Even though many buildings constructed of natural materials, particularly earth, have stood the test of time, the construction of buildings out of these materials almost completely disappeared in the independent India. This occurred due to the development of commercial building materials and labor saving methods which took on status and prestige significance.
The skills and craft of natural building by artisans who were most often handed down specific situational knowledge by their forefathers almost disappeared, except for some small pockets of people scattered throughout India.
Consequently buildings constructed out of natural materials and methods are now rare and far between around the country.
Buildings constructed out of mud and other natural materials were until recently considered primitive, where images Indian mud houses would arise in the mind of most, when the subject is brought up as a building option.
The term earthen building incorporates a number of well known methods which include:
Rammed earth involves ramming delicately-moistened mud within a mold to shape the walls, etc. Usually the walls are given a finishing with a paste of mud, cow dung and wheat husk, applied by hand.
Cob which involves developing a loamy clay like mud compound and mixing straw or rice paddy husks into it to build strength.
Mud bricks which are fundamentally made by molding cob into bricks which are used in the construction on a dwelling, and
Other methods important in the construction of natural buildings include straw bale dwellings which are usually rendered with a mud based mixture, and bamboo and thatches for the ceilings and roofs of mud based dwellings.
The material cost of building earth based dwellings is only a fraction of the cost of building a conventional house with commercial materials. However labor is the major cost.
Earth based houses are naturally insulated, so they will be cool in summers and warm in winters. They are extremely strong if constructed correctly, and proponents of earth houses claim they are resistant to earthquakes. Other witnesses of earth houses claim that they are very healthy with no irritant chemicals incorporated within the mixture to cause any allergies, etc.
There has been a small revival of earth house building in Himachal Pradesh over the last decade, however this revival is driven by a micro number of heritage architecture admirers, like the owners of The MudHouse Resort, Kasauli.