Our Process

At GoodEarth we took a conscious decision to explore alternate architecture and development. We took the route less trod upon and turned it into a market reality. Though the passion and ideological framework kept us alive, we did not want to make our explorations superficial. Our journey thus far has delivered many insights into our future processes and planning. A green or sustainable business needs to think beyond numbers and take conscious business decisions with an awareness of the impact of such decisions on the lives of people, ecology, culture and humanity at large with a sense of responsibility and care.


The inviting warmth of a mud wall, as it wraps around a courtyard, its edges soft, smooth and cool to the touch, the hint of a fragrance, comfortable spaces, cool in summer and warm in winter. Homes that one had to engage with, a leak to be repaired, or a wall to be patched, or rebuilt. Our work is an attempt to bring back the comfort and energy that these spaces created, while adapting them to our lifestyle today, by using technology. Mud is the only natural material, freely available, which can be completely reused or renewed. Our journey with the different forms of mud has been an exciting and challenging one. There are no right answers, and the solution is constantly evolving. The most important learning has been that mud is a forgiving material, and mistakes can be recovered from, in the path to mastering the technique. A medium with endless possibilities, the adventure has only just begun.

The Brick, its proportions, an example of perfection, the bonding, a discipline – has been a teacher to us, most of our earlier work being built with it. The potential to push the limits of the brick and its craft through various forms and patterns, to create nuanced spaces with a distinct character, has been the highlight of our explorations with brick. The burnt brick allows for the construction of load bearing walls, even up to three or four storeys, eliminating the need for reinforced concrete frames in most residential buildings. Resistance to earthquakes can be achieved through the use of tie - beams at intervals, depending on the earthquake zone. We have found it to be easy to maintain, if appropriately detailed. The availability of skilled masons willing to work with exposed walls at a suitable cost has also been a challenge, as have been the “clean look” that most users demand.

The most amazing thing about building with stabilized mud blocks is the awareness that the building is built from the very earth that it is sited on. Almost as if, it has grown out of the earth. A modern technology, applied on the age-old technique of making mud-bricks manually, using organic stabilizers. The compressed stabilized earth block is made with the help of a machine, and uses cement or its equivalent as a stabilizer. Scientifically developed, to be strong and durable, it can be used in load bearing construction, and has been proven to be long lasting. We have found it to be working well, when we have applied it to larger scale construction, as the quality of production becomes viable to monitor. As do the logistics. Different colours of earth used, make different blocks and bring in a lot of character to the walls built.

Terracotta is a material that reaches out to be touched and felt, its orange - red colour, complementing the space. It has thermal qualities that are conducive to creating comfortable spaces. The floor tiles are cool in summer and warm in winter. The roofing tiles absorb heat but also release it quickly, especially if there is a breeze. The hollow bricks, act as cavity walls, insulating the space within. The filler blocks in the roofing slab, play the same role, keeping the space cool, while reducing the concrete and steel content in the RCC slab. Needing to be cared for, as a floor, no shoes or animal claws for it, or chemicals to clean it. Production of terracotta is a small to medium sized industry, where clay is mined and baked in kilns. Although this has an impact on the environment, due to mining and subsequent air pollution, when produced at a smaller scale, it is relatively less harmful than other industrialized products, like cement and steel.

Building with stone is like writing a poem, each stone like a word and the composition telling a story. A higher plinth to give a stronger visual base, or fence to house a creeper with red flowers, stepping stones in the garden, or a window seat - stone can be the accent in any space. Especially in Karnataka, where it is available in a multitude of forms which can be used for various applications. Earlier buildings in Karnataka, especially in the Vijaynagara kingdom used stone in amazing ways, and that skill still exists, to inspire us to use the material well. The craft of stone, its easy workability and the durability, make it a preferred material to build with.

