Tuesday, 11 October 2016

FB Discussions - Bamboo housing

Raghunandan Tr The National Bamboo Mission has plenty of very useful material on growing, cutting, treating and using Bamboo for a variety of purposes. I have all their books in Bangalore and can send them to you when I return. I myself experimented a lot with Bamboo. Aditi and I planted a grove in our home, but soon, it grew so luxuriantly that we had to cut it. The problem was that it broke through into our rainwater harvesting tank and then outgrew everything. Even though we were sad to see it go, I learnt a lot about Bamboo and treated the cut stalks in accordance with the advice of the National Bamboo Mission. I soaked the stalks in tanks of water with borax and boric powder to preserve it. I used it to construct a shed, also using techniques of jointing recommended by the NBM. The stalks were as good as new, twenty years later.

The roofing material that you speak of is made in Hosur. There is also a research station somewhere in Bangalore, near Peenya if I remember. The roofing material is made by sandwiching bamboo mats in fibreglass resin. In other words, the glass fibre used for fibreglass is replaced by Bamboo.

You can also build lovely walls with Bamboo and mud. The bamboo is split and beaten flat. Then it is woven in a basket weave. After that, it is plastered with mud inside and outside. It makes for a light, beautiful wall, particularly when it is painted with Chunam. All the houses in villages in the plains of Assam are built like this, and mounted on stilts. They never get spoilt in the floods, if one ensures that the roof overhangs enough to prevent water from splashing on them.

On our museum land in Avani village, Kolar, we have planted clumps of Bamboo. It has taken some time for these clumps to develop, because of the drought. But this year, they might take off. I am looking forward to planting more Bamboo, so that we can harvest it and use it for some of the museum buildings. A combination of traditional bamboo construction techniques and a few modern techniques, can work wonders. It is a wonderful material.

Aparna Krishnan Yes, bamboo needs to re-enter lives. And yes, today we need a mix of traditional and modern. Traditionally in our areas bamboo was cut in the dark phase of the moon, and then soaked in the full (in those times !) tanks for a month, with heavy stones placed on them, and then used in roofing. Those weathered bamboos stand forever in old houses. Now we have only bone dry tanks, and need borax. The sheer aesthetics of these homes with bamboo roofs is something else. Ours was till two years ago, and then we succumbed to modernity. We have thick mud walls in our village, but I have seen bamboo walls in Narmada. What sheer beauty and comfort urban people have lost in moving to steel and concrete, they have no idea of.

Raghunandan Tr Soaking in water is essential to leach out the sugar content, which attracts borers. Borax ensures that further insect attacks don't happen. So a combination of water soaking and borax (which is dissolved in the water), is a good blend of traditional and modern approaches.

 Aparna Krishnan But the switch to steel and concrete is at a deep level of aspiration. And that is very very hard to counter. And as a result there are sociological realities like the thatcher community losing respect and value and cliente. And so with the extant thatchers growing old, thatching gets harder and harder to commission. From a beautiful bamboo thatch roof for 15 years which kept us cool in summers and warm in winters, we now bake and freeze under a metal roof. Since the last two years. Our neighbours are very approving of the change in roof incidentally ! Thatching is expensive, and unless well done, what needs to last for 30 years, lasts for 3. We burnt our fingers with our last re-thatching !

Sridhar Lakshmanan Raghunandan Tr pls try modified boucherie method I can send some links it can be easily fabricated

Raghunandan Tr Fascinating! Would love to know more, Sridhar.

Abari is a socially and environmentally committed research,design and construction firm that…


Raghunandan Tr Aparna, Hunnarshala in Kutch is helping to conserve and improve thatching skills. They have supported a cooperative of women experts in thatch. Their work is brilliant. The beauty about thick thatch, used in the Hunnarshala office as a demo, is that the roof is home to many sparrows who nest in it. Imagine working in an office with real birdsong, instead of piped music!

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