Traditional vs Modern Building Materials in Goa

Traditional vs Modern Building Materials

The replacement of traditional Goan construction materials with more modern, often imported materials from either the rest of India or even abroad, is not only problematic from an aesthetic point of view, but also compromises the durability and functionality of the old Goan buildings and ultimately their authenticity. For example, the use of cement instead of traditional Goan lime-based plaster has a number of consequences. Unlike plaster, cement does not allow evaporation of moisture and will not allow the walls to breathe properly. This can lead to rising damp as ground moisture seeps up the walls, causing plaster to flake off and mould to grow. This is a huge problem in many old Goan houses. Furthermore, frescoes and decorative artwork on the buildings’ interior walls deteriorate and are often destroyed. Furthermore, when moisture is trapped in the building it often moves up to the roof beams where it contributes to decaying the timber.

When modern paint is applied to the external plaster or cement of the building, the porosity of the walls is further decreased. Traditional Goan lime-wash, on the other hand, unlike most modern paints, allows evaporation of moisture.

Another modern item often used in construction is corrugated iron sheeting (tin roofs as they are popularly known in Goa), but the use of this metal as roofing material, instead of the traditional locally made Goan /Mangalore tiles, causes buildings to heat up much more than they normally would and this warmth accelerates the rising damp and deterioration process, with disastrous effects for older buildinngs.

Traditional local Goan building materials, unlike their modern counterparts, have been chosen and developed with local Goan climatic conditions in mind. Furthermore, the techniques for the use of these traditional Goan materials have been refined over many generations. Buildings made with traditional Goan materials, being better suited to the hot and humid Goan climate are, contrary to popular assumption, cooler than those built with concrete.

In addition to the adverse aesthetic effect and their impact on the durability of Goan heritage buildings, the use of modern materials unfortunately leads to the loss of local Goan knowledge and traditional Goan construction methods, with adverse consequences for local skills development and cultural pride of both artisans and local Goan citizens.

My Mitaroy Goa Hotel, itself a 400 year old Portuguese Heritage Bungalow, is a prime example of a successful building restoration project in Goa. The restoration project demonstrates that there is a viable alternative to demolition of old Goan houses. Guests at my Mitaroy Goa Hotel can see how modern comforts can be accommodated into traditional Goan houses without detracting from its historic fabric and how restoration can be accomplished using traditional Goan materials and techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation of Goan artisans and craftsmen.

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