housing projects etc.
Most of the data on this series on earth architecture in based on Ar.Satprem’s work and obtained from his website. More details can be obtained directly from the website of Auroville Earth Institute – www.earth-auroville.com