My grandmother and I spent the early years of my life in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Although we spent most of our time in the city, which is primarily known for its tall and contemporary buildings, we made sure to travel to the village whenever there was a significant holiday.
The Decorated Ghana Mud Houses, Is It Safe?
When we made our first trip to our village, which was located in Enyan Abaasa in the Central Region, I was three years old. It was a small community whose housing appeared to be completely different from the housing in Accra and not as colorful as I had anticipated.
The surfaces of the buildings were rough, and each one had the same texture. Because I was so curious, there were times when I attempted to taste the buildings, but I was unsuccessful because I was always stopped.
Since then, both my fascination with and my memories of living in mud houses have remained with me. My interest was reignited when I paid a recent visit to my hometown and saw these structures. Additionally, the fact that several buildings in Accra that were constructed from cement have been destroyed in recent years sparked my curiosity.
This time, it is not a desire to taste the mud; rather, it is a desire to find out whether or not, after more than two decades, these mud houses continue to be safe havens for their owners as they once were or whether or not they have evolved into death traps.
What is Mud Houses
Mud houses are buildings that are constructed from sand, silt, a small amount of clay, and water. They are also commonly referred to as Atta Kwame, a name that derives from the fact that the contractors who built them were predominantly from Benin.
Cob, adobe, rammed earth, and wattle and daub are the four primary varieties of natural mud building techniques. Other natural mud building methods include rammed earth.
Cob construction, which is also the oldest method of its kind, is the type that is known for being the most straightforward and widespread. It is a combination of the soil, a certain amount of clay, water, and possibly additional components such as grass, cow dung, hay, urine, and a great number of other components, depending on the individual’s desire to gain strength.
Creating a structure out of rammed earth requires creating a mixture of sand and clay, then compressing it inside of a mold to form the walls and other components of the structure. Typically, some kind of insulation in the middle of the wall, such as polystyrene, polyurethane, or even old newspaper; this insulation may also be reinforced with steel rods.
Bricks made of mud or Adobe, which have their origins in the shaping of cob into bricks, are used in the construction of the building.
Other techniques that play a significant role in the building of natural structures include the use of straw bales, which are typically rendered with a mud-based mixture, bamboo, and thatch for the ceilings and roofs of mud-based homes, and the use of cob for earthen ovens.
The majority of these mud houses were plastered and bound with cement, making them virtually unrecognizable; however, the question remains as to how secure they can be after so many years have passed.
An inhabitant named Nancy Eyipey is a woman who is 70 years old and lives in one of these buildings in one of the rural areas in Ghana. This particular building has thirteen rooms.
The large size of the compound, which many people believe was the reason for the use of mud as a building material because of its low cost, caused each member of Nancy’s family to have their own private space, which allowed Nancy to spend her childhood in Accra, the nation’s capital city, but she always looked forward to returning home for the holidays to spend time with the rest of her family.
Her mother, who has since passed away, was the one who constructed the building. She has spent the majority of her life in that location. She stated that the structure was constructed a few years before she was born, and she recalled that some of the building’s sections had collapsed as a result of a heavy rainfall approximately sixty years ago, causing it to be in need of renovation.
When some of the building’s sections collapsed, I was a very young child. The toilet and bathroom were the only parts of the building that remained standing, and she went on to say that she had no idea why this was the case.
She was, however, pleased that it had occurred because it provided the opportunity for the section of the building that had collapsed to be rebuilt, but this time with bricks rather than wood.
The Many Benefits of Living In A Mud House
Northern Ghana is home to mud houses that are typically circular in shape and have thatched roofs. These houses are typical of Ghana.
Because of the natural insulation that they offer, mud houses have been shown to offer some relief from the heat during the summer months and warmth during the winter months.
As a result of this, one does not need to incur high energy costs in order to fix appliances such as the fan and the air conditioner, which results in a cost savings that is not intentional.
There are some people who believe that living in a mud house is healthy because there aren’t any irritant chemicals mixed into the mixture that could cause allergic reactions.
An Expert’s View
Building contractor Bright Addo claims that the material costs associated with constructing mud houses are only a small fraction of the costs associated with constructing a conventional house using commercial materials.
However, the most significant expense is labor because so few people have the necessary level of expertise.
Since the beginning of time, people have been building their homes out of mud, and while this has many positive aspects, it also has some potential drawbacks.
The majority of these structures have been put under a significant amount of pressure as a result of the heavy rainfall, which has led to the erosion of the foundations of many of them.
The Ghanaian culture of poor maintenance is also another factor that has contributed to the deterioration of the structures.
Unfortuitously, there are still buildings made of mud that are similar to that one existing even in our cities. These buildings are ready to collapse at any moment, putting the lives of many people in jeopardy.
Heavy rains caused the collapse of hundreds of mud houses in Ghana in 2019, according to a report published by the National Disaster Management Organisation in Ghana. Nineteen other people also lost their lives as a result of the collapse.
There are a number of reports like this coming in from different parts of the country regarding mud houses. However, it is essential to point out that mud houses are slowly but surely making a comeback, albeit at a slower pace and in a more contemporary manner.
An Attempt at Intervention?
An environmentally conscious organization known as Hive Earth has initiated a project in Ghana in which they will use methods from the 21st century that harness the potential of bioclimatic design.
The building that is made entirely of rammed earth has lower construction costs and is capable of enduring without any upkeep for thousands of years.
In addition to this, it is anticipated that it will mitigate the effects of extreme heat, offer resistance to insects, and not produce any toxic byproducts.
An Instrument of Modernization in the Fight Against Poverty
The renovated mud houses have the potential to become a new instrument in the fight against poverty as well as a catalyst in the development of an alternative economy. This may be of utmost importance in light of the anticipated global economic slowdown that will take place over the next few years.
However, in order to accomplish this goal, new models of cooperative business must be developed, with the value placed more heavily on human labor and expertise than on technological advancement. It’s possible that social evolution is really just about going back in time.
Traditional mud houses should be acknowledged by the Ministry of Works and Housing as an important component of the housing sector, and the ministry should work to develop policies that will help keep and preserve them.
In order to benefit society as a whole, real estate institutions need to come up with methods of constructing these buildings that are both more efficient and more up to date.
It is imperative that the present be preserved in order to save the future, and it is necessary for such buildings to be either maintained or demolished.