Post 374 –by Gautam Shah 

Mat covered WindowDuring the colonial period (of British and also Dutch, French, Portuguese) in India, the residential building designs were refashioned to suit the perception, attitudes, functional requirements, climatic understandings and responses of the occupiers. In many instances vacant Kothis were renovated, altered and refurbished for the new occupants’ lifestyle. The changes and new constructions were executed by the local skills, materials, and techniques. The Kothis or Bungalows as result were in style and manner similar to that built by minor royalties and ministers of Indian states of the time.


British_Residency_in_Kollam_city,_Mar_2017New styles of buildings were, however, required for religious buildings like churches, and clubs, administrative offices, schools, judiciary courts, barracks and garrisons. The Indian examples were not available, or not suitable for the colonials’ requirements. Such utility spaces were usually part of the palace complexes or royal precincts. Many were sited in busy localities, which from a strategic point of view was not suitable. Many such activities were sited in existing buildings of the Indian states, with due alterations and additions. When colonists began to administer politically, the changeover to new constructions for administrative facilities was very gradual. Their preferred locations were outside the towns. Few new constructions like churches, clubs, and schools had distinctive ‘foreign’ ethos. Here the architectural form, style, elements and finishes were distinctly different.

Rear_view_of_the_East_India_Company's_Factory_at_CossimbazarOne of the major differences in the local’s and the colonist’s lifestyle was the perception of privacy. The privacy was an issue of visitors and staff members moving around the house. In Muslim houses, the female section was beyond the entry of male visitors but these were nearly open to female visitors. In Brahmin and other marzadi families, members of the same cast had nearly unrestricted access. The sense of privacy in Indian dwelling was more of the enforcement of the rituals for sanctimony of the various spaces. The Europeans, mainly the British were strict about visual and audio privacy.

Kankarwali Kothi Lucknow India

Secundra Bagh after Indian Mutiny

Within the tropical dwelling with many openings and with large retinues of local servants, the neat distinction of private and a public domain, was difficult to enforce. The tropical verandah was ideal space well suited for the climate. It was not just extension of drawing room for the visitors, but a house in its own. All meals, social and business meetings, children’s nursery, ladies kitty party and crafts were conducted in the verandah. The tall verandahs were covered at top half with a wood lattice or woven mats, which allowed air movement. The same were, in later period replaced with glass. The door opening to the verandahs had an extra shutter with wire mesh to keep off insects and occlude the view of interiors. French doors were used for connecting drawing room to the verandah. One of the most important detail was louvered slats within door and window shutters. This seems to be an adaptation, back home, from other European buildings. The louvers of fixed type have been extensively used for covering the top half of office verandahs in Eastern India.

st george fort madras wikipedia image by destination8infinity 4



BombayKalbadevieRoad1890typical tropical climate innovation -double strata window portuguese colonial facade old cochin kochi india wikipedia image by photo by adam jones

The double windows were one element that solved problems of privacy and aeration. This was a period when across the Europe and USA double-hung sash windows were a rage. The Indian version had top and bottom sections, each with double leaf shutters, instead of single panes sliding (up or down) shutters. The lower section of the window was stretched close to the floor so served the efficiency of a Dutch door. Tall windows reaching from floor to ceiling level had to be avoided for reasons of rain and solar gain. However, windows were masked with Venetian shutters -with fixed but open louvers on exterior face such as in Chettiar houses of Tamil Nadu and Government offices of Calcutta, West Bengal, to curtail the glare while allowing the breeze. The intricate wood joinery did not work well with the long and heavy monsoon. Similar Venetians shuttered windows were used in Eastern India, Neighbouring Burma and other countries of SE Asia.


st. mary's church, st george fort chennai india wikipedia image by nigel's europe & beyond from birmingham, uk

The double windows became a standard feature of many Indian residences and public buildings. The upper section was sufficiently sun shaded and rainwater protected by the awning or Chhajja, and so could be kept open in all seasons. The lower section was opened in the evenings for the breeze over the floor level activities. It also allowed one to look out while seating on the floor or resting on the bed. The shutters were shelf-pivot hung or sides hinged, mostly opening to the outside. It also had another set of folding type fly mesh shutters, opening on the inside, but accommodated within the wall thickness. Nowhere in India, the sash windows have been exploited.

