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Ancient Indian Techniques to Build Sustainable Homes Today

October 29, 2021

Today, when we think of building a new home, we consider and look forward to using the latest technology and building materials like steel, cement, light-weight aluminum frames, and concrete blocks. However, to our surprise, traditional Indian architecture is best suited for constructing houses here in India as it employs locally available natural materials and indigenous construction techniques. Hence, it is sustainable, cost-effective, and has a strong aesthetic character.
Did you know that many of the elements of traditional architecture can be easily reinterpreted and incorporated into the design of new homes?
Local and natural materials – Traditional architecture employs locally sourced natural materials as they are easily available, economical, and climatically more suitable. Also, they have a very low carbon footprint due to negligible transportation costs. Such materials also harmonize well with the natural environment of the location.

Courtyard – Internal courtyard was an integral part of a traditional Indian home layout. It provided ample natural light and ventilation to the home interiors. Known as the aangan in Hindi, vehra in Punjabi, or nadumuttom in Malayalam, it was a space where a lot of the family activities could take place in complete privacy. The courtyard plays an important role in maintaining thermal comfort and natural ventilation in the interiors. It also helped to create a pleasant environment by bringing nature into the home.

Verandah – It is a covered and partially enclosed structure attached to a house. Traditional homes usually had a verandah at the entrance to receive guests. These provide shade and keep out the hot sun and rain. The verandah forms the transitional space between the home interiors and the external environment, thereby connecting inhabitants of the house with nature.

Chhajjas – Chhajjas are projections over window and door openings to protect them from the sun and the rain. These may be sloping or horizontal or can form protection all around the opening like a jharokha in Rajasthani architecture. Due to the shade provided by the chhajjas on the openings, they contribute to the reduction of heat entering the interiors of the home. In the tropical climate, sloping overhangs have been traditionally employed to keep out the heavy monsoon rain. Chhajjas are an architectural element that adds a lot of interest to the exteriors with their projections and the shadows they cast.

Arches – Arches are beautiful design features that are rarely used in today’s homes. Arches lend a lovely charm due to their soft curves that provide a welcome change from the straight lines and right angles. Arches also offer the advantage of being structurally stable due to their form. This means that arches can be constructed without the lintel that is used for overall door and window openings. They can be made in bricks or stone thereby saving on the amount of concrete used in the lintels. Arches look really appealing in corridors and verandahs.

Sloping roofs – Sloping roofs have always been employed in areas receiving heavy rainfall and snowfall. But today, the ubiquitous flat concrete slabs are quickly replacing these sloping roofs in our cities and villages. In the Southern states, sloping roofs were built to drain the heavy monsoon rain. They were usually covered with terracotta tiles, the elegant Mangalore tiles being the most famous. In the mountains of Northern India, sloping roofs were made of stone tiles like slate. These natural tiles and the sloping roofs added to the aesthetic appeal of the home. The sloping roof had an elaborate supporting structure with trusses, rafters, and purlins. At times, interesting skylights or dormer windows were also introduced to get some light into the interiors.

Taking inspiration from our rich traditional architecture for designing homes will not only make them eco-friendly but also impart them with a distinct cultural identity. Referring to Indian Architecture, Laurie Baker once said — “Sometimes the local architecture is so beautiful and so apt that I feel it would be foolish and an affront to try and design in any other way.”

DZIGNS Bangalore, the best Architects in Bangalore, is here to assist you to make your dream home, together.

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