Sustainable Housing for Urban Areas: Reducing the Carbon Foot-print

Prakash Deep School for Underprivileged Children



Anju Chikara

Step 1 FEEL

Many of the students of Prakash Deep live in temporary shacks--built with discarded tarp, thrown away asbestos , weather beaten way side hoardings. Many live under the Badkhal Flyover in Faridabad, Haryana where living conditions are pathetic . Apart from feeling the necessity of better housing the inspiration came from Hemant a student of Prakash Deep who spent a lot of time on the pavement where his father ran a cobbler's shop. He had designed a small hut which he displayed in school. It was a touching moment. While interacting with each other, the team felt the need for sustainable, affordable and improved housing for the migrants who arrived in Faridabad in search of jobs. For want of living quarters, they landed in slums. In their discussions with the coordinator they were asked to look for a solution that was environment friendly and would reduce the carbon footprint.


The team came up with the following solutions- Go back to the village; Hire accommodation in the nearby village area. Make a better hut that would be affordable, safe and environment friendly in the slum where they had landed. The solution chosen was to create a model of a sustainable, affordable and environment friendly hut/ room, to promote the concept of sustainable housing for the poor in urban areas to begin with. The project was scalable in the sense we were able to get permission to create a real Mud/Cob house on a farm-designed by a second year student of architecture who showed interest in the concept.

Step 3DO

The team decided to go back to nature and got down to designing a simple model of a house with mud, sand and straw. Since the material used comprised of mud, sand and straw, it would be affordable, durable and environment friendly- As a first step, part of the team members collected empty unused sand/cement bags from ongoing construction sites. They were recycled into small brick sized bags. They were then filled with sand, straw and dry leaves and stitched to form brick like bricks. Simultaneously other students of the team collected mud, sand and straw; mixed it up nicely into a strong dough. Bricks were placed one on top of other to raise walls-outlining the hut contours; they were then coated with thick layers of the mud, sand, straw mixture replacing cement and concrete. A slanting roof was laid by using bamboo sticks to form a crisscross frame over which they placed a tin sheet followed by empty egg trays for insulation and support to the structure. This was then covered with the mud, sand and straw mixture. Grooves in the roof were carved for water harvesting and connected to a bamboo placed strategically to collect water which was directed to irrigate small garden patches on both sides of the hut. Finally the hut was decorated with rural art.

The result was that the team was able to create a model of an environment friendly Mud/ Cob House in the backyard of the school. The impact was that children exercised their imagination to think of a solution to the problem of housing in urban areas for the poor to begin with understanding at the same time that wider use of the concept for normal housing in cities would initiate a revolutionary impact by way of reducing the carbon foot print. They also researched and found that in many countries in the world, the concept of mud houses was finding favour. They researched the internet to collect information about mud houses made in the past and their durability. They learnt to mix and use the mud, sand and straw in the right proportions with their own hands. They enjoyed the process of creating the little model, immensely. Although, in practical terms there was only a small hut to show. the concept of mud housing was revived and further refined to make it applicable for use in the cities by involving some students of architecture and a farm owner-to create a prototype at a later stage.


Impacted people were basically students and some staff members who were convinced of the benefits of the evolving concept. Meera Kumar Chauhan - The Director, Tricolite Electrical Industries visited the school. She said, "Mud houses have been an integral part of indian culture. With times these old techniques of making completely eco-friendly and sustainable houses has been eroding. Reviving awareness about these houses is a great initiative that Prakashdeep has taken up. Mud houses are climatically best suited for large part of Northern India where temperatures can go upto 48 degree celsius. These houses that can be naturally cooled and warmed are essential for keeping the global warming around cities under control, in todays time. I wish the project all the very best and hope they spread far and wide with this initiative. “ Neeharika Nangia- IWTY Certified Yoga Therapist had this to say --“This is such a wonderful effort/project to actually make the children use their own hands to create the possibility of sustainable housing as a team effort. Including nuances like the water harvesting of the roof and the connection with the eco system around them, shows children's’ awareness about environmental issues that the world is facing. it is heartening to see a completely bio-degradable system of construction that is also affordable"

There were no challenges but for the fact that the Mud and Cob house could only be implemented on the level of a model. The task of creating a full sized Cob House had to be postponed for later-although it had been planned to create one such house in a farm with the consent of the owner which was also obtained. Some college students of Architecture were also incorporated to create a proper plan. Making the model was a pleasure while it lasted. The team is looking forward to participating in the construction of a full sized Mud/ Cob house.

15-30 Days

Sustainable cities and communities

Step 4 SHARE

We shared the project with our other students and staff members and volunteers in the school by showing them the model that was created ; we also shared the process of creation through videos and images, with them. We could not reach out to the community on account of COVID 19 restrictions but shared it with friends and family on WhatsApp. We plan to share the video presentation with our contacts on You Tube and Face Book once the project has been submitted.