Page 1



Most efficient of India’s renewable resource, it is available in abundance in many regions of the country, with a potential also to extend the plantations to other regions. It has been one of the most versatile materials which has proven its relevance in the past, present and to even a greater extent for its future use in construction when greater restrictions on mining are likely to be enforced.

Strengths • • • • • •

Readily available and renewable. Low embodied energy. Economically viable and affordable. Light weight with good tensile strength. Easily to replace on deterioration even in parts. Technological processes can enhance strength and increase potential.

Toda hut, Nilgiri Hills

Weaknesses • • •

Relatively high maintenance. Preservation treatments required against pests. Demands deeper understanding to evolve connecting and assembly details. Limited compatibility with other materials. Inspiration Office, Cochin (Latharaman and Jaigopal Rao)

Usage Usable in the construction of buildings and other structures like bridges depending on the characteristic of the bamboo. Structural Elements Stilts, Pillars, Roofs, Perforated walls, Door and window frames and Rafters. Finishing & Decorative Elements Floors & Wall cladding, Doors, Railings and Screens. Used for Shuttering construction.




While a sixty foot tree cut for the market takes 60 years to be replaced. A sixty foot bamboo takes 59 days to replace. Cane is also a similar material found in many regions in India with similar potential for plantation as a renewable resource. It is used in many aspects of construction and related products in hot, humid climates.




Historic/Traditional Examples

Materials with enhanced strength of mud, increased durability and structural strength. They are available in almost all parts of India

• • •

Easy technique and minimal maintenance required if plastered (considerable if exposed). Affordable and readily available in most parts of the country. Recyclable. Provides thermal insulation.

Shikharas of many South Indian Temples used brick but it was not exposed, but as plastered art.

Weaknesses • • • •

Gaur & Pandua, West Bengal, 8th century onwards. Brick was used extensively in these areas, as these locales had deficiency of stone, creating some amazing façade treatment and structural achievements.

Uses the topsoil, and decreases the available land for agricultural crops. Greater embodied energy than mud. Not suitable for high rise load bearing construction. Production processes can be polluting.

Contemporary Examples While brick had many takers in Indian architecture Laurie Baker’s works like the Chapel at Loyala College, Trivandrum and the ‘Fired House’ technique by Ray Meeker stood apart.

Usage Used in every element of the building, depending on the characteristic of the various types of bricks available. Structural Elements Load bearing walls & Infill walls in varying thicknesses, Roof Construction - Reinforced Brick Concrete, Vaults And Domes, Pillars and Columns. Finishing Elements Roof tiling, Cladding, Flooring and Paving. Decorative Elements Jalis, Parapets, Decorative doors & window jambs, Decorative arches and Sculptural objects. Powdered form of bricks is also used as an important ingredient in lime mortar.

Resort by Gautam Bhatia

House at Revdanda by Nari Gandhi


Lime has been one of the most widely used bonding materials in India, till the introduction of cement. Its versatility and extremely wide range of uses has established its relevance as a material for construction in the past, present as well as the future.

Strengths • • • • •

Easily available. Adaptable and more chemically congruent with many materials. Low embodied energy and can be manufactured almost anywhere with less fuel consumption. Highly durable with thermal comfort and good finishes at affordable cost. Being highly alkaline, it is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Weaknesses • • • •

Requires more lead time in its preparation processes. Requires careful handling as emits heat during the preparatory processes. Needs traditional craftsmen’s knowledge and skills. Consumes more time in application.

Usage As bonding material in all types of masonry constructions, as plastering and finishing material on all surfaces, as superior quality surface finish lasting centuries, as surface paint that allows low cost high frequency surface wash to long term advantages, as screens etc. It is possible for the owners to lime wash their buildings from outside from the interest of the cost of cement based paints, every two years, and avail the advantages of the building continuing to look new, fill up the hair cracks and remain hygienic.




Historic / Traditional Examples

Most readily and abundantly available material across the country that is easy to procure, simple to work with and is highly sustainable.

• • • •

Available in abundance everywhere. Low embodied energy and allows for easy construction. Provides thermal insulation. Bio-degradable character.

The Tabo monastery, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, seen in the supporting picture was built with rammed earth in 996 AD and has withstood 1100 Himalayan winters. Up north in Ladakh the Shey Palace was built with adobe as late as the 17th century. A tradition that continues till date.

