Vernacular vs. modern
By default, sustainable solutions seek judicious ideas, irrespective of their source, be they traditional or modern, global or local
Many sustainability discussions are increasingly getting into debates outside their technical applications, often leading to digressions and delayed actions. One common area where this phenomenon can be observed is to do with local knowledge systems and traditional technologies. Our ongoing essays on staircase are not an exception – while the novelty of having stainless steel and glass plate stairs is now a possibility in India, why are we shunning them and questioning international ideas? In this new-age global living, why are we glorifying the local “stone age” living, by supporting the idea of stone staircase? Village houses were eco-friendly, but can we return to the regional vernacular style as a solution to urbanising India?
Not just debates
If a reader gets to react as above after looking at the cantilevered stone slab staircase that was featured last week in The Hindu-PropertyPlus , in a way, it is valid! The mandate of Green Sense is not getting into theoretical debates outside implementable ideas; however, it is important to clarify upon such queries, as a process of convincing ourselves. By default, sustainable solutions seek judicious ideas, irrespective of their source, be they from traditional or modern; global or local. Reinforced cement concrete is a high-ended construction option that can withstand sun, rain, fire, heavy loads, breakage or such others, and be secure against any actions of possible burglary. None of these qualities are among the required design criteria for an indoor element! Evidently, RCC stairs are technological and resource overkill. However in the modern times, we cannot avoid RCC on most occasions, especially in high-rise and commercial structures where time is money. Suggesting a vernacular and local option is not to negate the global solution of RCC stairs, but to remind ourselves about regional alternative ideas that could be employed where appropriate.Wider stairs
Traditionally, stone treads were kept thin, often only 2 to 3 inches if its kota stone and around 3 inches if granite, but the width of stair too was restricted to 2′ 6”. Nowadays, we seek wider stairs, say min. 3 ft. wide, hence it’s desirable to cut the granite slabs to min. 4 inches thickness. For stairs that need be wider than 3 ft., stone slabs are an ideal solution, though can be tried upon the expert advice of the stone mason. In case the wall above the steps is not wide or heavy enough to put counterweight, site-specific measures like sand-filled hollow block, staircase beam, built-in concrete layer or such others can be considered. The temporary support of the stone steps can be retained until the super structure is ready, just to ensure the steps are safely put in position.
Despite the foregone discussion, there is one fact: after all is said about green ideas, often it is the prevalent practice that gets built. It’s both a truth and a tragedy.