Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are mud floors Cool?

While on an Architecture School visit in Nigeria in 1985 to the Town of Bida, Niger State Nigeria we went to the traditional home of a Nupe Family. One of the things that caught our attention was the beautiful mud and mosaic floor that had broken spiral clay tiles embedded in it.

Mud is a very eco-friendly and affordable material even though some might think it is floor finish associated with being primitive or poor. However I think mud is very beautiful flooring material as long as you can compact it properly, keep it from cracking and water proof its surface.

In an article ("Track That Mud In!" Earthen Floors Are Hot) featured in the Tree Hugger Blog Alex Pasternack writes "...Because the floors can sometimes prove troublesome (high heels and table legs can cause cracks) a slowly growing number of "natural builders" like Bill and Athena Steen, both of whom grew up in adobe houses in the southwest, are working on making the floors "crack-free, solid, and really serviceable." (Mr.Steen’s canonical guide, “Earthen Floors,” is out of print, but an updated version is to be posted to the couple’s Web site, Canelo Project, within a few months.)

As durable as can be, among the greatest appeals of rammed earth construction (as also evidenced by this recent Architectural Review "Emerging Architecture" nominee) is the ease of getting rid of it -- and re-sourcing it if need be. And then there are the thermal benefits.

The high density and low thermal conductivity of earthen materials makes them passive solar devices, easily capturing and retaining heat during the day and releasing it at night. But as warm as earthen floors are, there's no denying their cool factor.

“When people walk in, they don’t say, ‘Oh, nice floor,’" says one natural builder. "Everyone gets down on their hands and knees to admire it...”

Photo Courtesy of New York Times.

1 comment:

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