Weaknesses • • • •

Protection required from rain and dampness. Needs precautionary measures from termites & rodents. By itself has limited structural capacity. All types are not good for construction.

Bhungas of Kutch have stood the test of time of extreme climate and the 2001 earthquake.

Usage Used in every element of the building, depending on the characteristic of the mud used. Structural Elements Load bearing Walls & Infill walls – Cob, Rammed Earth, Adobe or Sun Dried Bricks, Wattle & Daub, Compressed Stabilised Earth Block. Roofs with wooden branches and straws forming its base. Finishing Elements Flooring, Plastering and Paving. Decorative Elements Jalis and other decorative works (Kutchhi Mirror work, storage units etc.)

Contemporary Examples

Architect Revathi Kamath’s own house, Delhi.

Mud House, Ahmedabad by Abhikram

Some of the other projects and practices that made an impact were Development Alternatives Headquarters, Delhi by Ashok Khosla with Neeraj Manchanda and Mati Garh, Delhi by Sanjay Prakash.


One of the most versatile building materials, available in many regions of India, in a wide variety of characteristics, colour, textures etc. It is possible to reuse and also replenish in a sustained manner provided large scale plantation drives are undertaken.

Strengths • • •

• •

Bio degradable. Low embodied energy and allows reality ease of workability. Good earthquake resistance, if used appropriately. and can be reused and recycled. Easily replaceable in parts. Skilled carpenters are available everywhere.

Traditional door detail near Rajkot.

Weaknesses • • • •

Availability now restricted with irresponsible use leading to deforestation. Needs constant and regular maintenance, particularly in humid and wet conditions. Vulnerable to termites and other attacks. Can hasten deforestation unless supply is increased through massive plantation drives to meet the demand.

Usage Used in almost every element of the building, depending on the characteristic of the wood selected. Structural Elements Framed Walls , Roofs, Pillars & Columns, Beams and Rafters. Finishing Elements Flooring, Cladding, Ceilings, Door/ window frames & shutters and Hardware. Decorative Elements Doors, Windows, Parapets and Railings and Screens. Bad quality is used for firing the kiln and other manufacturing processes involving the generation of heat.

Courtyard in Darbar Gopaldas Haveli, Vaso, Gujarat.

Wood can also be used in a contemporary manner with as much structural and visual strength.

Traditions in Kerala, Goa known to plant two teak trees at the birth of a child for his use when adult.


Glass currently seems to be the most used fenestration material in the development processes throughout the world, and has become a style/trend statement universally. In the contemporary Indian scenario, glass is being used indiscriminately to give a contemporary image to the building, resulting into high heat ingress, excessive consumption of energy and unwanted glare.

Strengths •

Provides daylight with protection from outside weather, primarily a dire need for the cold climate buildings. Increases the view of the outside from within the building. Easily manufactured and readily available in a variety of sizes, thicknesses, shapes and heat resistant qualities.

Weaknesses • • • •

Extremely high Embodied energy. High thermal conductivity and facilitates heat ingress. Vulnerable to breakage and needs careful handling. Excessive reflectivity for external use.

Usage Principally non-structural unless supported by metal frames, for openings, as partition walls and curtain walls, for skylights and coloured glass and mirrors used for decorative purposes. Use of glass requires to balance daylight and heat ingress to optimise the energy efficiency. The current high-end retail areas in India consume four and a half times energy per unit area in comparison to the recommended world targets, whereas some of the sustainable buildings in India itself have been performing at two and a half times lower than the world targets.

Acknowledgements Panika, Ahmedabad: Parul Zaveri Nimish Patel Preeti Goel Sanghi Sindya Sundar Indian Architect & Builder Sarita Vijayan Ajay Nayak Sujatha Mani Anis Sayyed Abdul Muttalib Kazim Thakur

Photograph Credit Abhikram/Panika Archives, IA&B Archives, Preeti Goel Sanghi. A few photographs are courtesy the respective architects. The organisers would also like to thank Suzlon for supporting this endeavor.


focus Used for Shuttering and Scaffolding in construction. • Relatively high maintenance. • Preservation treatments required against pests....


focus Used for Shuttering and Scaffolding in construction. • Relatively high maintenance. • Preservation treatments required against pests....