There is yet a confusion as to the meaning and scope of the term building research. It should, therefore, be analysed and classified. Firstly, it includes research on products and materials. It is therefore an applied research, aimed towards practical ends, particularly for determining inexpensive and effective methods in constructional matters. Beyond this, there is a very large area of truly basic research whose limits, it is very hard to define, extend towards basic sciences, which the building industry has never thought of in a comprehensive manner. The difference between this and applied research is that in the latter, by an application of an existing knowledge, results are being obtained and they are fairly predictable. Whereas in basic researches, the results are uncertain, the solution being readily obtained or not be obtained at all, even aft an expense of a considerable sum of money and labour. We, architects and builders have to be taught to think in these terms, so that the fundamental distinction between the two varieties of research become quite clear, and this is of vital importance to formulate schemes of research which will benefit the country and the industry as well. Today, many architects still deny that their profession needs more science. They have for long left research and inventiveness in the hands of engineers and manufacturers, with the result that they are not accomplished enough to exploit available research data.
All the world over, the condition of research on different aspects of building is appallingly meagre, incoordinated and scrappy. Even advanced countries like the U.S.A. do not spend more than ½ per cent on the total outlay in building industry for carrying on research. Proportionately, therefore only a few associations, such as government agencies, university research groups and a few dedicated architects or engineers, here and there, engage themselves in studying building as a whole, covering both the aspects of research enumerated above. Even then, the researches carried out are scattered, incoordinated and have long paces to reach the mark. The condition in our country is not anything like what prevails today in more industrially advanced countries in the West. We have just begun and are perhaps at the lowest rung of the ladder. Therefore, enunciation of a national policy of building research is all the more vital for our well-being. A country whose industry has not developed yet to any appreciable magnitude, yet having rich potentialities in the form of raw materials and not too many trained labour, perhaps the first step should be to concentrate on applied research on manufactured products and materials. There again in the selection of topics in this respect, particular emphasis should be laid on types of researches which will facilitate and economise construction in respect of the housing needs of the middle class in rural areas with indigenous materials locally available and the industrial areas with materials easily and cheaply available in the region. Therefore, this field or research becomes very broad and has got to be carried out on a regional or sub-regional basis. One might be tempted to question why this priority and preference. Firstly, the political condition of the country has created the problem of housing the millions of refuges and secondly, a general shortage in housing mostly amongst the middle class population was caused by paucity and control of essential building materials in years previous to the partition of India. The problem has, therefore, acquired a colossal dimension, which the governmental agencies, and civil bodies arc trying to solve under different schemes of refugee rehabilitation, slum clearance, etc.
Next comes basic research with respect to building. Its scope is also very wide. For example, the effect of climate on building, including its plan and different elements have yet to be studied in detail. Although climatological research is coming to the fore in the countries of the West, we are still far behind. The study of man, the prospective user of the building, also the building in relation to the community or society at large are subjects of basic research. It appears from the above, that in framing our programme, priority should be given lo applied research to fulfil the pressing needs of the country, and at this stage only very closely related items of basic research problems may be included in our programme.
In our country the agencies carrying on research are the technological sections of several universities, independent technological institutions the National Building Organisation, Central Building Research Institute, and the Road Research Institute etc. Some of these organisations are rendering yeoman services to the cause of research either, basic or applied. But what is found mostly wanting is a programme to meet our immediate needs, a programme, which if worked out will give us opportunities for re-housing and rehabilitation. It is not to be construed from this that basic fundamental researches arc suggested to be excluded. They have a place of vital importance no doubt, but in our present circumstances it is proper that more emphasis should be laid on applied research. The cheapness or economy in construction is not the only consideration which impels us to undertake research, but fundamental expansion of knowledge is its chief aim.
Again due to lack of organisation, the results of applied researches are not perhaps made known or sufficiently publicised, so that the industry or the lay public might reap the benefit out of these. The results lie mostly in the archives of those institutions unapplied and not duly substantiated commercially by wider application.
What further organisational deficiency is observed with us, we have not been able to enthuse the industry sufficiently to shoulder the financial burden of research. Unless industry gets interested, no broadening of the fields of research is possible. We have only limited funds, contributed by government, or the university or the research institution; therefore some steps must be taken to get industry interested in the different problems facing us. In U.S.A., the major research problems are mooted and financed by industry, and carried under the agency of university schools of architecture and building. For example, the M.I.T. is carrying on researches on the various applications of plastics, sponsored by the Monsanto Plastic Corporation; the Illinois glass project has been sponsored by Owen-Corning Fibre Glass; and the Ford Foundation has contributed towards the establishment of an educational facilities laboratory at the Princeton University “to improve the construction of school and college building”. In this manner the applied and basic researches on building are being carried out and their scope is gradually expanding. In our country also, application of more or less a similar policy will have the desired result. We have our organisation and we are moving forward. Only a close liaison between our National Building Organisation, Central Building Research Institute, Institution of Engineers (India), the Indian Institute of Architects and the architecture and building departments of different universities or other independent research groups has to be established to for a well-coordinated scheme of research which will have immediate effect on the building economy of the country.