Traditional dwellings are better suited for changing climate

– Joel P Joseph


Climate change affects the durability, indoor temperature and energy demand of buildings. India has diverse traditional housing architectures spread across its varied landscape and climatic zones. However, 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, IISc, recently studied which of the two were more resilient to climate change. They evaluated houses in three different villages in India that had temperate, warm-humid and cold climates. Using data loggers, the researchers recorded temperatures inside these houses every 30 minutes for almost a year. Based on these recordings, the authors built a mathematical model to predict how the indoor temperatures would be in the future. The team then simulated three future global warming scenarios with different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. They also estimated how houses constructed using traditional and modern materials behaved in these scenarios.

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. But in 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, thereby fuelling global warming further. The study, therefore, suggests that traditional dwellings have design solutions that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change.


Henna, K., Saifudeen, A. & Mani, M. Resilience of vernacular and modernising dwellings in three climatic zones to climate change. Sci Rep 11, 9172 (2021).