When Madhavan Namboothiri moved to his hometown in Kuttipuram, in 2000 along with his wife to enjoy his retired life, he had dreamed to follow a traditional life style in his 350 year old ancestral home. While he loved the peaceful life at his grand old traditional house, he was bothered by the growing number of concrete homes that harmed the nature and depleted the resources. Moreover, he was upset that the traditional methods of construction have become a thing of the past that has no relevance in the modern age. The hills were razed and rocks were blasted and the soil were mined from the rivers to supply materials to build the concrete mansions. All these have inspired, Madhavan Namboothiri, a septuagenarian to become an advocate of sustainable construction in Kerala.
Madhavan Namboothiri who retired as assistant engineer from Maharashta Minor Irrigation department has since been researching about eco friendly homes that have mud walls and roofs made in coconut palm timber. He developed a unique method of construction that is not just harmless for the nature but is easy on the pocket too.
He promotes the use of compressed stabilised interlocking blocks. The sturdy coconut timber could be used for roofs while bamboo ply would be perfect for ceilings and partitions. The blocks could be built using the mud that is collected from one’s own backyard. The most amazing advantage of this method is that there is no need to use concrete at any stage of construction. Madhavan Namboothiri promotes his ideas through the NGO Susthira Bhavanam Foundation that was started in 2019.
In the beginning, the blocks were built using a machine that was imported from China. Up to two mud blocks could be built in three minutes like this. Moreover, this machine had to be operated manually. The interlocking blocks have holes on both sides. These holes help in cooling the interiors by reducing the heat. Later, a motor was attached to this machine to make it more efficient and faster. The walls that are built using these blocks have all the advantages of a traditional mud wall. Moreover, it is relatively cheaper, eco friendly and durable too.
It was at Perinthalmanna that the first project was done using Madhavan Namboothiri’s unique construction ideas. An additional floor had been designed, above an existing floor, using eco friendly building methods. Around 7000 blocks were made from the mud that was collected from the neighbourhood, using the Chinese machine. These blocks were used to construct a floor that had 700 sqft in area. The timber of coconut palm was used to build the roof.
Even though the new method was eco friendly and budget friendly, Madhavan Namboothiri had to train his workers in building the walls using mud blocks. Madhavan Namboothiri says that he is glad that he could encourage people to try this construction method that inflicts almost no harm to nature.
It was around this time that Hamsa Kakkadavath approached him to design his dream dwelling and to find a solution for the scarcity of water in his plot. The ground was dug and a massive tank that could hold up to 5000 litres, was constructed using ferro cement. Grey water recycling facilities and passive cooling facilities too have been arranged here. The mud that was dug out to build the tank had been used to make the blocks for the building. Hamsa is proud that his house is spectacular example of sustainable building. Interestingly, the expenses to build this house was much lesser than building a regular concrete house. The house in 3000 sqft has all the modern amenities. Around Rs 1500 per square feet was spent as the construction costs. Hamsa says that the interiors of his house are so cool and comfortable that there is no need to switch on the fan even during the summers.