Top half covered Verandah

old part of dhuliyan rajbari close to farakka in murshidabad district wikipedia image by amitabha gupta

Store and other minor rooms were provided with higher sill level openings but with a tapered ledge on the outside or inside. The outside tapered ledge allowed clear view of the street below, whereas the inside sloped sills allowed more light. Across Northern India, rooms had ceiling level ventilating apertures, with an awning casement shutter or a shutter less latticed opening. Doors and windows also had transom lites, with a top hung awning casement shutter in square headed openings and arched heads fixed panes of coloured pieces of figured glass with radial muntins were used.

king barrack wikipedia image by gautamoncloud9





Post 373 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


A building, as a complex system, is designed to function in an environment and inhabited by users. The user and environment affect the building. In turn both, get affected by the state of the building. Buildings have few integrated systems that form shell or structure, and these, even if affected are irreplaceable. Many other systems are independent of the structure. These are selectively connected, or flourish by just being inside the shell. In case severe affectations such nonstructural entities, can be replaced accompanied by technological up-gradation.

Shop Houses Singapore

The change of nonstructural entities occurs under these circumstances:

  • Replacement by an efficient system.
  • Elimination of several sub systems by adoption of a comprehensive system.
  • Integration of several systems by spatial rearrangement or rescheduling.
  • Regrouping the systems by their user and environmental relevance or affinities so that systems operate with greater productivity.
  • Replacement of systems consisting of physical sub-components with components that substitute the moving parts, such as controls, sensing mechanisms, decision elements, connecting elements, distancing elements, converters etc.

Calamitous change -Earthquake –New Zealand

Changes in buildings are:

Calamitous Changes occur due to unpredictable natural causes. These changes due to their severity can affect the shell or structure of the buildings either by way of bearing capacities or by destroying its functionality as a structure.

Sea shore erosion

Circumstantial changes are due to for two reasons ageing and nominal wear and tear.

Intentional changes are caused by desire for improving the functional, technological, styling values. These changes are superfluous and may be avoided.

Water front conservation

Environmental changes are surroundings related including regional, neighbourhood, street level, etc. These changes happen at a very consistent pace and in a predictable manner. The changes are imperceptible, often ignored till the cumulative effect is beyond remedial correction. Environmental changes also set in due to long term micro and macro climates of the place.

Abandoned building

User or occupation related changes are carried out by self or with the help of professional designers and crafts-persons, when the needs change over a period and when economic status modifies. Users go for a change and when neighbours or friends upgrade similar entities.




Post 372 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


Design Organizations thrive on new ideas, concepts, innovations, etc. A creative environment in a design organization comes about through many factors. There should be teamwork spirit, willingness to help each other, commitment and dedication to assigned tasks, trust with fellow workers. Design personnel should have access to appropriate resources, including facilities, equipment, information, funds, and human resources.


If work is challenging or tasks are intriguing than there is an attraction to handle it. Staff members should have some control on tasks they carry out, or freedom to decide how to accomplish a task. A manager or leader who sets clear goals and is able to communicate well with subordinates, encourages creativity. Existence of defined as well as surprise rewards encourages creative efforts. A collaborative atmosphere sets in, when the staff shares the vision and goals of the organization.

In any well knit organization, creativity comes about, through several layers of activities, carried out by individuals with many different talents and personality traits. ‘It operates like a relay race, but the participants have no idea who will take over, at which level and when’. Often the racers have no idea, whether they were running forward or backward, i.e. towards or away from the finish line or goal.

Organizations become and remain creative when roles that personnel are required to play, are very definite. Where there is a knowledgeable and visible structure, one knows who is going to take over at what time and at which level. A creative idea or concept will be accommodated, supported and carried through, if necessary, by even changing the goals of the organization. The leaders of such organizations are sensitive, and have a ready mechanism to improvise the goals of their organization on a continuing basis.

