Homes and gardens

Why floor the earth’s surface?

Is this walkway needed?

Is this walkway needed?   | Photo Credit: K_Pichumani

Paved areas are good to walk upon but they prevent rainwater percolation and increase heat island effect. By

For reasons unknown to us, we humans tend to tamper with nature whenever we get a chance. Why is it so difficult for us to leave nature as it is? Does our life really get better and we become more effective by spoiling nature?

It is difficult to answer this query, but once destroyed, nature does not return to its original state.

Among the many examples to prove the above point, our impulse to artificially finish the surface of the Earth is a direct one. Look at our urban areas – most of the ground is covered by manufactured materials.

Vehicular roads as hard surfaces is fully understandable and pedestrian footpaths can also be partly accepted, since walking in slush is unmanageable in city contexts. But they are finished so hard that even temperature gets reflected backwards to sky, increasing the heat island effect.

Negatives and positives

The surface run-off after the rains flows somewhere far away, often into roadside gutters, reducing rain water percolation and water table. However, there are visible advantages of these surfaces like maintenance.

Beyond such basic needs, many other areas get paved. We see vast areas of ground paved within the setbacks of buildings and leftover spaces of larger sites, where natural mud could have been retained with plants.

Rain falling within a site could have percolated there itself, recharging the ground-water table. In a residential area with small sites, if no one leaves the mud as mud, it can result in many subtle impacts.

Reflected heat and glare from direct sunlight hitting the ground increases. The air immediately outside the window would get warmer, bringing the hot air into homes in the guise of cross-ventilation.

The best surface

Public parks, with a larger mandate of growing green, too end up with vast areas paved in the name of walking path or activity corner.

Mud is the best surface for bare human foot to walk upon, but we hardly get them today. Cement floor and concrete block pavers are hard; they cannot be a replacement for the softness of natural ground. As such, reducing hard flooring is an inevitable imperative today.

The paving industry today is among the thriving industries with huge demand for paver blocks everywhere. Many private institutions, public spaces and government projects seek them in the name of beauty, longevity and ease of upkeep.

The avoidable resource consumption by reducing hard, artificial paving is still not much discussed. Also, once paved, the feel of informal spaces is given up for the formal looks of flooring.

Be judicious

Having said this, there are many cases where paving may be really justifiable, with options of many natural and artificially manufactured materials. We only need to be judicious in our selection for we are covering up Mother Earth.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 6:30:21 PM |

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