Stone for a roof
Using stone could reduce resource consumption in the construction sector.
Human civilisation is an ever optimistic one, with a ‘never say die’ attitude. It is this undiluted trust in us that makes many people possibly believe that the current crisis of climate change can be controlled across time. They may quote many instances from the indomitable human spiritto illustrate how someday we will reach our goal of reversing the climate crisis.
However, we appear to be relying upon ideas rooted in the same technology or innovativeness, which in the first place created the crisis, to solve the crisis. This is not to demean new research, but to suggest that we also need to relook at the past to look for possible solutions. After all, days of the past did not lead to excessive consumption or climate crisis. Hence, they may offer some sober and steady ideas, however few they may be.
Using stone slab as a roofing material can be an illustrative case. Stone roofs have been popular across India. Slabs were cut into pieces two to three ft. wide and up to 12 ft. in length, depending upon the strength of the material. Stone or brick pillars were erected, upon which stone or wooden beams rested, and they were topped with stone slabs, joints finished with water proofing.
The very mention of this system would make experts in modern construction consider it as primitive. It cannot be used for making modern multi-storey office complexes nor could it be economical given the time constraint we face in projects. The present rate of urbanisation would deplete the local supply in no time.
Many such arguments can follow to delist the option for ever, unfortunately forgetting that stone roofs can be a solution in a few appropriate contexts. Today we need hundreds of such solutions to collectively reduce the massive concretisation of the construction industry. With cement and steel dominating all major items of works in every building, from foundation to water proofing, from floors to wall finish, it is imperative that we introduce a few items where we can minimise such manufactured materials.
What is strange is the way we forget our present practices and lifestyle the moment a new option is on the horizon. Why cannot a known solution co-exist with a new, innovated one? Why discard proven design and construction possibilities, when they continue to have logical and practical applications?
This is not an argument just to support stone structures, but to support thousands of such small, appropriate and sustainable ideas that could reduce resource consumption.