Team work

Creativity fails to spread in an organization because there is:

  1. Fear of ridicule.
  2. Fear of theft of idea (loss of authorship or patent)
  3. Lack of time
  4. Lack of competence to further the idea
  5. Lack of power and resources to further the idea
  6. Lack of buyers / takers of different ideas
  7. Lack of compensation

In organizations where obnoxious quality control checks, evaluations, secret reportage, etc. abound, personnel come under pressure and become sterile. Promotions other than on qualitative criteria, allocation of resources other than on needs based assessments, recognition of wrong members, delayed or inadequate compensation, etc. are some other factors that vitiate the working of an organization.

A good leader makes the personnel realize that real measure of creativity is in the gains or advantages that accrue to the organization. This is a difficult proposition, as it requires a very high degree of transparency in work procedures and in accounting, and auditing processes. Everyone must clearly realize what an effort will cost, and how much benefit the organization will get out of it.

Creativity is both a personal and group pursuit. A personal innovation must have confirmation of the larger group, and the group’s achievements must remain impersonal.


Creativity is not in specialization (capacity to excel in limited fields) or in generalization (capacity to handle many different situations) in any field. Specialization means, being consistently proficient in sustaining the technical superiority, whereas Generalization means, being efficient or productive, but not at the cost of quality.



Post 371 – by Gautam Shah



Floor paints constitute a distinctive category of Architectural coatings. Floor paints are broadly of three classes: Clear coatings, Pigmented or coloured paints and Technical coats. Technical coats could be under coats, super coats or singular coats. Floor paints or coatings can also be differentiated in terms of their placements: such as for top of the roof, under coating for the roof, exterior and interior surfaces of wood or masonry materials, and technical coats for floors of water storage (tanks, moats) and channels (aqueducts and canals).


Floor paints are used to improve the appearance, increase abrasion resistance, reduce moisture penetration and impart spillage proof qualities. Floor paints, nominally do not include coatings or applications with substantial mass such as various types of plasters or depositions. Some screed applications have dual classifications of floor plaster as well as a thin coating system. Floor paints are thin surface coatings, applied on variety of substrates and with equally varied methods.


Ancient floor coatings were applications of oil mixed with wax, bitumen and creosote. These were used for treating floor decks and seats of seagoing vessels, seacoast wood structures, wood floor boards around wells, and underside boards of roofs over purlins prior to covering with metal sheets or ceramic tiles, all to prevent the rot. Oil-wax was used, for floorings and stage floor boards, to keep intact the visual appearance of the wood. Bitumen and creosote darkened the surface and often remained tacky (due to addition of tallow or fish-oil), but wax-oil coatings, with higher content of wax were non tacky. Wax was hot-melt in bodied oil (double boiled linseed oil or polymerized oil) or oils modified with Pine-rosin. These formulations were nearly like Varnishes used for coating furniture or covering the paintings. The surface had gloss and smoothness. The Varnish coatings lasted a year or one wet season, and required re-application.


Ancient Floor coatings were mainly applied on wood surfaces, but occasionally dull floors of stones were given a coat to achieve a shiny surface. Dull stone floors of sandstone or lime stones were coated for festive occasions like coronation, marriage and religious functions. These were temporary applications, and no one was bothered about its durability or issues of re-application.


The floor coating system saw renewed interest when large size merchant and cruise ships, railway coaches and passenger bus vehicles arrived on the scene during the Industrial age period. These utilities did not have masonry or wood floors. It was necessary to create decks of colourful ambiance, and of wear resistant, non-skidding, sound dampening and maintainable material. The first options then available were linoleum carpets and alkyd-based enamel paints. Both created floors with fewer joints, but paint was a re-applicable surface.


Road and surface signage and functional graphics became a necessity, with the increase in road and rail traffic. There was no space in many urban areas to place vertical signages. The floor signs painted on roads and pavements were warnings in the movement spaces, passengers’ zebra crossing marks, edges of surface drops, road segmentation, danger zones, curvature limits. These were initially by contrast colour paving. Similarly barefoot walk-passages in temples, mosques needed a lighter colour treatment to keep them cooler. The only option, than available was to use lime whitewash or alkyd based white oil paints.



Resort Santorini Greece Building Terraces

In post world war period plastic (or Latex, as known in USA) paints became available. The ‘latex’ paints were water-based emulsion medium. The field of marine coatings was offering many new technologies for water and UV light resistant, hard wearing systems. Rubber-based systems (chlorinated rubber coatings) became synonymous with road marking paints.


