Chitra Vishwanath is an Indian architect who has been supporting the use of the building material earth for quite some time. There is a considerable amount of information available about Vishwanath's earthen projects all over the internet. From all of that, I have selected an excerpt of an interview given to treehugger where Chitra Vishwanath focus on the importance of earthen construction technology in urban settings. You can read the full interview HERE
The TH Interview: Chitra K. Vishwanath, Earth Architect
by Kimberley Mok, Montreal, Canada on 01. 9.10
TH: Why do you think earth-based building is important in urban settings? Does incorporating earth into the building process significantly help to reduce the ecological footprint of a house?
CKV: Since I am more aware of the Indian context I will answer from this perspective, because it also brings to focus that most eco-solutions will be based locally though they will certainly have global consequences.
In India most buildings are made with bricks. These bricks are fired with wood, gas being very expensive and also very rarely available. This wood is sourced from nearby forests since we have almost no sustainable plantation for firewood purposes. These brick making industries come up in villages outlying a city and thus also take away agricultural land. Many times the soil used is of good quality for agriculture. In this way, loss of arable land and therefore food works its way into bricks, making it a less-than-sustainable material. Also, these Asian brick-making industries are contributing to a growing ozone hole over New Zealand.
When the bricks are made non-locally, they must be transported via long distances into the city - adding to air and noise pollution and other health hazards, including accidents. On the global scale, this long-distance transportation of materials within an oil-based economy means consequences like war in Iraq and the melting of glaciers... the list could go on.
In all of this, let us look back as to use of earth: with the use of earth from below your building area, the transportation is reduced, you are using soil from where no food will be grown, thus reducing the footprint in totality.
Similarly, the energy used in most of Indian construction is human labour, thus the work feeds people and not a manufacturer. Building with earth in this context makes sense and is common sense.
Further information on Chitra Vishwanath's projects with earth HERE