Indigenous building techniques are vernacular techniques that are similar to the traditions that our ancestors have set up. According to researcher Rubenilson, these techniques originate from specific ethnic groups and result from a long process over time. Vernacular or indigenous architecture is the one that reciprocates sensitively to the local culture, traditions, climate, geography, and the way of living of the local people of that place. This article focuses on roofing techniques in South Asia, explicitly saying, in the southern part of India. In this region, granite, earth and bamboo are the most extensively used materials, with all the dwellings made of each of these materials or a mixture of these. Some of the roofing techniques from this region are talked about below.

Stone Roofing: Mantapa at Guluru, Karnataka: 

This structure was built around 500 years ago, surrounding a large open court. The structure’s walls were made up of cob, and the roof with granite stone slabs was secured in mud. The whole structure was made of material that was easily available in the nearby areas.

Indigenous Building Techniques in Regions Across South Asia - Sheet1
Plan and section of the Gulur Mantapa in Tumker: Stone and mud construction system _© (

Mud and Bamboo Roofing: Kaidala Houses, Tumkur, Karnataka:

These structures were built around 150 years ago with abode construction and stone that was available locally in this region. The houses usually have a rectangular plan with wooden columns placed three meters apart in one direction and two and a half meters apart in the other direction. There is also a dedicated space for livestock in the house. The roof is made of two layers of bamboo placed at 90 degrees which are also locally available with a thick layer of mud over it. This type of roofing is prevalent in hot and arid regions as the thick layers of the roof prevent heat penetration. The thick layers in roofing also prevent the rainwater to seep in.

Madras Terrace Roof: 

House in Devanahalli Fort, Bangalore, Karnataka: The house which was built around 120 years ago is located inside a magnificent fort. The house has granite walls and Madras terraced roofs. The planning of the house consists of a central common room with raised walls having rooms all around the central part. The entrance of the house has a raised porch with a mud and wood reaper roof. The interior of the house has a Madras terrace roof which is made with layers of wooden beams and bricks at the edges, finished with a mixture of broken brick, pieces of stone, and lime plaster.

Indigenous Building Techniques in Regions Across South Asia - Sheet2
Madras Terrace Roof _© (

Jack Arches: 

Also called arch panel roofs could be used for longer spans of time. The material used in this kind of roofing technique is bricks and steel. The roof consisted of the usage of I-section beams with a gap of around two feet between them in which arched panels of terracotta tiles/ bricks of different sizes are placed. Jack arch roofs were among the first examples of roofs that were made of steel.

Potter’s tiles on wooden trusses: 

Sural Palace, Udupi, Karnataka: The potter’s tiles, one of the oldest materials used in roofs, were made using various techniques with different types of clay. Tiles from various regions differ from each other in shape, size, and color. Sural Palace is a 500-year-old structure. In the roofing, Jackwood trusses are used with wooden joinery and made of layers of terracotta tiles. It is supported by adobe walls which are 60 cm thick.

Types of roofing _© (

Talking specifically about South India’s vernacular architecture, it is one of the architectural practices that still connects the people of the area to their traditions and culture. For the people of Southern India, it’s not just some architectural practice but an emotion for them. And is one of the architecture types that is full-heartedly practiced there. Vernacular architecture is the one that is getting more prevalent day by day and is being encouraged by the young flock of architects as it gets gelled up with the modern techniques of architecture. These indigenous techniques and construction processes are the knowledge systems that are intricately carved into the architecture of this region by the hands of these people. 

The vernacular, and local architecture not only is adding to the sustainability of the building and the place but also give opportunities to the local people to master their skills and represent the world on how effective these techniques are. It also allows the AEC industry to utilize the knowledge and age-old traditions using low-cost and energy-efficient materials to build amazing- amazing structures. When the world is really in a need of something that could save us from the coming cyclone of pollution then vernacular architecture is the one that would be our savior. So, it’s high time that we should promote these local artisans and local materials rather than running behind glass and steel to make our structures look like 21st-century born buildings!!


  • Joeph, Priya. (2018). Native Roofing Systems of South India: Processes and Material Heritage. Sahapedia. Available at: [Accessed on: 13 November, 2018].
  • CCAFS.Building on Social Traditional knowledge of South Asis. Available at:  [ Accessed on: 2 December, 2011].

Pratishtha is an architecture graduate, for her architecture is not just about building structures, it's about how others experience those structures. Her belief is that architects are the ones who could invent different ways to choreograph user experience and convey their intent either through loud writing or silent aura of their design.