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The Dominant Roof

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A dominant roof is a unique aspect of Traditional Kerala Architecture to suit the warmhumid tropical climate of Kerala. Through an independent four bedroom modern house in Mayyanad in Kollam, Kerala, the components of a Kerala traditional house such as a Dominant Roof and a huge Attic Space are recreated in using a modern technology. Predominant roofs are aesthetically pleasing when the ratio of volume of roof and wall is maintained as it is in a traditional house. The house is designed by Ar. Dr. Dili, who is a Professor and Head of the Department, TKM College of Engineering, Kollam.

The Dominant Roof house at Mayyanad introduces a new dimension of cost effectiveness and optimum utilization of resources. Through planning, new facilities, finish and quality is included in the house by maintaining the conventional cost of construction. To achieve this, heavy structures like RCC in the form of slabs, columns beams, etc, brick work in the form of walls, parapets, etc, cement mortar usage for plastering, pointing, rain water channels, etc are optimized. The usage is reduced without compromising in the area and finish of the house.

It is interesting to note that most of the contemporary houses address only the visual minimal aspects but in fact there is no real minimalism. Here there is a real minimal approach by optimizing construction cost, weathering, maintenance, complexity in construction, energy and material usage. At the same time, the elegant look of the house is maintained and a simple minimalism is observed.

The 2700sqft house set in a 36cent (1457sqmt) plot is single storeyed according to the convenience of the owner. This single storey concept is very sensible for a house set in a vast plot which is little high and slightly slanting from the road level and whose base is aligned at the middle level of the plot. Concrete slabs, beam & columns, brick work and plastering are totally avoided in areas like car porch, sit out, back verandah and deck from the dining where locked up security is not required. All other areas are provided with flat roof. Including the above mentioned spaces, light weight roofing system is provided. It is constructed by fixing cement board on steel tubular truss work above which 30 yr warranty shingles are laid. By adopting this roof, the requirement of above parapets, sunshades, small copings, water channel systems and the expenses associated with their plastering, pointing and waterproofing are completely avoided. The total cost of construction is Rs.55 lakhs.

An architect’s role is not just limited to designing buildings. He needs to also educate the users on sensible areas and at the same time take their demands into consideration. An Architect has a huge responsibility to convince the clients with sensible solutions which minimize our rapid resource consumption. The word ‘resource’ refers to space, materials, fuel, money, energy, human power and time. A good architect’s involvement in influencing and supporting a person to achieve the most suitable home not only refines the concepts regarding his home but also leaves a lasting impact on his attitude.

The Attic Space

An important aspect of this house is the multifunctional attic space arranged between the concrete flat roof and the pitched light weight upper roof. The attic space extends 2000sqft. and can be used to set up a water tank, drying, ironing and stacking clothes, storage of grains and coconut, storage of things with non frequent usage like old utensils, cartons & furniture which otherwise occupy valuable room space. Since the top roof is constructed out of light weight materials which transmit heat and never holds heat like concrete, it cools down minutes after sun set making the attic comfortable and even suitable for a person to sleep at night. It can be used as a study area for children especially for doing project works which creates a lot of junk. It can also be used as a play area for table tennis or in future a segment can be converted into a home theatre. The attic space is specially arranged into a well ventilated secured area for the above mentioned uses and a balcony area which gives a good road view and can be used as a living space for the family to spend evenings and both contribute to making the habitable interior cool.

Another fascinating point is that no Government Tax is levied for an attic which makes it an added advantage of this concept. It is like having an additional 2000sqft usable area free of cost.

The staircase to the attic is provided within the house between the entry foyer, drawing and dining room. It is made by fixing teak wood slabs on steel tubular framework and given stainless steel railing and occupies a square space of 3m side with flat RCC roof 4m high. The space above the flat roof is ideal to set up the water tank because it not only provides a firm flat platform but also the required height for potential water flow. In those areas where concrete is avoided, Glass Wool insulated gypsum board false ceiling is fixed to reduce heat in the environment below.

Interior Ambient Light

Even though, traditional houses are sustainable, eco-friendly and thermally cool, one of the major drawbacks is the lack of ambient light within the house. Considering Kerala’s warm-humid climate, optimum size openings are preferred rather than allowing direct sunlight to enter the house through pergolas or large glass windows. This dilemma is innovatively tackled in this house. Huge windows are provided at the upper part of the staircase allowing light to enter and induce stack effect ventilation. Through these windows, reflected light from the front false ceiling enters and is re-reflected by the staircase ceiling creating diffused light in the interior without transmitting any heat component. In fact, these two ceilings act as two big reflectors facilitating multiple reflections and filling the interior with ambient light. This is one of the most spectacular and unique characteristics of this house.


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