CLIMATE and BUILT-FORM

Post 465 by Gautam Shah

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Changes that we experience in things around us generally happen because of various effects of the climate. It affects all beings and things in small measures. A climate is the most pervasive, consistently variable and largely indeterminable phenomena. Climate conditions, our comfort and survival. It builds up all our experiences. It provides the dynamism that is Nature.

Weathering Tafoni at Salt Point, Sonoma Coast, California.

Rocks weather, sea beds get silted, salty water evaporates to provide clean water as rain, etc. are manifestations of a climate. A farmer plants seeds, squirrel collects nuts, or a bird builds a nest, all expecting a certain pattern of the climate. All living beings have an inherent capacity to adjust continuously to various levels of climatic conditions. And more often than not, organisms manage to survive even in unpredictable climates. When climatic changes are very sudden, different or very intense in time scale, complete annihilation of live form may occur. But most climatic effects set in over a long period, and new living forms are evolved through such adaptions.

House on River Kwai SE Asia

Climate manifests, with determinate and indeterminate aspects. With determinate aspects, we plan our actions and for indeterminate aspects, we discipline ourselves for unusual eventualities. Climate conditions our living. We, through our instincts and intuitions find ways not only to survive, but carry on all functions in a manner that is easier than ever before. Unlike other living beings, humans have the capacity to think and plan their actions, and, so achieve a greater degree of adaptability for climate.

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Human beings generally become acclimatized to the normal climate of the area where they live and work. They also have some built in resilience for minor variations. Most societies adopt the climate, through physiological changes, material usage techniques, housing patterns, etc.

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Built-form and climate, are inseparable issues. Through a continuous process of selection and elimination societies develop for themselves a lifestyle and this seems almost intuitive or natural for the particular environment. These lifestyles pass on from one generation to another, and consequently problems of climatic adaption do not occur, or are not so severe.

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In stable societies few people move, and fewer house forms are transmitted from their original environment. Migrants usually try to transmit the original house form, to the place of their migration. Today large number of people migrate from one place to another. However young migrants, who have had no opportunity to imbibe the accumulated knowledge of climate adoption from the place of their origin, find it difficult to establish in an alien situation.

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Builders, Architects or Interior Designers face the problems of climates at many different levels: These are:

1 Comfort,

2 Adaptability,

3 Setting a Life-style (food, clothes, time schedules, tasks handling, etc.),

4 Designing – creating – acquiring built-forms, architectonic elements – interior amenities.

Extreme hot-arid climate of Punjab India

Comfort: Over a period of time our needs and perceptions for comfort change. For example. People age, Social and Economic conditions change Preferences and means of life styles get recast. Technological innovations offer new options.

Adaptability: Problems of climatic adaptability are not acute, for static populations, but arise for migrants. Short term migrants are self motivated, or forced through political or calamity conditions. Long term shifting occurs due to shortage of local resources or major environmental changes. Adaptability of built-form also arises when mixed lot population (caste, religion, cultures) are allotted ‘standard design dwellings’. The new residents find that new house patterns and building materials are not conducive to continue their habitual climate-tested life styles. Similarly certain housing patterns, which were possible in old type of housing colonies, may not be physically or economically viable in the new housing setup.

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Setting a Lifestyle (food, clothes, time schedules, tasks handling, etc.). Migrants have many acute problems that require immediate attention, and acquisition of a new life style to suit the changed built-form and its climatic responses are not of immediate priority. Migrants carry varied images of the built-form from places of their origin. The time-tested life style of their original living quarters was based on certain context like group, communal or neighbourhood living, which may not be available now.

Mae La refugee camp

Designing-creating-acquiring built-forms, architectonic elements-interior amenities. New or changed built-forms are required when there are major changes in the family profile, such as division of families divide, addition to families due to marriage, birth etc., death and migration of some members. The new members (parents, newly wedded couples etc.), either have very rigid concepts or may not have imbibed the traditional values that help a natural climatic adaption. Separating members have strong aspirations for a different life style (perceived from other sources), so disregard instinctive or natural climatic adaption processes. New members also have greater resources and better knowledge about how manage climatic related issues through modern devices.

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