Influence of Climate on Traditional Architecture

Written by goody clairenstein
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Influence of Climate on Traditional Architecture
Traditional architectural structures make use of locally sourced materials. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Climate is the measure of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall and other meteorological elements that determine a region's local weather patterns year round. Climate can be affected by an area's local landscape, such as mountain regions or flatlands, as well as by weather. In traditional architecture, which uses only locally sourced resources and materials and does not make use of advanced technology to protect residents from adverse local weather, climate is a major determining factor in what sort of buildings are constructed and how they are built.

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Natural Resources

Climate determines, to a large extent, what sort of natural resources are available to local architects and builders. In areas without many trees or much rainfall, but with a wide expanse of grass where livestock can graze, cow pats are often allowed to dry, then collected and used as a building material for the walls of houses and other dwellings. The dried pats serve as an insulator and construction component. Heavily wooded areas permit the use of lumber as a sturdy and durable building material. Large leaves, such as palm fronds, can create roofs that are easy to repair and are effective in keeping out rain and other elements.

Risk Assessment

Traditional architecture takes into account the various risks that local weather patterns may pose to people and animals. In wide-open spaces, excessive wind can easily knock over structures if no trees are present to slow the air flow. Builders and architects take the likelihood of wind damage into account in their designs. Structures are made to withstand heavy gusts, either by reinforcing the structural integrity of the buildings or by grouping them so the impact of wind can be minimised. The possibility of tornadoes or hurricanes can also have an effect on how a structure is built. If architects are aware these events are likely to occur, they incorporate that knowledge into construction choices. The sturdier a building can be made, with the help of support structures and solid, durable building materials, the less susceptible it is to tornado and hurricane damage.

Natural Landscape

An area's local landscape and the way it is affected by climate can have a significant impact on the choices made in traditional architecture. On land close to bodies of water, domestic dwellings can be constructed facing in the direction that allows cooling breezes from the water to create natural air circulation. In places with an abundance of trees, dwellings can be placed under the shade of their leaves to perform a similar function and provide protection from wind and rain.

Harnessing Energy

In traditional architecture, windows often don't fit air conditioners, and solar panels are impractical or contrary to housing codes. Modern energy conservation can be a challenge in such buildings. Traditional architecture often harnesses energy from local weather patterns in sophisticated ways. In hot and humid climates, houses can be built without outside walls. This allows the maximum amount of air to flow through and cool the premises. In open areas with little rain but a cool year-round average temperature, such as the steppes of Mongolia, local dwellings are designed to allow the sun to beat down on ceilings and help generate heat. This helps keep residents warm during the day.

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