Promises of ferrocement technology

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.


A popular story of three cute pigs that build their own houses resonates in every play school and homes of small children. The story had pictures that showed how one pig built a house of straw while the second pig built his house with sticks. They built their houses very quickly because they were lazy and then sang and danced all day. The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house with bricks;
One of the reasons this captivating story left its mark on growing kids was because of the illustrations that the picture book carried of the big bad wolf that tried to huff and puff and blow all the houses. He blew the first two but could not bring the third house down, he just could not.
When read to small children, I have myself witnessed their laughter at that image, so much so that this happy gurgle of sound has etched in my memory forever and as for kids’ hard work and dedication pays off was the moral of the story.

Since then I have wondered several time, why architectural colleges have never quoted this captivating story while teaching us chapters on brick masonry  for some light moments.?!

In the story

•It was the brick house that could not be broken down as compared to houses built of straw and sticks.
•Perhaps, the third pig realized better construction technology and right material saves a shelter from natural disasters like earthquakes, fire etc. and provides shelter against unforeseen calamities as in his case the wolf.

Yes, many attributes make brick a practical and popular construction choice. Having said that, I believe in India, agricultural land is slowly being sacrificed to make quick money through much in demand brick kilns. The clay for bricks comes from this land and to achieve good quality bricks these kilns also uses scarce coal, depleting India of its rich natural resources.

Then, why are we not adopting alternative innovative materials, given that we also have a very large work force and very little employment avenues for them?

Ferro cement is one such material which will not require expensive manufacturing plants and the skill set required for it will only be an extension of traditional skills our masons are much used to.

The raw material that goes in it is wire mesh, small diameter iron wires for skelton while sand and cement for binding, making it a better alternative to brick because it not only reduces cost by reducing overall RCC consumed in the structure but also promises to make the structure earthquake resilient,termite proof and even monolith if desired.

If requirement is for thermal insulatation, then two layers of wire mesh and iron wires are erected and thermocol layer is inserted in between the skeleton, mortar is then forced both sides either by hand like plastering or by grunting in case time is a constraint. The surfaces are then smoothed and painted. The thickness achieved will be much less than finished brick masonry, even with a thermal cavity.

Various flowing shapes with concrete is where it is primarily used worldwide.
Here in India, the technology has been so far adopted popularly in making water tanks, swimming pools, boundary walls, domes and small houses.Being an earthquake resilient technology, houses and school buildings were constructed in Gujarat post the massive earthquake but it still needs a kick off by us the architects.

-Ar.Babika Goel