MYSURU: From a distance, a house at Harthale, Nanjangud, looks like any other in the locality. But you step inside, and you will find recycled wooden windows and doors procured from demolished buildings, broken ceramics for surface, mud concrete blocks made out of building waste, flooring again with mud concrete. “This house makes a statement about useful waste,” says M Rajesh Kumar Jain (45), an architect from Mysuru, who builds houses using construction waste.
The farmhouse on about 450 sq ft, built for a vice admiral (retired), has glass bottles procured from local vendors for lighting purpose; jali bricks for natural ventilation, roofing done with old used micro concrete roofing tiles, where steel is used. And there is more. Excavated gravel at the site is used for the foundation. Only about 30 bags of cement were used for the entire project. “People have a misconception that using more steel means the building will be stronger. Today people think cement as a superior and compulsory material for construction.
With minimal use of cement for joint finishing of bricks and flooring etc, we can create an eco-friendly house,” says Rajesh. “I have a degree in Architecture. I started doing research and found how construction waste is causing hazards to health and nature. All this made me encourage people to construct sustainable,” he says. “You can see heaps of construction materials being dumped on either side of the outer ring roads and in vacant places. Just by using this debris to build compounds and for the works under the flooring, we can reduce the waste to a great extent.
Also, we can reduce use of new materials. With quarries being closed, there is shortage of materials, leading to illegal quarrying. Transportation cost too will reduce by this method. We can also reduce water and air pollution and protect our environment,” he says. “A major advantage of using construction debris is that it reduces waste disposal and building cost. The tiles help to reflect heat and keep the temperature cool and the dependency on energy can be lessened by using solar power. Moreover, the houses give an aesthetic look,” says Rajesh.
If a person spends Rs 30-35 lakh on a house in a 30x40 site, a sustainable house will cost considerably less. His team collects construction debris dumped on the roadsides and also from their contacts. Later, they segregate it into fine and coarse aggregate and add new soil. Tiles are processed scientifically to create bricks. Sharing about his journey, he says, “It was not easy in the initial days. Most of them prefer to build luxurious houses using advanced technologies. Gradually, like-minded people have been appreciating, supporting and accepting. Compared to earlier, in the last 10 years, there has been increasing awareness among people about owning eco-friendly houses.”
In the past 15 years, he has built around 150 eco-friendly houses. Of these, two have been built using complete construction waste. More than 20 houses have been built using waste materials for compounds and under the flooring. “My office used to function out of a rented building. In 2019, I built an office room at Kadakola, using waste construction materials,” Rajesh says. Rajesh has plans to give training and awareness programmes on how to build eco-friendly houses and their advantages.
He has also plans to start a waste-to-resource project, with support from Susthira, an NGO, and Mysuru City Corporation. Shamsundar Subbarao, head, National Institute of Engineering, Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (NIE-CREST), who is getting his house built by Rajesh, says, “Such sustainable houses are the need of the hour. If the government helps, we can address the construction debris problem in a short period in Mysuru and set an example to everyone.”