Many people have gradually shifted from traditional houses – which rely on locally available building materials and knowledge – to modern dwellings, even in rural areas. Khadeeja Henna, Aysha Saifudeen and Monto Mani from the Centre for Sustainable Technologies recently studied which of the two were more resilient to climate change. They evaluated houses in three different Indian villages that had temperate, warm-humid and cold climates.
Using data loggers, they recorded temperatures inside the houses every 30 minutes for almost a year, and built a mathematical model to predict how indoor temperatures would be in the future. The team then simulated three future global warming scenarios with different levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and estimated how the houses fared.
In all three climates, traditional houses – such as ones with timber walls or slate roofing – were less affected by climate change than modern houses. In the cold climatic zone, traditional dwellings were warmer indoors, making them more suitable for residence. In the warm-humid and temperate climatic zones, modern houses had relatively higher indoor temperatures. This would make them more dependent on artificial air conditioning, fuelling global warming further. The study suggests that traditional dwellings have design solutions that can help adapt better to climate change.