• Jagriti Bhandari


In the current scenario everyone tries to follow and talk about the latest trend sustainability, but the irony is even the most learned men end up only speaking about it. Yesterday I got an opportunity to meet Mr. Gautham Sarang a very inspirational personality, who without going through a complex system of certificate education successfully managed to practice a few sustainable structures. Experimenting with the local materials available for a basic rural school ‘SARANG’ initially started by his parents.
After experiencing the various phases of life from being a farmer, taxi driver, web designer etc…, he now dreams to take this project to the next level. He is now determined to take it forward.

It was decided to use local materials such as earth and bamboo which are the materials used by the local tribal population. To use burnt bricks and concrete was not only expensive and difficult to transport these materials to this remote area up in Attappadi in Western Ghats.

An office cabin designed using local bamboo as a major building material. The reason for using bamboo as a major construction material was as it is found in abundance in the region. And use of bamboo in buildings can be replenished by growing them again. It takes much shorter period to grow again. The rafters are made up of bamboo while some recycled iron rods were used to get a uniform level for the tiles. It is a bit difficult to make the rafters level for laying the tiles. On the top, Mangalore tiles are used which is commonly used in Kerala. Thus the thatch was replaced by the tiles.

Plinth of the building is raised using concrete columns in the consideration of protecting from the termites, a trial experiment is being done by coating the underside of the metal sheet with cashew oil so that termite may not climb up to attack bamboo walls and roof. Continuing with the wall construction technique, woven bamboo was used which were later covered with earth. The earth has completely cracked which were subsequently filled with earth itself. Cow dung was mixed with mud which was the traditional practice among the tribals.

For flooring, the bamboo base is first levelled by filling the gaps with the broken roof tiles collected from the dismantling of an old building and then levelling it with the earth fill. It is planned to do the floor finish with the terracotta tiles. Wide glazed openings are provided for natural light and ventilation.

The next building which was constructed was the kitchen block. This was built with mud blocks. There was no mud block making machine, but an attempt was made to apply pressure manually. The corners and the doors frames are done with concrete columns. The roof is made of bamboo and tiles. Here glass was used for the top two feet of glass for the entire length of the wall on the assumption that the termites will not be able to climb the glass walls. Simple, easy build and yet looks beautiful amalgamating with the natural surroundings. Being an architectural student myself I have never experienced such an aesthetic experiment.

The most interesting thing was that these buildings were done without the use of skilled labourers and no architects or engineers. They were done with very little cost. Now Gautham is expecting that the whole school can be built using the local materials such as earth, bamboo and timber.

- Jagriti Bhandari

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