Ancient solution found for modern India’s water needs

In Mehsana, India, a stepwell constructed two centuries ago is to be cleaned and revived by volunteers from the local community.

Stepwells are huge structures that descend deep into the ground, creating both a reservoir and a way of accessing water at different levels. Covered walkways, connected by steps, project from the walls of the stepwell at each level, with pavilions providing shade for those collecting water. The design of the stepwell creates a cool space and, in the past, people could always collect water no matter how low or high the level was, simply by descending or ascending though the structure. Stepwells have existed since the Second Century. Some are extremely ornate and, in certain cases, are also used as temples, while others have simpler designs.

Most stepwells in India have been neglected in recent times. Some dried up as water was pumped elsewhere, while others became stagnant, overgrown and choked by rubbish. With the pressure to conserve water becoming more acute, reviving the stepwells, which can function without technology, seems to be a wise move for the future management of India’s water.

The stepwells have inspired architects creating modern buildings. The Academy of Fashion in Jaipur, designed by Manit Rastogi, was cleverly constructed using passive cooling principles found inside stepwells. A pool sits at the base of the building, evaporating and lowering the temperature naturally.

Buildings in North Wales can be designed to make use of passive heating, cooling or ventilation techniques. A North Wales architect with expertise in sustainable building design should be able to advise on what is possible.

Posted by Adam Lloyd
July 22, 2013
New Buildings

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