Other fields of Indoor floor paints were emerging. Stage show floors, Dance floors, TV programme production sets, TV News room floors, sports arenas, required colourful joint-less extensive surfaces. Food plants, Pharmaceutical units, Hospitals operation theatres and critical care areas, needed not only a joint-less surface, but one that was dust and scratch proof and bio-friendly material. These were first provided by Polyurethane systems and later by Epoxy systems. Electronic assembly plants, computer rooms, electronic exchanges and data server and router areas, needed static proof floor coatings. Fire-prone industrial areas needed a spark erosion flooring systems.


Outdoor Floor paint field also has flourished well. Sports facilities, stadiums, exercise areas, malls, food plazas need many different types of a joint-less floor of non skidding and spillage proof surfaces. The colour and texture requirements of these usages can never be found in any natural or manufactured materials. Thin coating systems of floor paints not only satisfy such unique needs but also offer pattern laying facility.


Technological innovations include use of Florescent pigments, night glow compounds, high luminescence whitening agents, texturizing additives, wrinkle finishes, two or multi-tone effects.


The ability of a floor-painted surface to virtually do everything expected of a floor system, has forced changes on substrate technology. There was a time natural floor materials like stone or ceramic tiles were ground to smooth level and then coated. Any joint gaps or remaining surface level irregularities were filled in. But now cast on site surfaces of many materials are preferred. The material options include Ironite (cement+sand mixed with iron turnings), Magnesium Oxy-chloride Flooring, Cement Concrete floors (Tri-mix suction system), etc.




Post 370 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


Ventilation requirements and modalities for Buildings in tropical climates are very different from buildings of cooler climates. For buildings’ indoor climate four important issues are heat, moisture, air movement and contaminants. Of these four, the Heat needs to be removed, Moisture conserved or scrubbed off the air depending on dry or a humid tropical zone, Air movement encouraged, as it positively impacts the rest of the three issues, and Contaminants including CO2, CO, odours, and airborne particulates diluted.

The removal of heat from an interior space is a contradictory concept from heat conservation, being practised in buildings in colder climates. Moisture management in a tropical climate is mainly with the concept of comfort, rather than environmental damaging factor. Effective air movement take care of heat from body, evaporative cooling of perspiration and free moisture, and removal of odours and other contaminants from space pockets.

Hubei Yichang Village

Ventilation in a building in a tropical climate zone occurs in many different ways. Openings like doors and windows remain open for substantial part of day-night period (except at nights and in few winter months), providing air-change. When the openings are shut, the cracks, crevices and structural micro gaps (such as thatched roofs, terracotta tiles, etc.), provide ventilation needs. Cracks and gaps, are usually insufficient for heavier needs of ventilation for toilets, kitchens, production areas and public spaces. Cooking, bathing, washing, require intensive ventilation, but in many tropical dwellings these occur in outdoor areas or distinctly adjunct spaces. Where climates are benign, intensive outdoor home or public life trims the indoor ventilation requirements.

Bundi Street Rajasthan, India

Historically Government offices and administrative posts in India and Asian countries have relied on two architectural provisions for climatic comfort: High volume (tall spaces) rooms and Verandahs for conducting their businesses. Concept of cross openings (opposite ends) in buildings has been a natural practice. In Iran, stack-effect through towers and water bodies, both have helped ventilation (air change) and moisture addition. Spaces like Livan has been a feature of Mideast dwellings.

Wind Towers Dubai

In western countries, such as Europe and US, ventilation requirements are specified in terms of air changes per hour, ACH where entire interior volume of air must get replaced per hour. But this is presuming a room to an enclosed (sealed) space in colder environments. This concept is universally applicable (in all types of climates), to an extent, for air-conditioned urban buildings.

Outdoor air at any location is relatively less polluted because it has greater scope of dilution compared to any restricted interior air mass. However, in dense urban localities and at locations near known pollution activities such as power plants, industry, open mines, etc. outdoor air can be a source of pollution. High level of humidity in certain coastal locations, and during very heavy rainy seasons can be considered a contaminant of air. Where such air is used to replace the interior air, some control or processing by passive or active filtration devices, integrated within the opening system are required.

