The Epilogue of Kerala Floods: How the mud turned out to be houses.
Updated: Apr 22
Mr. Sibin Sabu is a final year Bachelor of Architecture student at Marian College of Architecture and Planning, Trivandrum, who has come up with an innovative solution to utilize the vast amounts of mud deposits following the 2018 Kerala Floods, under the guidance of Ar. Indugeetha B.
Earth Construction has several advantages over the conventional building techniques, with the least demand for resources, economic efficiency, and availability of raw materials in the developing countries. Mud Bricks, is one of the popular building materials in India, especially in Kerala. The mud bricks suit the tropical climate in Kerala, as well as the availability of raw materials for the manufacture of the same, is high. Following the 2018 floods, hundreds if not thousands were left stranded in a pile of dirt in places that once seemed scenic. The community as a whole was struggling to find peace with the recent developments. One after the other, problems were faced and resolved. However, one loomed over the horizon, still prevalent today, caused by flood, poverty, illegal activities, etc.
Being a student of architecture, the sense of responsibility towards the society for providing the best is inherited at a very young age, and being a fourth-year student doing a dissertation, Mr. Sibin Sabu, was troubled, not just by the homelessness and despair, but also by the amount of residue that had to be cleaned. He forayed into research about the strength of mud left behind from the floods and how they could be used as building materials.
"This study aims to investigate: the strength of flood deposited soil, improvements in mud-brick consolidation by increasing its durability and finding effective means of disposal of accumulated mud resulted from the flood."**
The first step included identifying areas of high deposit which lead them to the banks of Periyar, and from there, deposit (mud) samples were made into burnt blocks and tested for strength, which as tests would show, they lacked.
Adding stabilizers was one solution to this, but the dilemma of which natural or artificial existed. Following various studies for the same, cement was taken to be the best artificial; and coir and jute as natural additives.
The fibers filled pores in the molded bricks consequently reducing the level of the water absorption of the block compared to the other mixes and hence providing the extra strength, as the study on the bricks made from the mud deposits had none sufficient for it to be used as a construction material by itself.
The study conducted by Mr. Sibin concludes that lesser organic matter implies better quality and strength of the block. Likewise, the greater the percentage of organic matter, the lesser the quality, and strength of the block. Reinforcement using any natural or artificial stabilizers will provide enough strength to cater for construction work. In addition, the research provides a waste disposal solution for the massive amounts of clay that was deposited in the aftermath of the 2018 Kerala floods while providing a cost-effective means to develop a building block that has enough strength for construction. From a sustainability point of view as well, using flood deposits for construction is an efficient method of recycling waste.
Tests Conducted on the fiber-reinforced block from the flood deposits:
It was found that the blocks with cement (5%), jute (1.5%), coir (1%) respectively shows adequate strength for construction when compared to normal burnt brick.
It was found that the block with cement (5%) as stabilizer shows an increase in strength when compared to jute (1.5%) and coir (1%) where the values were 6.008N/mm2, 4.34N/mm2 & 3.15N/mm2 respectively.
It was found that the block with jute (1.5%) as stabilizer shows an increase in strength when compared to coir (1%) where the values were 4.34N/mm2 & 3.15N/mm2 respectively.
It was found that water absorption is least in case of cement (5%) as a stabilizer when compared to jute (1.5%) and coir (1%) where the values were 18.17%, 19.69% & 27.03% respectively.
It was found that the block with jute (1.5%) as stabilizer shows the percentage decrease in water absorption when compared to coir (1%) where the values were 19.69% & 27.03% respectively.**
About the Author
Ms. Anakha Jayanthi, the Editor, and contributor at Studio Coffee House is an architecture undergraduate student at Marian College of Architecture and Planning, Trivandrum, and a fellow army who enjoys diving into the K-Pop World. She spends her time either binge-watching Netflix shows or reading or experimenting with art and literature.
All technical details, studies, and images are copyrighted to Mr. Sibin Sabu.
Dissertation Guide: Ar. Indugeetha B, faculty at Marian College of Architecture and Planning, Trivandrum. Instagram: @indugeetha
**In the article the texts in italics are adapted from the study report.
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