Earthquakes are not a common phenomena in most parts of he world. Hence, houses in most rural areas are not built to withstand seismic forces, resulting in heavy causalities even in moderate quakes. In some parts of the world, however, where earthquakes are common, people have incorporated the critical elements of quake-resistance in their traditional construction method.
Traditional house building techniques of Kullu and other valley’s of Himachal have successfully demonstrated during several past earthquakes in the Himalayan region that the indigenous constructional design has the ability to tolerate earthquake shock waves better than newer structures.
The 1905 Kangra earthquake 8+ tremor on the Richter scale shook the foundations of many buildings and structures, which included the strong foundations of the thousand year old Kangra Fort but many traditional Kat-Ki Kunni houses in Kullu valley made up of timber remained unaffected.
The Dhajji-Diwari buildings remained had withstood the strong 1885 Srinagar earthquake and in Uttarkashi traditional 100 years old multi-storied buildings called Pherols have escaped much damage from earthquakes because of use of traditional design and material that has resistance to moderate to severe tremors.
Similar to the Pherols and the Dhajji-Diwari buildings, the Kat-Ki-Kunni or timber cornered buildings suffered minimal damage in the epi-central tract of Kulu Valley during the 1905 Kangra earthquake. These structure are almost identical to the Pherols of Uttarkashi.
These houses and larger structures combine the weight, solidity and coolness of a stone building with the flexibility and earthquake-resisting qualities of a wooden one.
In these structures the wood bonding takes place at vertical intervals of three to five feet. Two parallel beams are laid along with layer of masonry, one on the inside and one on the outside.
At the end of one wall they are crossed by the beams on the walls at right angle, and the wooden pins hold the crossing together. Cross ties of wood, similarly hold the two parallel beams in position at intervals along their length known as spider joint.
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.