THATCHING MAKES A COMEBACK

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THATCHING MAKES A COMEBACK

As architects increasingly search for green and more sustainable materials to construct with, thatch is making a comeback in the affluent areas of UK, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium. In this issue, we look at how and where thatch has been used, the reasons for its comeback and more.

A brief history of Thatched architecture

Thatching refers to the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge (Cladium mariscus), rushes or heather. Heavy rainfall areas layer their roofs with vegetation or palm leaves; to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates.

As urban areas developed across the countries and rural populations moved into the cities, thatched homes declined in popularity. In fact, in most developed countries, thatched roofs, for quite some time, remained a symbol of poverty.

Over the past 30 years, thatch has become much more popular in the UK, and is now a symbol of wealth rather than poverty. It is now the choice of well-to-do people who desire a rustic look for their home, would like a more ecologically friendly roof, or who have purchased an originally thatched abode.

At this time, there are approximately 1,000 full-time thatchers at work in the UK, and thatching is becoming popular again because of the renewed interest in preserving historic buildings and using more sustainable building materials.

Use of thatch in commercial spaces

Thatch, being traditional to the tropical countries, is also being extensively used in roofing for luxury resorts and eco-hotels across Hawaii, Malaysia, Bangkok, Mauritius and even India. In India, this style of architecture has been extensively used in the eco-tourism segment in Goa, Kerala, Bangalore, and in several leading resorts along the Konkan coast. The material for the thatch and the thatching skills are easily available locally, making it a preferred choice in rustic yet affordable roofing.

MATERIALS COMMONLY USED

There are many materials that can be used to thatch a home, each with a different life span. E.g. rush lasts 3-5 years, bracken 5-10 years, heather 20-30 years and reed can last upto 50 years. In tropical regions, bamboo, palmetto and sugarcane leaves are used extensively for thatch. In drier climes, thatched roofs can have extremely long lifespans.

Thatching refers to the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge (Cladium mariscus), rushes or heather. Heavy rainfall areas layer their roofs with vegetation or palm leaves; to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates.

As urban areas developed across the countries and rural populations moved into the cities, thatched homes declined in popularity. In fact, in most developed countries, thatched roofs, for quite some time, remained a symbol of poverty.

Over the past 30 years, thatch has become much more popular in the UK, and is now a symbol of wealth rather than poverty. It is now the choice of well-to-do people who desire a rustic look for their home, would like a more ecologically friendly roof, or who have purchased an originally thatched abode.

At this time, there are approximately 1,000 full-time thatchers at work in the UK, and thatching is becoming popular again because of the renewed interest in preserving historic buildings and using more sustainable building materials.

LIFE OF THATCH MATERIAL

Good quality straw thatch can last for more than 50 years when applied by a skilled thatcher. Traditionally, a new layer of straw was simply applied over the weathered surface, and this ‘spar coating’ tradition  has created accumulations of thatch over 7’ (2.1 m) thick on very old buildings. Over 250 roofs in Southern England have base coats of thatch that were applied over 500 years ago.

 

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