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    Posted 07-29-2022 11:13 AM
    The focus on considering climatic aspects while practicing architecture has always been an inseparable part. However, deviations are often noticed too during the rapid urban sprawl. Build spaces not meeting the required attributes, are severely affecting the user group turning spaces into non habitable halos. It is been a while since concerns over climate change have geared up. As a young design professional with a research inclination towards ethical sustainable practices, I have been attending various knowledge sessions on the same. I wanted to share few valuable insights I have come across in the community.

    Recently I attended a conference on 'Climate Appropriate Self-built Housing' jointly organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India and Piloo Mody College of Architecture, India at the Bhubaneshwar, India. It was cordially graced by eminent architects of the city, academicians research scholars with national & international repute along with the coordinators Ar. Chitrasen Parida & Mitashi Singh. 

    The discussion primarily focused on multiple aspects on the said agenda. 'Reinventing local materials, techniques and skills for sustainable self-built housing', being the first one specifically dealt with Odisha and West Bengal, two states of India having noticeable coastal settlements. These coastal belts had witnessed cataclysmic adversity of post-cyclonic horror. Thus, disaster resiliency is an integral attribute to shape the shelters in a better way. The inaugural ceremony started with the welcome address delivered by Ar. Maitreyee Mishra, academic head, PMCA and further edged up with Ms. Anumita Roychowdhury's enlightening keynote address on the motto. The conference did proceed with a presentation on various topics delivered by Ms. Roychowdhury, Mr. Rajneesh Sareen, on behalf of CSE, India followed by an exemplary presentation on 'Building climate resilience through slum upgrading: The case of Jaga Mission, Odisha, India' by Dr. Antarin Chakrabarty, team lead (Jaga Mission), one of the largest slum empowerment initiatives in the world. Probably the first slum area with a complete geospatial database, its impressive changes after the proposed improvements were implemented have been meticulously documented as a feasible and effective example of such empowerment. Mr. Partha Sarathi Sahoo, team leader of Odisha Urban Housing Mission – AWAAS, has talked about the 'Re-construction after Cyclone Phalin' including various construction techniques on mixed approaches in conventional vernacular practices with more disaster resiliency and an intense Q & A session.

    Introducing new approaches in conventional vernacular construction techniques in rural areas is pretty challenging and sensitive considering what major stakeholders are already habituated with. The post-lunch panel discussion moderated by Ms. Roychowdhury unveiled this intriguing reality. Prof. B Misra, IIT Roorkee, Dr. Santosh K. Misra, Dean, BPUT, Dr. Gita Vaidyanathan of 'CTx Green – Gram Vikas', Prof. S B Acharya of PMCA, Ar Bibhuti Mohapatra, Principal architect, Rupantar along with Mr. Sareen and Mr. Sahoo had been part of the panel. 'Fusion & confusion' as pointed out by the panelists raised a clear concern about the hybrid 'mixing', its application and understanding among the locals often create a mess when not navigated properly. Prof. B. Mishra threw light on tenure security, incremental housing design, use of durable and locally available materials, technical assistance, participation of women, and low-cost housing for slum dwellers as a means of empowerment. The striking difference between what the construction professionals are advising and what people are accepting are still way apart. These concerns keep alarming while researchers are continuously trying to fill the gap between practice & academia in a balanced way. The conference ended with a thanks note delivered by Prof. Kallol Datta Choudhuri of PMCA.

    It was really worth being a part of the session. What I found interesting is that the agenda did include the rudimentary approach in the rural context of India and other alike countries. Affordability is a key to increase the design reach. New design solutions with well thought technological amalgamations are being contrived everyday but only a few are economic, native and unalienable. The self-homemakers in the rural areas always has a balanced native approach towards construction with an innate management ability to come up with optimum solutions using the least available resources. Going back to the root where we actually do belong can sometimes be the best way to see things differently, with a new direction that local people can relate to.

    What are your thoughts on approach to climate-appropriate self-built housing? Do let me know in the comments !

    Abhishek Rao  R.A, A.M.ASCE
    Member Architect, The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
    Advisor & Juror, Inspireli Education, CZ
    WB, IND