1. The problem in terms of increased building activity in cities-pace of urban development related to migration.
  2. The search for alternative building materials. Important to define the performance requirements of the material. Performance related to habitability.
  3. All building materials are derived at present from our planet. Topsoil makes earthen walls, blocks and bricks. As more energy is applied to the raw material its performance characteristics change. Below the topsoil is rock of various kinds. The rocks can be broken and used for wall masonry, columns, beams, slabs and surface cladding. Various rocks on application of thermal energy produce a range of metals, such as cast iron, mild steel, aluminum, which are increasingly being used for building in industrial societies. Some rocks are burnt to make cements, mortars and plasters.
  4. The third source for building materials is what grows out of the topsoil – grasses and trees. It is this vegetable matter buried under the earth’s surface, which turns in to petroleum after millions of years, and we extract plastics from this petroleum. Plastics being the latest addition to our range of building materials.
  5. The choice of appropriate building materials for use on the islands is a matter of debate for sometime now. If one examines the matrix above one sees that the most abundant resource on the islands is vegetation in the form of timber. The other basic resources are scarce and fragile. The climate of the islands makes the timber growth plentiful and rapid. Thus the regeneration of vegetable matter can be achieved within one human generation.
  6. The rapacious exploitation of timber from the islands is a sad chapter in our history, especially in this century. With the coming of worldwide environmental concern for sustaining life on our planet, there has been a general outcry against the over exploitation of forests for timber. As a result the use of timber for building has also been discouraged. However, the exploitation of forests has happened largely on account of the increased requirement of paper, and for many other industrial uses, including as fuel. Timber for building would not be more than 10-15% of the total industrial demand today.
  7. The fact that timber can be regenerated in 15 to 20 years as compared to the impossibly long period for renewal of topsoil, rock, or petroleum clearly indicates that timber could take precedence over other building materials – if the exploitation of forests can be controlled. The proposal would be of creating special forms of timber plantation of different species – hardwoods for structural purposes, softer varieties for panelling and screens, special varieties for roof tiling, flooring, etc. Such farms could possibly generate sufficient building material to reduce the island’s complete dependence on cement intensive construction with steel for structural frames reinforcement, and metal deck roofing. Certainly such plantations would help in maintaining the soil as well as coral bedrock, which are the basic supporters of life on these islands. The local labour required to manage these farms would be an added benefit to the economy of the islands.
  8. A study could be undertaken by team composed of experts from the F.R.I., Dehra Dun, one building engineer, one architect, one social scientist/anthropologist. The terms of reference for such a study would limit the time period to not more than 3 months, including one visit to the islands of duration not less than 10 days. The professional time cost should not exceed Rs. 1.0 lakhs (One lakh).