Vernacular architecture, the simplest form of addressing human needs, is seemingly forgotten in modern architecture. However, due to recent rises in energy costs, the trend has sensibly swung the other way. Architects are embracing regionalism and cultural building traditions, given that these structures have proven to be energy efficient and altogether sustainable.
In this time of rapid technological advancement and urbanization, there is still much to be learned from the traditional knowledge of vernacular construction. These low-tech methods of creating homes which are perfectly adapted to its locale are brilliant, as they are not only easier to employ in construction but also cost effective.
Vernacular architecture adheres to basic green architectural principles of energy efficient materials and resources in close proximity to the site. These structures capitalize on the native knowledge of how buildings can be effectively designed as well as how to take advantage of local materials and resources. Even in an age where materials are available well beyond our region, it is essential to take into account the embodied energy lost in the transportation of these goods to the construction site.
For instance, a home built in the hot deserts of Rajasthan, can take advantage of the white marble stone, which provides a cool surface for the feet as one walks on them, however, the same white marble can be a source of extreme discomfort for the inmates of a home in Ooty, which experiences much lower ambient temperatures.
The effectiveness of climate responsive architecture is evident over the course of its life, in lessened costs of utilities and maintenance. A poorly designed structure which doesn’t consider environmental or vernacular factors can ultimately cost the occupant – in addition to the environment – more in resources than a properly designed building.
For instance, a structure with large windows on the south & West façades in a tropical climate like ours would lose most of its air conditioning efforts to the pervading sun, ultimately increasing the cost of energy.
Today, we have come up with a number of Green design certification bodies, which have based their standards on the latest technological solutions, rather than common sense and vernacular strategies. By applying vernacular strategies to modern design, a structure can ideally achieve net zero energy use, and be a wholly self-sufficient building.
These structures present a climate-responsive approach to dwelling and are natural and resource conscious solutions to a regional housing need. The benefits of vernacular architecture are now making a return among green architecture and architects. In order to progress in the future of architecture and sustainable building, we must first gain knowledge of the past and employ these strategies as a well-balanced, methodical whole to achieve optimum energy efficiency.
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