BENGALURU: As most people gradually shift from traditional houses, which rely on locally available building materials and knowledge, to modern dwellings, even in rural areas, a study by IISc’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) that evaluated houses in three different villages in India that had temperate, warm-humid and cold climates has found that traditional houses were better suited for climate change.

“Climate change affects the durability, indoor temperature and energy demand of buildings,” IISc said.
India has diverse traditional housing architectures spread across its varied landscape and climatic zones, and Khadeeja Henna, Aysha Saifudeen and Monto Mani from CST recently studied which of the two were more resilient to climate change.

The researchers, in their study published in Nature, while pointing out that Climate change impacts buildings in multiple ways, including extreme weather events and thermal stresses, said rural India comprising 65% of the population is characterised by vernacular dwellings evolved over time to passively regulate and maintain comfortable indoors.

“The team evaluated houses in three different villages in India that had temperate, warm-humid and cold climates. Using data loggers, the researchers recorded temperatures inside these houses every 30 minutes for almost a year,” IISc said.

Based on these recordings, they built a mathematical model to predict how the indoor temperatures would be in the future, IISc said, adding that the team then simulated three future global warming scenarios with different levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The team, which also estimated how houses constructed using traditional and modern materials behaved in these scenarios, found that in all three climates, traditional houses – such as ones with timber walls or slate roofing – were less affected by climate change than modern houses.

“In the cold climatic zone, traditional dwellings were warmer indoors, making them more suitable for residence. But in the warm-humid and temperate climatic zones, modern houses had relatively higher indoor temperatures. This would make them more dependent on artificial air conditioning, thereby fuelling global warming further. The study, therefore, suggests that traditional dwellings have design solutions that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change,” IISc said.

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