It’s ‘cool’ and just ideal for resorts

Thatched roofs have strong visual character, making them desirable in resorts, retreats and farms.

The making of a thatched roof.

Indian construction scene faced a strange dilemma during the colonial period when the traditional methods got sidelined as kutchha , temporary and undesirable. Incidentally, most of what our elders built was kutchha using local materials. Barring palaces and temples, may be we were a kutchha country! Anyway, the divide between temporary and permanent continues, e.g., even now we need not take local authority permission for kutchha constructions.

Thatched roof, which has been the single largest roof type in India before the advent of new ideas, is amongst the hard hit in the story of kutchha . The widespread prevalence of thatch could be attributed to its perfect fit for rain-fed, warm and humid climate. Easy availability, simple skills required and minimal heat gain made it a popular choice. By default, it is very local, cheap, replaceable, and hence amenable to self-help construction.

Eco-build

In every drive through the countryside of south India and often even in city contexts, we come across thatched roofs. Mature grass reeds are selected, surface cleaned, seasoned with slight wetting which also make them pliable, sun dried to get the desired water content and then tied together as small mats. Such mats are then tied to the bamboo or wooden purlin below. Additional layers of grass are laid, tying them occasionally to the lower layer. Coconut or arecanut leafs are also used likewise, as an alternative to thatch. Often, the woven coconut leaf is the underside for thatch.

In many modern versions, there are structures with G.I. sheet roofing as the underside; then topped with thatch. This clears the fear of fire and rodents. Grass reeds can be tied together like broom sticks, topped on each other to get a very dense roof layer, which lasts many years. A horizontal projection at the wall top eliminates rats and snake movements. The major complaint against thatch has been its fire safety. Chemically-treated thatch has been attempted, which increases the fire resistance. However, it is better to leave thatch as it is, and have a fire-graded underside which localises the fire, in case it occurs.

Thatched roofs have reduced, yet continue to be among the best options, given certain criteria. Their strong visual character makes them desirable in resorts, retreats and farms. Being temporary, the choice of continuing or replacing them is open after 6 to 10 years, the average life span of a well-done roof, with nearly 30 degrees slope angle.

The highlight of thatch in these days of climate change could be that they are, by far, the most sustainable roof form.

In many villages, thatched roofs are still being made, but if not supported, no person with skills for making thatch roofs would be around in the generations to come. We may lose the most eco-friendly roof to the annals of history.

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Posted on December 3, 2011, in designs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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