Analysis and Design for Thermally Autonomous Housing in Resource-Constrained Communities: A Case Study in Bhuj, India

SMArchS Thesis, Building Technology, Spring 2015

In the 2010 International Workshop on Housing, Health and Climate Change Meeting Report, the World Health Organization identifies housing as a primary cause of poor health in developing countries. The report cites inadequate protection from extreme heat as one of six major concerns for healthy housing environments. As India’s population rapidly increases, informal settlements face particular heat risk because of harsh climate conditions, substandard building construction and lack of access to electricity for mechanical cooling. There is a need for housing to provide thermal comfort and health by passive means at low cost.

Climate specific passive cooling techniques are well known, but are rarely implemented in informal settlements because of density, lack of resources, design integration, and materials availability. This thesis is situated in the practical connection of two normally disparate parts: applied research in passive cooling techniques, and design for development. The work presented results from the establishment of an international co-design partnership between MIT and The Hunnarshala Foundation for Building Technology and Innovations, an NGO in the hot and arid region of Bhuj, India. It presents data analysis and co-design work that drove the development, field prototyping, and evaluation of appropriate, implementable building solutions to improve thermal conditions in affordable housing in hot and arid climates.

Note: Thermal Autonomy is defined by US architecture firm Loisos + Ubbelohde as "[T]he percent of occupied time over a year where a thermal zone meets or exceeds a given set of thermal criteria through passive means only.”

Image: Thermal Field Lab test chamber construction. Photo by author.