In the initial stages of the “Designs on a Delta” project, various dwelling units were designed by the team members and all of them had one common feature – they were all based on the same materials: bamboo and clay. The reasons that shaped this decision apart from the fact these homes needed to be low-cost was the convincing arguments in its favour by our architect friend Laurent Fournier, who has been designing houses with bamboo and mud for as long as his love-affair with the Sundarbans started about a decade ago. Laurent is so enamoured by the qualities of bamboo that he insists on its use as an eco-friendly, renewable source of building material. His designs speak volumes about the versatility of bamboo and clay.
However, due to increased salinity, the clay of this area is unusable as a building material unless mixed with cow dung. Agriculture too as a consequence has been badly hit. Experts rue the short-sightedness of successive governments and policy makers for this malaise*.
|The Olive Ridley Shelter (Front Elevation)|
|Floor plan accommodating six persons|
Laurent has all along been discussing ways and means of treating bamboo economically, devising alternative foundation designs, load factors and resilience to the natural elements. His detailed calculations to ascertain the safety of the Olive Ridley Shelter has put me at relative ease. “The house will not topple over even in a Super Cyclone** (above 220kmph)” he says. “But, we cannot guarantee the safety of the inhabitants” he warns. “Low-cost doors and windows cannot withstand that immense force – work on it Abhida” he cautions.
Statistics reveal that West Bengal has never witnessed a Super Cyclone. The worst that we have seen was Aila (120kmph). “Your design is perfectly stable otherwise” our consultant architect adds as a consolation.
The concern here is should we depend on statistics as an insurance against the fickle and formidable forces of nature?*To know more about what ails the Sundarban Delta please log on to:
**To know more about Tropical Cyclones, please log on to: http://www.imd.gov.in/section/nhac/dynamic/faq/FAQP.htm#q7