Courtyard Cuzco

NATURAL VENTILATION: Natural ventilation advantageously uses wind movement speeds, pressure-driven flows, and temperature differences (stack effect) to supply and remove air through enclosed space. Windows placed on opposite sides and on same axis are better ventilating device. The position of window vis a vis the work plane or task is determined weather one wants a draught-breeze over the body and the task or avoid it. The nature of shutter opening also determines the direction of the internal air movement. Air moves because of differences in temperature and pressure across the supply and exhaust points. In single storey houses, the movement of air due to pressure differences is main factor then the differences in temperature across the supply and exhaust points. A high-pressure area occurs air strikes a building and low-pressure areas are created as the air moves over and around the building. To encourage movement of air within a room, the openings, through which the air leave should be larger, than those through which it enters. The direction and strength of air movement are altered due to draperies, furniture items, people, local heat sources (heating, cooking, machines) and air movement devices (fans).

Shan Ha Wai or Walled Village at the Mountain’s Foot, is a Hakka walled village in HongKong

TRANSFER VENTILATION: Movement of air between indoor spaces, and not the outside, is called transfer-air. It has, though limited a role in ventilation, but is a great tool for thermal comfort. This concept has been in use in traditional tropical homes and settlements. Interior space modules are mutually connected through openings, exposed to space ingresses such as cutouts, Chowks or courtyards or are exposed to an exterior face. At a settlement level several buildings share community spaces for transfer ventilation. The openings nearly remain open or are latticed. The buildings are closely spaced, so few sides are exposed to sun.

Kapali Carsi Grand Bazaar Istanbul -Transfer ventilation

Transfer air ventilation for interior spaces work best when spaces are used at different times of the day, for different tasks and by varied occupation (number of space users). Transfer air ventilation combines horizontal flows and vertical stack effects.

Koothambalam at Kerala Kalamandalam

VENTILATION and OPENING DESIGN: Windows with shutters opening outward often obstruct the wind path, but double hung sash windows and sliding shutters which open within the frame are better as receptors. Casement window shutters with offset hinges or friction stay which create a small gap on the jamb side help in catching the breeze. Hoppers, awning and jalousie windows direct the breeze due to the angle of opening. The depth of a window and its surround also affects the nature of ventilation. Splayed sides create funnel effect to catch the breeze.



Post 369 –by Gautam Shah


Design processes involve Decision Making. Decisions are taken on factors that are essentially part of the project itself, and also on various presumptions, which may or may not become part of the project. In the first case the decisions are made on factors that are internal, through a process of selection, confirmation, elimination, etc. While in the later case, the decisions are made from external factors, where not only the relevance, but the entire range of their effects needs to be forecast.


Decisions are primarily taken when an action is required, or when further decisions are due. Decisions are taken at: conscious level (intellectual) and subconscious level (intuitive). Actual time and exact place of a decision cannot be identified. However, the context within which certain decisions are made can be known.

Decisions are taken through:

Analysis: Dissecting a whole into parts so to understand it better.

Synthesis: Combining several things to form a whole to see if it is pertinent.

Holism: Conceptualizing the whole thing.


The quality of decision is governed by the decision makers’ (design professionals’) state such as: physiological fitness, mental alertness, personality traits (daring, fear), information, training, experiences, opportunities, time, resources (human, equipment, finance, circumstances), etc.

The gut-feeling (Forbes)

Decision making helps a designer with an analytical base to affirm a belief (intuitive or ‘gut-feeling’) and select a course of action from several nearly equal alternative possibilities. Decisions do not have mathematical sharpness or uniqueness. There is never a perfect decision. There usually are many different ways of achieving the same goal. A decision is a subjective process that offers the best course for a given situation. The situation here could be the mental condition, exigency or compulsion. Actualization of a decision may include course corrections. Because the original decision making moment and its conditions change by the time actualization occurs. Efficiency of a decision is judged, on how much it accomplishes and in what time. A reasonable decision always takes one closer to the goal, however, slightly.


Decision makers ask questions like:

Is the objective defined ?

Is sufficient information available ?

How many options are available ?

Have these options been evaluated ?

Are all risks identified and provided for ?

