Construction Materials used in Vernacular Architecture

Aug 23, 2022

The word vernacular means "local, natural, native"; from verna, meaning "native slave". The word is taken from linguistics, where vernacular refers to linguistic use particular to a time, place or group.

Vernacular architectural style can be defined as a type of homegrown or local construction, using old-style materials and resources from the area where the building is situated. Therefore, this architecture is strictly linked to its context and is mindful of the detailed geographical features and cultural features of its surroundings and being powerfully influenced by them. For this purpose, they are exclusive to different places in the world.

What is Vernacular Architecture? | ArchDaily
Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakesh, Morocco, inspired by vernacular techniques and materials. © Dan Glasser

Vernacular Architecture is defined by its dependence on needs, construction materials and cultures specific to its particular area. It is a type of design style  which is indigenous to a specific area  and time and not duplicated from elsewhere. Historically, this type of  architecture has incorporated the skills and expertise of local builders as opposed to professional architects. This category includes a wide variety and diversity of building types, with differing means of construction, from around the world, both historical and present, representing the majority of buildings created in pre-industrial civilizations.

Vernacular buildings establish 95% of the world's built environment.

Vernacular architecture is traditional in the sense that it initiates from specific cultural groups and is a result of a long course over time, always based on used forms recognized by previous generations. In addition to that, as already stated, vernacular architecture also respects local circumstances, highlighting its understanding to the physical context of the surroundings, including climate, vegetation, and topography.


The simple classification of Vernacular Architecture is as follows:

  • Kachcha

A kachcha is a construction that needs to be substituted periodically.  Such constructions are not sturdy and found in the country areas. The buildings include materials such as mud plaster, bamboo, thatch and wood over the mud wall. Materials may vary from one place to another. In the hilly places, locally available stones are used for construction.

Mud plaster applied in 'palm' patterns to the expedition dighouse on... |  Download Scientific Diagram
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Outside mud wall and wooden door of oldest house in Old Town Tashkent,  Uzbekistan Stock Photo - Alamy
  • Pakka

A pakka type is a building with good sturdiness made from materials resistant to wear and tear such as forms of stone or brick, clay tiles, metal or other strong materials, sometimes using mortar to mix. The building need not to be constantly maintained. These constructions are expensive. Previously wooden rafters were used for terraced ceiling reinforced by either wooden pillars or polished stone.

Red Clay Bricks, लाल ईंट in Dehradun , Ex Serviceman Cement Store | ID:  21365660533
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Metals | Bruker
  • Semi-Pakka

A blend of the kaccha and pakka styles, The semi-pukka style mostly seen in the rural areas and the construction includes better and durable materials; it means the structure will last longer. The structure is organic and the design changes as the needs and income of the people changes. Most of such old-style structures come under semi-pakka category of Vernacular architecture.


  1. Timber Frame Construction
Timber Frame Construction Is Still Alive and Well
Timber Frame Construction ©

This technique grew about a century ago when it began with light wooden framed structures that were crafted by the local carpenters. It was made of timber members coated in and out with a sheet.

Timber Frame Construction mainly has three advantages:

  • Light in weight, rapid to construct as no hefty machinery is required.
  • It can be made in any regular shape and can also be cladded with a variety of materials.
  • A large variety of products as well as custom-made structures can be made using this technique.

2. Adobe construction

What Are Adobe Buildings? - WorldAtlas
by worldatlas

Adobe or mud bricks as they are often called, are said to be made of the earth due to their very huge content of clay and straw. The mix is cast in molds onto the ground which is then let open to dry out under the sun. These bricks are sun-dried and does not go through a kiln-fire process.

This construction technique mainly has the following advantages:

  • Adobe bricks are fireproof, tough, and biodegradable.
  • They provide sufficient thermal mass to ensure thermal insulation and ease.
  • They have good water resistance and have great flexibility.

3. Rammed Earth Construction

Rammed Earth Construction: 15 Exemplary Projects | ArchDaily
Image by Iwan Baan

n union of earth, mixing the right amount of sand, gravel, and clay onto a formwork. This mixture is rammed (forced or compressed into place) until it sets to become rock solid. These walls can resist various attacks of nature for large durations.

The main advantages of using this type of Construction is as follows:

  • Rammed earth method has the highest density and the highest compressive strength.
  • Durability: Structures constructed using this method last for thousands of years and remain in good state for the entire time.
  • It ensures superior thermal mass, noise control and temperature.

4. Thatched Roof Construction

Thatched Roof Cost In India at Rs 280/square feet | ID: 8467264748

A traditional roofing procedure where dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, rushes, etc. are used to create a roof covering. This covering can vary depending upon the place and the available material, for example, Fiji uses palm leaves, Dominica goes with feathered palm leaves roots, etc.

The advantages of thatched roof construction are as follows:

  • Thatch is lightweight; hence very less amount of timber is required in the roof structure and is easy to maintain.
  • It is water resistant and hence helps precipitation runoff.
  • It is adaptable in terms of covering irregular roof shapes.

5. Wattle and Daub Construction

Wattle and daub Home
By: annebloom

Wattle and Daub is a technique of constructing walls where vertical wood stakes are laced with horizontal twigs and then daubed with clay (or mud).

Wattle and Daub construction has the following advantages:

  • It provides high thermal and sound resistance
  • This method is lightweight when compared to adobe or rammed earth.
  • It has a very less carbon footprint.


  1. Koti Banal, Uttarakhand
  • Koti Banal constructions are earthquake-resistant buildings that have been standing since past 900 years in the Rajgarhi area of Uttarkashi.
  • The height of these structures varies between 7 and 12 m above the base platform which consists of dry stones.
  • The building is upon a elevated platform made from dry masonry over the foundation. The walls are 50 to 60cm thick and are made up of timber reinforced stone masonry with the paste of  mortar, the buildings have minimum openings so that the heat is captured inside the house, single small door access is there on the ground floor, and has relatively smaller south-facing windows. The upper two floors have balconies around the whole building cantilevered with the support of wooden flooring system with a wooden railing.
  • The roof consists of a wooden frame and is topped up with slate tiles.

2. Bhunga, Kutch, Gujarat

  • A typical Bhunga house consists of a single cylindrical-shaped house topped with a conical thatch roof supported by a wooden beams and rafters.
  • The walls are made up of adobe bricks and generally have only three openings: one for the door and two for windows and the rest is set at a lower level to draw a cooling wind.
  • The circular form of these houses helps to offer insulation against the exterior environment by resisting high-velocity desert winds and reducing contact with heat; it also resists adjacent forces of an earthquake, thus, making the structure earthquake-resistant.
  • These traditional homes are built using mud and other naturally available materials like clay, bamboo, timber etc. Mangalore tiles act as an alternative to thatched roof.


Arpitha Acharya

Arpita is always in the quest to discover new experiences. She is relentless in conveying thoughts & sharing her explorations. Her only forte is writing & sometimes communicating with furry animals.