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  • Writer's pictureHarry Aloysius

The Vital Role of Clay Roof Tiles in Kerala Architecture: Embracing Tradition

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Embracing Tradition: The Vital Role of Clay Roof Tiles in Kerala Architecture

Once upon a time in the rolling, verdant landscapes of the South Indian state of Kerala, nestled between the towering Western Ghats and the turquoise Arabian Sea, a meeting of minds was about to occur that would shape the future of the state's architectural ethos.

Architects from all corners of Kerala had gathered at an annual symposium to discuss, deliberate and challenge the conventional wisdom in the field of sustainable, indigenous architecture. Among the speakers was a renowned architect, known for their pioneering efforts in incorporating traditional architectural elements into modern designs.

During their presentation, this architect posed an intriguing question: "Why is it that even in the blistering summer heat, traditional Kerala homes remain refreshingly cool, while our modern air-conditioned concrete structures become intolerably hot?" Murmurs of agreement resonated through the hall.

Their answer lay in one of the key components of traditional Kerala architecture: clay roof tiles. As they delved into the rationale behind their use, the audience of architects became engrossed in the revelation.

"Clay roof tiles have been an integral part of Kerala's architectural history for centuries," they began, pointing to an image of a beautiful traditional Kerala home, its roof adorned with reddish-brown clay tiles. "They not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the buildings but also serve a host of functional advantages."

They explained that the high thermal mass of clay tiles is one of the significant reasons why they're indispensable in Kerala homes. "Their ability to absorb heat during the day and slowly release it at night makes them an exceptional natural temperature regulator. This reduces the dependence on artificial cooling systems, which are not just expensive to maintain, but also unfriendly to the environment."

Furthermore, they underscored the importance of clay tiles' natural water-resistant properties in the context of Kerala's intense monsoons. "These tiles can effectively channel the heavy rainwater away, keeping the interiors dry and reducing the risk of structural damage to the building."

Another vital aspect they pointed out was the sustainable nature of these tiles. "Made from locally sourced clay, these tiles embody the principle of 'localization', reducing transportation costs and related carbon emissions. Their production process is relatively less energy-intensive compared to modern materials like concrete or metal tiles."

The architect wrapped up their presentation with a compelling thought, "As architects, we have a responsibility towards our environment and our heritage. Embracing clay roof tiles is not just about respecting tradition but also about realizing the scientifically-backed benefits they offer. These tiles could help us create not only energy-efficient, sustainable structures but also ones that truly embody the soul of Kerala."

That day, the architects in the room walked away with a renewed appreciation for the humble clay roof tile, a symbol of Kerala's architectural legacy. They realized that their role wasn't just about erecting buildings but about crafting homes that would stand strong against the state's climate, while harmoniously blending with its natural and cultural fabric.

Thus, the story of clay roof tiles in Kerala homes became a testament to the importance of preserving tradition while innovatively adapting it to the demands of modern architecture. It served as a reminder to all architects that the answers to some of our most pressing architectural challenges often lie in the wisdom of our past.

Clay Roof Tiles in Kerala
Clay Roof Tiles in Kerala

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