RCC is a new phenomenon

The time has come to rethink what we question and accept in construction practices

Current practice: Most foundations have stepped formation

Nearly two dozen e-mails during the one-month-old Green Sense essays is gradually turning this weekly column on eco-friendly and cost-effective building ideas into a reader’s column.

One of the intentions, of sharing experiences, is being slowly fulfilled. Incidentally, the unexpected is also happening — readers are reacting and enquiring. As a reaction and clarification to recent mails, let us look at the idea of foundations more critically.

No pillars

If we inspect the houses of our elders, we realise there hardly were concrete or stone pillars, but the structure stood on load-bearing walls.

Stone or wood pillars were restricted to large areas such as living room or dining hall. Even today in hard soils, ground and two-storeyed buildings with nominal room sizes are possible without any RCC pillar beam system.

Yet, if we look around the cities today, we hardly find any new construction without RCC all over them. Naturally, the wall foundations we have been discussing may appear questionable.

Care needed

To allay this fear, let me only state that among all the standing houses in India, those with RCC columns are still a small and recent minority. It is a beneficial technology, but should be used judiciously and appropriately.

Most foundations we see have stepped formation of stones or the local material. This practice of stepped method is a British introduction, later formalised through the PWD all over.

Surely, it has advantages, but it is not always necessary to spend money and materials in dressing of stones or stepped construction.

Filling the remaining part of trench, plinth protection at ground, precision wall centre line and such others then become inevitable. Bangalore-based architects, Kanade Brothers, have tried to build with simple stone slabs laid over each other as foundation.

Local ideas

In the Mangalore region, traditionally, laterite was used for foundation, with main foundation for external walls and nominal ones for internal ones.

In different regions, varied localised ideas like brick footings, wooden piles, river and hill side stones have been used to consolidate the ground below walls.

The claim that mainstream ideas like RCC pillars or stepped footings are informed and studied not only justify the current practices, but also dilute the common sense of ages.

If an ecological alternative evolves from scientific research, we tend to agree with it. But if it is rooted in local realities, we question them. It is time to rethink what we question and what we accept.

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Posted on June 5, 2010, in designs, fundamentals. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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