Home is where the Earth is : exploring the adoption of vernacular architecture in urban housing in India
Abstract: India has yet to build 70% of the buildings that will exist in 2030. The housing industry in India has been growing rapidly in an effort to keep up with increasing urbanization, population growth and aspirational consumption. Its growth is accompanied by a large ecological footprint, given the resource intensive processes involved and the large amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) produced. Statistics indicate that construction industries in India are responsible for 35% of carbon dioxide emissions. This is compounded by urbanization giving way to rapidly growing cities and new ways of living, with urban areas having the highest built environment expansion rates. As a major contributor to climate change, building sustainability in the construction industry, is of utmost importance and relevant to further the course of sustainable development. The architecture practice is a crucial step in the building process as it predetermines all the steps in the value chain of the entire process. With modernization, traditional techniques and methods are often abandoned. Today, Indian buildings stand largely influenced in their disposition, unfit for the landscape, climate or regional cultures; the very principles that traditional vernacular architecture abides by. This thesis proposes that vernacular architecture, given its inherent environmental, social and economic sustainability should be streamlined to the urban residential context, and how this can be achieved. In doing so, we can design better buildings, reduce consumption and emission of greenhouse gases. This thesis conceives architecture as a social practice in this thesis to study the elemental links that make up a practice in conjunction with the levels of the operational space (niche, regime, landscape) it is practiced in. In doing so, it uncovers the “unmaking of unsustainability” to find the path to incorporating sustainability at the core of Indian architecture. Using practitioners of the practice to inform the research. The findings reveal that vernacular architecture can be applied to the urban context of housing in India through the active engagement and interaction of the social practices of policy-making, education and architecture. The paper highlights the real challenge posed by sustainability in the application of traditional vernacular architecture to the changing social, cultural, economic and political context. It discusses the points of intervention, reinforcement, and establishment of the practice to enable a macro-level change; thus, demonstrating how adoption of vernacular architecture shows promise of serving as a compass for progressive sustainable architecture while contributing to fulfilling the OECD objectives for sustainable building in a more holistic manner.
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