In the current scenario, everyone tries to follow and talk about the latest trends of 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 construct a few sustainable structures. Experimenting with the local materials available for a basic rural school ‘SARANG’ was initially started by his parents. After experiencing the various phases of life from being a farmer, taxi driver, web designer etc., he is now determined to take it forward.
Sustainable Building Materials
Materials such as earth and bamboo which are used by the local tribal population were decided to be used. To use burnt bricks and concrete was not only expensive but also difficult to transport to the remote area of Attappadi in the Western Ghats.
An office cabin designed using local bamboo as a major building material. The reason for using bamboo as a major building material is that it is found in abundance in the region. Moreover, the use of bamboo in construction can also be replenished by growing them again. It takes a much shorter period to grow again. The rafters are made up of bamboo while some recycled iron rods are used to get a uniform level for the tiles. It is a bit difficult to make the level of the rafters 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.
Construction of the Bamboo Structures
The plinth of the building is raised using concrete columns with the consideration of protecting from termites. A trial experiment is being done by coating the underside of the metal sheet with cashew oil so that termites may not climb up to attack the bamboo walls and roof. Continuing with the wall construction technique, woven bamboo is used which are later covered with earth. The earth has completely cracked which are subsequently filled with the earth itself. Cow dung mixed with mud is used which is 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 dismantling an old building and earth fill is added above it. 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 the walls, on the assumption that the termites will not be able to climb the glass walls. It is a simple, easy building and yet, it looks beautiful, amalgamating with the natural surroundings. Being an architectural student myself I have never experienced such an aesthetic experiment.
The most interesting thing is that these buildings are done without the use of skilled labourers, architects or engineers. They are done with very little cost. Now, Mr Gautham is expecting the whole school to be built using local materials such as earth, bamboo and timber.
- Jagriti Bhandari
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