The Swaran Singh Block is another technology developed in the series of "surface engineering". It holds the capacity to integrate the three basic requirements for the appropriate technology which are:

Rationalised load bearing strength
Permanent finish
Beauty and Variety

We had earlier looked into the Ram Lochan Tile, a dual casting technique which has the composite approach to mud and stone combination. Here, we discuss the Swaran Singh Block, an equally ingenious method. A controlled gradation of materials is fused together and the outcome is strong, varied and attractive external finish.
So, let's look at the construction of the Swaran Singh Block.
Construction of the Swaran Singh Block

  • Take a simple, manually operated block making machine as available with most of the Building Centres or with Institutions propagating the use of Compressed Earth Blocks. To this add a Vibrator. The vibrator is simply a pair of eccentric bolts attached by a pulley to a fractional horse power motor. These machines are commonly available at most of the Building Centres.

  • Take a stiff PVC sheet or Red Mud plastic sheet cut to the size of the base of the mould. Coat it with used mobil oil to prevent adhesion and facilitate easy demoulding from the Surface of the block. Place the sheet at the base of the mould. Evenly distribute stone pieces on the PVC sheet leaving substantial gap between them so that cement mortar can enter between these gaps. The finished face of the stone touching the base, forms the exterior surface of the block. Here, the individual can utilize one's sense of creativity and use stone pieces of different colors and arrange them in patterns as may be desired for the purpose of articulation of materials. This will open a whole new world of expression that is offered by this simple, yet innovative technology.

  • Prepare a 1: 3 mix of cement and sand mortar. Pour the mortar evenly over the stone chips, such that it enters between the gaps for better binding. For a short time only, switch on the Vibrator that is attached to the Mud Block making Machine. The vibration helps integration of the Stone pieces with the cement mortar to form an impermeable diaphragm. Coat the sides of the Mould of the Block making machine with a layer of stiff cement slurry. This will ensure a good surface to the mud block for binding with the mortar when the blocks are laid in the wall and also ensure non-erodibility to the block while curing with water.

  • Prepare another mix of mud with 2% cement or 5% lime or the combination of the two. This mix forms the major portion of the body of the block. The mud mixture may now be put in the mould to fill 1/3 rd volume of the mould.

  • Take a jute piece little smaller than the size of the base and dip it in cement slurry. Place the jute piece in the mould and fill the rest of the mould with the same mix to about 2/3 rd of the mould and add another layer of jute dipped in cement slurry.

  • Now fill the mould to the top. Lock the lid and use the compressor to compress the block. Briefly open the lid and a topping layer of 1:4 cement mortar. This layer is the pre-finish layer for the inner surface of the wall and will require a flash coat later if at all, only to even out the surface. Repeat the process of compaction. The jute pieces play an important role as they bind the whole mud mix well and also allow for easy lifting of the large mud block.

  • The fabrication process is complete now. Eject the finished block and lift it up to keep for curing. The blocks are cured for 3 to 4 days in winters and 2 to 3 days in summers.

  • The process described is a gateway to creativity. This technology is flexible in every aspect breaking away from the standardization and universalization the modern scenario is known for.

    Mould of Block

    Blocks used in a building

    Let's explore this added dimension of flexibility in this technology.

    The block making machine itself comes in variety of sizes. Like the Balram Block Maker has a larger version, which is suitable for the walling units but then the blocks can be put vertical and interspersed with bricks to form a Rat Trap Bond. The smaller version of the blocks, can make two blocks at a time. The size is also suited for conventional techniques of vaults and domes giving variety of colors and elegant finishes.

    There is further scope of innovation in the walling technique. Laurie Baker's concept of 'the rat trap bond' can be introduced combining materials such as the compressed blocks and the standard kiln fired bricks. Major portion of the walling material is of the block and the rest of the brick. So, instead of building a solid wall, two walls are erected connected at regular intervals in a dowel like manner with bricks spanning the full depth of the wall. The outer face of the two walls is the stone surface and the inner is plain, compressed mud block.

    This further economizes on the material due to the gap maintained in between, yet achieving the regular depth of the wall. The air gap also works as a thermal insulant and at the same time creating another unique building pattern and leaving scope for many more adaptations.

    Indian aesthetic is renowned for its richness in color, textures and ornamentation in its entirety. This technology complements this ideology and adapts itself in the whole system without compromise on the life span of the building.

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