Building Affordable Homes Using Local Biowaste Materials

Written by: Dr. Henk Jonkers | Yask Kulshreshtha
Published on: 06.03.2020

People in rural India traditionally live in so-called ‘mud houses’: houses made of a blend of clay, sand and silt. These material is not water-resistant, and over time, rain can cause the walls to crumble, leaving residents haing to replaster their walls after each rainy season. Currently, there is no affordable alternative. However, with his TU Delft Global Research Fellowship, civil engineer Kulshreshtha hopes to see this change.

In rural areas, building materials for brick houses cost up to ten times as much as for the price of a house in the city. Kulshreshtha says that with the transportation of bricks and cement being extremely expensive, the embodied cost for materials alone can account for up to 90% of the total building costs. Despite this, India is witnessing a major shift from mud houses to brick houses. Kulshreshtha believes that the lack of water resistance of the mud houses is primarily a technical issue: ‘It is a characteristic of the material. My engineering mind then starts to wonder whether it is possible to alter this characteristic. And while I’m at it, whether I can develop a sustainable alternative for brick and cement. You see, large amounts of CO2 are released during the production of cement’.