In many traditional societies in India, the carpenter was the “master craftsman” of the building, where the spaces, their proportions and details were a response to the property of the timber used. Timber building and craft have been a rich tradition, which is gradually disappearing. We feel that timber is one of the most sustainable materials for the future of building and needs to be developed. Building with timber is an art, and needs a lot of rigor, to understand the material, its strength and how it responds to the climate. A living material, it can be limitless in its expression, and inspires awe, when used appropriately. Timber is a large component of our aesthetic – pillars for verandahs, doors and windows, railings, jaalis, rafters, floors, in their raw form or subtly carved find their place in the panorama of the community.

They are like the “wonder” materials of modern buildings. With the ability to create structures and forms, to any imaginable form, they have defined the way spaces and cities are experienced today. The challenge lies in using these materials to their maximum potential, using creative architectural and structural design, and not misusing them by over design and wasteful applications, which are driven by the marketing of the material and not their engineering value. The fact that they are energy intensive in their production and cannot be recycled, must be kept in mind when making the decision to use them.

Glass is a contemporary material which can add value to a space if used appropriately. Bringing light into the home, has been our primary use of it. Large windows overlooking courtyards or open spaces, allow the outdoors to merge with the indoors. One has to be careful while using glass, as it also traps heat, and if the expanse of glass is too large, it will heat up the inside. Using it as curtain walls, in the way that it is popularly done, is not at all suitable for our climate, and is more suited for cold climates. We have also used it in skylights. Here we find that if the size of the skylight is too large, it heats up the entire house, even if ventilation is provided at the roof level to allow hot air to escape. So although large skylights add to the character of the home, they need to be sized with caution. Using coloured glass or waste glass bottles in some features of the space, is an art and it can add a sense of play into the space.

Our approach to selecting floor finishes has been to keep it simple. Preferring a single material in any one space, we have worked with highlighting it through inlays in strategic places or highlights. Using natural materials in contexts that are applicable are preferred, although we do use other materials if required. The point to note when using natural floors is their care, while laying the floor as well as in using it. The natural floor will come with its variations in colour and level. Visual cracks, stains and patches are a part of its aesthetic and should be appreciated for its character. One cannot expect it to appear or behave like a synthetic floor. Terracotta, Attangudi tiles, Kota and Cuddapah stone and wood are a few floors we have experimented with. We have also used ceramic and vitrified tiles where needed. Ceramic tiles are good for heat insulation, easy to maintain, but use a lot of energy in their production.

Many materials used in the building industry today are not only toxic in their production, but also emit toxins after application. Paints and polishes are primarily applied to any material, whether wood, metal or masonry, to protect it from the elements and make it durable. The aesthetic is derived from that,and not vice-versa. A lot of these applications which claim to be environment - friendly have traditional variants which are less processed and work just as well. They may require more frequent maintenance but are definitely healthier and easier to do so. Water bound distemper which is a lime-based paint is suited for walls, and scores over emulsion or any other “plastic” finish that may be available on these counts. Using a mix of oils like cashew shell oil and linseed oil for the external finish for doors and windows is another finish we have experimented with. It protects the wood from insects and the elements. It allows the wood to breathe and retains its natural look.


These can be built as simple load bearing foundations or be as complex as concrete pile and raft foundations, depending on the soil and scale. Intelligent engineering can reduce the costs and conserve the amount of resources used. Designing for earthquake resistance needs to be taken care of, depending on the zone that the building is located on. We have used load-bearing stone foundations, which are built using dry packed stone below ground and built in cement above ground. A plinth beam ties the foundation together at the plinth level. This has been found to be economical and has worked in most cases. A reinforced cement concrete column and footing have been used wherever necessary. In Kerala, where the water table is high, and for taller structures, we have used well designed pile and raft foundations.

Walls have been used for a range of functions, from enveloping spaces to taking the load of the roof. It is one of the elements that gives a form to the structure. Techniques of building walls range from building in adobe, where one must have knowledge of the mud being used and understand its behavior to building in brick where one must know the principles of bonding. Housing utilities like electrical and plumbing,allowing for windows to be accommodated, and imparting a character to the space are also some of the functions. The material used for building involves different crafts and engineering. We have worked extensively with many techniques to arrive at the language used in our buildings. From building cavity walls that will keep out the heat to composite stone walls that allow for the strength and beauty of stone while accommodating the utilities are just some of its uses. Screen walls built with bottles or with terracotta jaalis play a different role and enrich the spaces they enclose.

