Natural Buildings – Part 2: Bricks

Workshop theme: Sustainable Architecture
No of participants: 5
Age Group: 25-50
Duration: 3 days
Period: September 2023

For years now, Auroville has been at the forefront of revolutionary architecture, emphasising nature’s vital role in construction. Through groundbreaking experiments, they have sparked a paradigm shift towards sustainable thinking. This has resulted in awe-inspiring designs and buildings crafted from locally sourced, natural materials that leave minimal waste and are environmentally friendly even when demolished. Discover the wonders of sustainable architecture in the natural building workshop, where livable structures coexist harmoniously with the environment.

During the workshop, participants gained invaluable insights into the realm of natural buildings. From crafting mini arches to understanding the versatility of lime and producing bricks using a specific blend of earth and other materials, attendees left with a new understanding of this eco-conscious approach to construction. Join the next workshop and witness how architecture can blend seamlessly with nature while nurturing the planet.

In this workshop, one of the exercises was to make adobe bricks. Here’s more in detail:

Adobe Bricks:

Mud bricks, also known as adobe bricks, are made from a mixture of clay-rich soil, sand, straw, and water. This mixture is formed into bricks and left to dry naturally in the sun. Mud bricks are an eco-friendly and sustainable building material, as they utilise readily available local resources and require minimal energy for manufacturing. Adobe bricks have excellent thermal mass properties, this means they can store heat during the day and release it slowly at night, helping to regulate indoor temperatures. The term “adobe” can refer both to the raw material used to make the bricks and to the bricks themselves.

A girl is preparing mud bricks using a mould. A stack of bricks is shown. Another girl is standing by.
Making bricks with mould

The process of making adobe bricks involves several steps:

  1. Preparation

The soil is first excavated and collected. The best soil for adobe bricks has a high clay content, as it provides cohesion and binding properties. Sand is added to improve the bricks’ stability, while straw or other fibres may be included to increase tensile strength.

  1. Mixing

The collected soil, sand, and other additives are mixed together with water to form a thick, homogenous mud-like consistency.

  1. Moulding

The mixture is poured into wooden moulds, where it is compacted and shaped to the desired dimensions of the bricks. The moulds are usually rectangular and can be of different sizes.

  1. Drying

After moulding, the bricks are left to dry in the sun. This process can take several days or weeks, depending on the climate and weather conditions. During drying, the bricks shrink and harden.

  1. Curing

Once the bricks are dry, they are removed from the moulds and stacked in a manner that allows air to circulate around them. This final drying period is called curing, and it helps to further strengthen the bricks.

Two boys mixing mud, hay and water. Two girls watching them mix it.
Mixing water, earth, hay and sand.

Adobe construction involves using mud bricks, often made from adobe, to build walls, arches, and other structural elements. The bricks are laid in a specific pattern and bonded with mud mortar. Properly constructed adobe structures can be durable and long-lasting, especially when maintained and protected from excessive moisture. Adobe construction is well-suited for dry and arid climates where the soil is suitable for making mud bricks.

Freshly made bricks drying in the sun with people standing around.
Adobe Bricks

However, adobe construction does have some limitations. It is more susceptible to water damage than other construction methods, making it unsuitable for areas with heavy rainfall or high humidity. Additionally, adobe structures may require regular maintenance and repair due to weathering over time.

In recent years, some modern construction techniques have been developed to improve the durability and weather resistance of adobe buildings, allowing them to be used in a wider range of climates and environments.

Houses in Auroville: 


A group of people standing together in a forest.
Participants during the workshop

To know how the ideas of sustainability are put into practice and their functionality in buildings, read “Under the Banyan”:

Buy Under the Banyan: Principles for Sustainable Habitats in the Tropics Book Online at Low Prices in India | Under the Banyan: Principles for Sustainable Habitats in the Tropics Reviews & Ratings – Amazon.in

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