Overuse of steel and concrete for housing is not only increasing the cost but is also increasing the carbon footprint, said Rupal Desai and Rajendra Desai, a duo that advocates use of local materials like stones and woods in houses in rural areas as well as those upto three-storeys.
“Houses in India have been constructed using local materials for ages. They have withstood natural forces. However, now if you are using local materials and not using steel and concrete, it is a stigma,” said Rajendra at a program at Gujarat Vidyapeeth. “It is only if the building has more than three storeys, that you need concrete and steel. Even in the US, 99% of houses in the countryside are built from local materials, mostly wood,” said Rupal.
She informed that use of local materials will drastically reduce the cost of construction, which would be particularly beneficial for houses in rural areas but lamented that entire academics in civil engineering and associated faculties revolve around the use of steel and cement, while the advocacy of using locally available material has depleted to a great extent. “Now even in academics, use of local materials for construction is not taught. So the skill of using local materials is depleting in the country. Students are exposed only to steel and cement,” said Rupal.
Retrofitting of existing traditional houses is also a dying knowledge in India as it is not finding takers in the young generation. “These methods are extremely economical and perhaps because of this they are not finding many takers,” she said.
They say that transportation of steel and cement causes tremendous carbon footprint, need water in huge quantities and is not feasible for low rise buildings.
“Use of steel and cement require precision or else quality and longevity of the construction will take a beating and the building will be more vulnerable to natural calamities like earthquake,” said Rajendra.
The duo is promoting Gandhian economics of Gram Swaraj. They have so far trained over 1,000 artisans, 550 government engineers and are creating awareness about local technologies for construction.