Lintels play the role of creating openings and supporting the wall or roof above. Smaller openings can be spanned very economically and simply, while larger ones require heavier beams. A design which is conservative in its use of beams is more economical. Apart from using concrete lintels, which is the conventional practice, we have used stone slabs, wooden beams and steel to span some types of openings. Using arches instead of beams is another option. Arches require skill to build and can add character to any space. Corbels with brick or stone are another way to span openings. Some of these elements are very strong in their communication and the design must take care of the proportion and composition.

In most of our work we have been using reinforced cement concrete for the floor slabs. Efficiently designed spaces lead to economic structural design of slabs and this has been a good solution for most contexts. Alternatives with floor slabs have been masonry vaults, filler slabs and even wood and steel. Some of these alternatives work in contexts of scale, skill and appropriateness. Choosing these options as a solution to economy and recycling need more study as on detailed analysis they may not work, due to subsequent additions being needed to improve their performance or aesthetic as per expectations of the user.

The roof plays the important function of sheltering the building from the sun and the rain. The form of the structure is composed primarily of the roof and walls. In India, our climate demands that the roof has to protect the building from the heat of the sun and the rain. The use of the space also demands an appropriate response from the roof. For instance, verandahs and semi covered spaces require one kind of response while covered living spaces another. The form may require a flat roof or a sloping one, with the slopes varying with the material and climate. In recent times solar energy and provisions for it, play an important role in influencing the roof form. We have been experimenting with different roofs in our work. A double roof or a cavity roof, works best in our climate, which will waterproof the space below as well as reduce the heat within the space. This double roof has manifested as a filler slab, with terracotta Mangalore tiles and concrete composite, or a reinforced concrete roof with a lighter sheet above it. In Kerala, we have even created a light roof above the main flat RCC roof, to insulate the space. Each solution has its pros and cons and the search continues. For semi open spaces like verandahs and car parks, we have used Mangalore (terracotta) roofing tiles wherever the slope is possible. These are comfortable to sit under and have a pleasing ambience. They do require some maintenance, as they damage easily and sometimes shift and need to be adjusted. When the form required has been flat, we have used polycarbonate sheets or glass. These have inherent issues of heat being trapped under and being difficult to clean. They need to be designed well and used appropriately.

The design of the staircase is an important feature in most of our work. Using it to connect the spaces vertically, the staircase is very often the focal point of any space.Depending on the space, we have built stairs in reinforced cement concrete, steel and wood. Concrete stairs are more labor and material intensive and require accuracy in casting, to achieve finesse in the detail. Timber stairs are lighter and simpler. The selection of wood and the expertise to work with it are necessary. Steel stairs are minimalistic, and can span larger spaces.

We have mainly been using hardwood for the doors and windows. In some cases steel and aluminum have also been used, mainly due to budgetary constraints. The preference is for timber as it imparts a warmth to the space that the other materials do not have. The craft of woodworking and joinery is slowly dying and its principles are important to learn from, for future innovations. Planting timber species to make timber a more sustainable material should be undertaken. Reinventing traditional sections and working with more economical sections, has been our effort, as has been the idea to combine fixed and openable shutters in windows, to allow for larger openings and solutions which integrate insect proofing and do not block views out of spaces.

The most important aspect of finishing any constructed space is in the planning of the work and the housekeeping of it once finished. Delicate floors need to be planned later in the sequence; surfaces must be protected from paints and polishes to avoid staining. The skill needed at this stage is one of diligence and common sense. Especially when using multiple materials, the treatment and care of each one differs and needs corresponding attention. Crafts of oxide floors, lime plasters and wooden floors have dwindled due to difficulties of these techniques keeping pace with modern requirements and systems. They need greater effort and we have used them where appropriate, realizing that they have been reduced to a fancy and it will take a lot to make them ordinary again, if at all.