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Traditional Houses are Better Suited to Endure Effects of Climate Change, Finds IISc Study

Image for representational purpose. (Credit: REUTERS)

Image for representational purpose. (Credit: REUTERS)

Traditional houses made with timber walls or slate roofing were less affected by climate change than modern houses, according to the study.

A recent research conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has found that diverse traditional housing architectures spread across India’s varied landscape and climatic zones are best suited to adapt to climate change. The study, published in Scientific Reports in April this year, was conducted by Khadeeja Henna, Aysha Saifudeen and Monto Mani from the Centre for Sustainable Technologies, IISc.

For their study, the team evaluated houses in three different villages in India that had temperate, warm-humid and cold climates. The researchers recorded temperatures inside these houses every 30 minutes for almost a year to collect data for their study. Based on this collected data, the scientists built a mathematical model to predict the changes in indoor temperatures in future. For this, the team simulated three future global warming scenarios with different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. They also estimated how houses constructed using traditional and modern materials would behave in the same scenario.

The study found that naturally ventilated (NV) traditional dwellings constructed using locally available materials have lower embodied energy and ecological footprint. In one of the villages in West Bengal that was part of the study, scientists estimated the ecological footprint of conventional dwellings to be 2.5 times that of traditional dwellings. It was also noted that vernacular buildings tend to be resilient amidst a wider range of temperatures in providing comfort when compared to conventional buildings. Studying a traditional and a modern dwelling in Kerala, with a warm-humid climate, the study confirmed that vernacular dwellings outperformed conventional dwellings in maintaining indoor comfort across seasons. While observing the impact of modern transitions on rural dwellings in West Bengal, it was found that there was an increase in average indoor temperature from 7-degree celsius to 10-degree celsius.

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Traditional houses made with timber walls or slate roofing were less affected by climate change than modern houses, according to the study. Conventional houses were warmer indoors, in the cold climatic zone, making them more suitable for residing. Similarly, in the warm-humid and temperate climatic zones, modern houses had relatively higher indoor temperatures.

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