Does this decision feel right, now that actions are being taken on it ?


Decision making and consequences thereof (actions or further decisions) are often so interlaced that it is not possible to view them separately.

Decision making comprises of:

1   forecasting the most opportunity moment and the most obvious context, for the consequences to occur or even not to occur.

  determination of probabilities of occurrence or follow up actions.


Another article (detailed) on same subject >>


FIBRES for Fabrics

FIBRES for Fabrics

Post 368 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


A fibre is a flexible linear entity with very small section compared to its length. Fibres are of natural plant or animal origin, or synthetic products. Fibres are used for spinning into yarn, forming threads and ropes. Yarns are used for weaving or knitting into fabrics. Fibres of plant origin, like cotton is pure cellulose and used for production of paper and other cellulosic compounds. Fibres are massed (without any weaving) to form padding materials, filter media, blankets and mattresses. Fibres and their products are also used as reinforcements and as the fillers in formation of composites.

Polyester Texturized Yarn

A fiber is characterized by its length which is as much as 100 times its diameter or width (10 µm -width of cotton fibre). Fibres do not have consistent section along its length. Fibres of natural origin (and synthetic fibres that has been cut) are short, called staples, whereas silk and synthetics are long length fibres, called filaments. To spin fibres into a yarn, the lengths should be minimum 5 mm. A typical yarn could have more than 30 fibres. To spin a yarn fibres must have flexibility, texture, cohesiveness, elasticity, fineness, uniformity, durability, luster and sufficient strength for spin-twisting. A variable cross section gives (longitudinal structural elements -fibrils) textural effect to the fabric. Fibres that cannot be split longitudinally are called elementary, and when several such elementary fibres join longitudinally to form conjugated fibres. The length of the fiber affects the appearance of the yarn and the quality of the fabric. It is easy to produce a smooth yarn from a filament compared to staples, which require greater amount of the twist. Yarns made from the filament have greater luster, but yarns made from staple fibres have a dull appearance.

Cotton fibre under scanner

The quality of a fabric is largely related to the physical characteristics of the fiber such as:

Colour: Colour of the natural fibres varies; however darker shades can be lightened by bleaching and than a uniform colour can be applied.

Luster: Luster is the amount of light reflected by the fiber. It is both a desirable and undesirable property, depending on the type of use-conditions. Man-made fibres generally have a high luster, which can be reduced or de-lustered by incorporating titanium dioxide in the manufacturing process.

Silk from cocoon is a fine filament fibre -several of these spun into yarn – dyed -ready for weaving as hanks

Shape: Shape relates to the shape of the cross section of the fiber. In case of man-made fibres, it is very uniform (unless further processed by ‘texturizing’) over the length, compared to a variable cross section of natural fibres. Cross sectional shape affects the appearance, feel, surface texture, body, covering power and luster. Round sectional fibres have soft, smooth and slippery feel, high luster, poor covering, and close packing. Dog bone shaped and flat section fibres have a harsher, less smooth handle, good covering and high luster (except cotton). Fibres with multiple lobes in cross section have high covering power, silk like feel, high luster and sometimes soft subdued sheen. Hollow fibres are made by dissolving the inner core material and have high bulk but low weight, fluffy. Such fibres are insulative and absorbent.

Hand spun llama yarn

Surface contour: Surface contour of the fiber in length is smooth, rough or uneven. Wool is covered with small scales that make the fiber cling together, cotton has twisted surface, that reflects the light unevenly and imparts a dull appearance. Manufacturing characteristics and irregularities appear on man-made fibres.

Magnified fibers of (a) silk (b) wool (c) cotton

Crimp: Crimp is an undulating physical structure. Wool has a natural three-dimensional crimp. Most man made fibres are either produced with a crimp or texturized. Fabrics produced from crimped fibres have increased bulk, cohesiveness, warmth, false absorption and better resiliency.


Types of Fibres and Yarns: Fibres are spun into yarn. Yarns are uninterrupted threads of textile fibres that are ready to be turned into fabrics. Natural fibres originating from natural sources are: Plant (cellulosic), animal (protein). Manufactured, synthetic, or man-made fibres originate from chemical sources or could also be from regenerated or recycled sources.

Aramid Fibers