There has been a rise in the number of catastrophic incidents damaging historic and modern buildings. These are usually due to the heavy rainfall, flood, drought, heatwaves and cyclonic winds. These situations have been experienced by the developed city such as New York where the architecture is being affected due to the melting of snow and overflow of the nearby river. Similar calamities have been observed in Da Nang, Vietnam where there is a rise in the rate of precipitation. Meanwhile, Cape Town, South Africa is experiencing drought due to lack of rainfall. There is also a heat wave in Paris, France and Tel Aviv, Israel due to the abundance of concrete and asphalt. These holocausts are creating havoc in the life of residents and destroying nature and the man-made structures.
These heterogeneous effects of climate change have forced us to reconsider the traditional method of building the houses. Vernacular architecture is an example of constructing structures with locally available materials and indigenous construction techniques. In earlier days, the disasters were rare as the built environment corresponded with its surrounding landscape. In today’s time, the excessive use of concrete and unsustainable construction methods have raised environmental issues such as climatic change and global warming. This article will be investigating a few case studies of vernacular architecture around the world. These were implemented with various materials and strategies in a different time period. Hence, it will be concluding whether this style of architecture should be encouraged to reduce the impact of climatic change.
1. Bhunga Huts of Kutch, India
Type: Mud House
Bhunga huts are beautiful museums representing the life of Kutch people and its desert areas. These are traditional houses of a circular shape made of mud walls and thatched roof with the support of bamboo sticks. These mud walls are made of an amalgamation of mud and organic matter such as cow dung. The wall is covered with plaster to accelerate its strength. The circular shape huts are disaster-resistant as it can withstand an earthquake being more stable and can also confront the strong cyclonic winds. The mud walls are environmentally friendly because it has maintained human comfort temperature without any consumption of non-renewable resources. This is an ideal example of ancient vernacular architecture where organic material and traditional design style protects the environment with zero carbon footprints.
2. Oak Framed Building Lake District, England
Type: Cruck-Framing House
The oak framed building depicts the cultural heritage of the Lake District. In the cruck-framed building, the house is supported by straight or curved timbers which are tied up together with wall plates. Purlins, rafter and thatched roof are laid over the mainframe. The walls are made of timber panels filled with wattle and daub. These houses and barns are within 6 meters wide and are usually used by smallholders, peasants, and parsons. This type of architecture flourished between the 13th Century and 16th Century. Timber is a biodegradable product which has technical and functional advantages with aesthetic appearance. Such vernacular architecture can be implemented all over the world, especially in the cold region as timber works as insulation.
3. Market Square of Dornstetten, Germany
Type: Box-Framing House
The box-framed building gained popularity in the 19th Century as two or three-storied houses were possible to build. The structure of this type of building was constructed by using vertical posts and horizontal beams made of heavy timber. The skeleton of the buildings in the Market Square of Dornstetten has been left exposed. Hence, they are also known as half-timbering. This construction method is used to achieve an open plan design while assuring complete enclosure with effective insulation. It is a perfect sustainable approach in modern times of architecture.
4. Ma’dan Reeds House, Iraq
Type: Reed House
Reeds are available in plenty in the marshy area of Iraq. The habitants of this marshland live a nomadic life. The junction between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates are filled with water due to high and low tides. The houses are made of reeds by wrapping in bundles and creating structures like walls, columns and arches. It is fast to construct and easy to carry during the rise in the water level. This is due to its light-weighted structure. This vernacular architecture is an ancient practice by Marsh Arabs around 5000 years ago. This ‘modhif’ structure is a traditional architecture style with an indigenous solution from flooding.
5. Chibotte, France
Type: Dry- Stone House
Chibotte is a temporary structure constructed by the owners of the vineyard in the Velay region of France. The vineyard owners stay during the summers to keep an eye on their harvest. Volcanic stones like basalt are used in building the shelter which is discovered while digging for vine plantation. This dry-stone house is made with two layers of stone. These are inner arch whose rocks are projected outwards and outer arch whose rocks are faced inwards. This style of vernacular architecture was mostly built till the 1920s as it was replaced by convenient and cosy pavilions.
6. Malay Houses, Malaysia
Type: Wood House
Wood is a locally available material in South-East Asia which is extensively used in building houses. It is an ideal environment-friendly solution to provide shelter in this tropical region. Malaya house has porous design and provision for natural cross-ventilation to reduce the heat and humidity. There are also overhanging roofs to protect from the sun and rain through large windows. These houses have implemented the passive cooling system as they are built on the stilts to improve the natural airflow. These sustainable approaches reduce the use of artificial cooling and help the planet to ameliorate its climatic condition.
7. Seaweed Roof on Læsø, Denmark
Type: Seaweed House
A huge number of trees were cut down to establish salt industries in northern Denmark. So eelgrass from the ocean and driftwood from the shipwreck was used to overcome the need of the material to build the residential houses. This is a traditional method implemented by the natives of the island, Læsø. This vernacular architecture is gradually decaying and an immense amount of efforts are being imposed to restore and conserve these houses. The Danish people are trying their best to save these peculiar huts although it is not a child’s play as around 300 kilograms of seaweeds are required to cover the roof of one square meter.
In referring to these case studies of vernacular architecture, we get to know that the indigenous methods are environment-friendly. This method is cost-effective as it has mainly relied on local materials and there are no harmful residuals during the construction process. Climatic change can be reduced to a great extent by encouraging the use of sustainable designs, materials and construction techniques. These structures can be also disaster-resistant if proper environmental considerations are taken as discussed in the article. This architecture style can save the planet from decaying if they are accepted and used in the construction of buildings with maximum three-storied high.
01) Online Source: Vernacular architecture and climate change — Oxford Urbanists
02) Online Source: Vernacular Architecture in the British Isles (buildinghistory.org)
03) Online Source: Traditional Bhunga Huts of Kutch | Blog (kutchtourguide.com)
04) Online Source: Roots Of Nature Building
05) Online Source: Timber framing – Wikiwand
06) Online Source: 11 Vernacular Building Techniques That Are Disappearing | ArchDaily
07) Online Source: Mudhif – Wikipedia