Does your sunshade play its role?
‘Chajjas’ come in attractive types now but their placement is crucial for giving shade or letting in light and air
Differing tastes: RCC slab projection on buildings started during the colonial times but many buildings do without them
Well, if we walk around historic towns like Srirangam or Sringeri or Thrissur, chajjas are conspicuous not by their design, but by their total absence. Up north, even in the desert dwellings near Jodhpur, traditionally there were no major chajjas.
Sunshades, more commonly called as chajjas, are the little horizontal projections along the external wall, just above the windows to reduce sunshine and raindrops falling on the opening.
The clay-tiled sloping roofs of south India normally extend deep beyond all walls, windows and verandahs providing climatic protection, as such never had a typical chajja.
In north India, often there would be a small beading-like projection, sometimes a moulding to drip the water drop or a small stone slab above the opening. Only in important civic, religious or royal buildings, one could see a deep sloping projection supported by ornate brackets placed at an angle between the wall and the projection.
As such, the RCC slab projection called as chajja started during the colonial times, when buildings tended to be like a box, with flat roof, inviting vagaries of weather all around. In such cases, sunshades are necessary in our region for climatic protection, though we tend to see many multi-storeyed buildings without chajjas.
The flat chajjas are cheaper, but jet out of the walls like the rim of a cricket hat, and make the building look ordinary. They also tend to look discoloured after a few showers.
Builders have tried sloping ones, which demand deeper beams, tiles on top and painted finish at bottom — all leading to more RCC and cost. When chajjas happen between two houses within the narrow space there created by the bye-law setbacks, instead of protecting, the chajja can cut off the possible light and air into our own houses. There often are directions from where we get no major sun or rain, making the chajjas there totally futile.
Interestingly, if heavy rain lashes and the window is left open, water anyway gets in despite the chajja!
All the analysis above is not to negate chajjas, but to ensure a better understanding of how and where to use them. In the recent years in Bangalore, Mangalore tile chajjas have gained popularity. They are supported by fabricated mild steel frame and can be fixed into the wall only where we need, just before completing the building. Often, we have come across owners who wanted to check out which windows need them for a year and then fix them accordingly. With sloping clay tile top, leakage is not an issue and the pricing is also reasonable. Such tiled chajjas compliment the green aesthetics of the building.