Low Cost Housing
Construction of a house back in the village, can be a daunting challenge. Costs of building materials can treble or quadruple because of transportation charges. The further you are from the point of purchase, the higher the amount you will have to fork out, plus the materials rise in cost every kilometer covered from the point of manufacture. The other challenge is the cost of the imported expertise. Confidence in village masons is low and having to bring such skills from the urban metropolis comes with an inflated tab. The desire to import urban luxuries like piped, hot water, electricity, modern kitchen appliances also jacks up the bill. In our case our belief in ecologically friendly solutions and innovation reduced our costs.
First, we invested in stabilized interlocking soil blocks (SSB) made from a mixture of soil and cement and pressed by a machine. SSB have several advantages: the blocks are not fired and thus their production is not destructive on the environment. Areas where fired bricks are the norm trees are cut to fire the kilns leading to destruction of forests.
The interlocking blocks also use less mortar and hence the spending on cement is reduced. In building our house we opted to dig an underground water tank. As we were excavating we mined stone that we could use for both the walls and ballast thus reducing costs once again. The excavated site was scooped out to provide for an underground water tank. Not only is this more aesthetic (those plastic tanks can be an eye-sore), but cancels out the cost of purchasing and transporting the plastic tanks from the urban shopping centers. The other element is the cost to the environment with more plastics. These tanks are made from very tough plastics that after their lifespan as tanks would probably take over three hundred years to disintegrate. Disposal of these tanks is hardly ever thought of. We entrusted local masons with expertise in building using the rough-hewn rocks to create a beautiful rustic look on the house.
This meant that the finish also called for less paints hence resulting in savings. By the end of the building adventure, we have an underground tank with the capacity equivalent of more than three 10,000 Liter tanks. You can imagine what these would look like if they were to be dotting the landscape. We have a beautiful house that blends well into the environment. We ended up with a reduced carbon footprint because we transporting fewer things to the site. Providing work to the local mason and the local youth is itself a way of building resilience of the local community.
The number of folks who have as a result of admiring our house opted to build with interlocking stabilized soil blocks which is a win for the environment. Those who have decided to use locally mined stones and ballast reduce cost by reducing carbon footprint. Creating a strong culture for water harvesting and storage using aesthetically pleasing methods is another win for the environment. We will not be thinking about disposing of the plastic tanks after the given lifespan.