There are many models in house-construction in various places that are worth following. We are not experts in house-construction but occasionally we do try to build low-cost houses. This is one such specimen. This experiment was done in order to find out whether it is possible to construct a cheap house and make it look beautiful. We chose an unusual shape for it. It covers an area of 220-250 sq. ft. It does not have a kitchen. Initially we intended to have one but changed our minds at the last minute. You might have heard about the old concept of the outhouse, built close to the main house, and used to accommodate guests. It usually has only two or three small rooms but no kitchen. Earlier, our houses did not have attached bathrooms and toilets.  But we have both in this outhouse.

The structure was made using ferrocement. Very few bricks were used. For instance, only to make the window sill. For the rest, iron rods were bent to give it this shape. The concrete is just about two inches thick, and not four inches as is the norm. We believe the structure will not collapse. Let us see what happens when we start living in it. A few basic items of furniture have been arranged inside. After the rains, we will know whether this building will stand.

The most important aspect is the cost. The total expenditure came to Rs 5, 40,000, of which Rs 40,000 went into fitting the wire mesh all around to keep the mosquitoes off. The bathroom cost us nearly one lakh rupees. Another Rs 40,000 was spent on furniture. In other words, it is possible to construct a similar house with Rs four lakhs. This is a small house. There is a bigger one in the same plot. The house must be designed by an architect because only he/she can give us assurance about the durability and stability of the structure.

In my case, Madhu who helps me with farming is an excellent mason. He has sound knowledge about construction, and this house was put up with his help. Another point to remember is that even if you wish to add two more rooms, the cost will not go up to 15 lakhs. It already has a bathroom. So an additional bathroom is unnecessary. It will take less than 10 lakh rupees to build two more rooms and a kitchen. If you already have a big house, you can think of constructing such a small one, without demolishing the other.

The plan is to surround this structure with plants. Already there are many all around. You can see bamboo, many types of fig and banyan trees. The Chinese banyan is growing up. This was a rocky surface. We drilled holes on it and planted saplings. On the other side, you will see a banyan that has grown to a man’s height. For the last two years, we have kept it pruned. It has not caused any damage to the foundation of the house.

You must not expect a house to have a life of more than 50 years. As technology advances and people’s tastes shift, the housing style will also change. I am 60 years old, and expect this to stand only for another 25-30 years. I show this in order to introduce a new idea for you to think about. You must take your own decision, but only after consulting technical experts, architects and others because they will have many ideas to share with you. What I mean is don’t think of constructing a similar house on merely seeing this.

We have planned this as a Nature-friendly house. As a result, many birds and butterflies come here. Frogs too. You may ask: Won’t snakes come too? Yes, indeed. But there is provision for them to take shelter here. You will see holes here and there. The snakes can snuggle inside them, and leave us alone. The house is secured against them. Besides, there is a powerful light in this spot where we step out. So much for the precautions we have taken.

As for the cost, one of the reasons for the high expenditure is the fibre coating we have given it, right from the top of the roof up to this level. This is to ensure that water flows down and does not cause any leakage. As we had shown you in an earlier video featuring solar lighting arrangements Sri Ajithkumar had done in his house at Kilimanoor, I’ve fitted a solar light here. I get plenty of natural light inside the house in the morning hours. There is also a turbine to suck out hot air from the rooms. All these factors played a role in raising the cost to Rs five lakhs. If you make an inclined construction, the masons themselves will help you with the concreting job, so that water does not seep in. If you think that is not enough, you may think of plastering the top surface. But we did not go for it. We chose to give it a fibre coating instead. The cost comes to Rs 100 or Rs 110 per sq. ft. That cannot be reduced.

Another point is that we did not use any fresh piece of wood in the construction of this house. We have used old pieces from buildings that were demolished. All the side posts are made of concrete. The bathroom door is made of fibre.

One of the fun activities of my younger days was going out on my scooter on a rainy day, and singing loudly through the streets. My daughter was my fellow-criminal. Neither of us can sing well but we sang loudly, confident that no one would be able to hear us! But some time back, I met with an accident and injured my back. Thereafter, I have not driven my scooter. That put an end to my rain-soaked perambulations. To compensate for that loss, I have arranged an open-air bathroom here. I have planted elephant grass all around this area. In six months’ time, it will cover all the three sides. All I would then need to do is stand there, get soaked in the rain, and sing to my heart’s content.

You might wonder what I have used to cover the roof with. It is coir cloth so that climbers will be able to fix their roots and spread over the top, without sliding down the smooth, fibre-coated roof. By next year, this will have grown enough to bring a green forest on top. That is my hope. If it comes true, I shall show you a video of it. Earlier, we had wound coir cloth around trees and trained climbers over them. That experiment had succeeded. So we hope the same will happen here too.