|
3
Kasubi Tombs: Kampala City, Uganda
Thatched tomb in Uganda

Mutesa I, king of Buganda from 1856 to 1884, was buried in this thatched tomb near Kampala, Uganda, shown here in 1906.

Father Browne/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Thatch -- tightly bundled, overlapping layers of grass, reeds or similar vegetation -- is a time-tested green building material. Cultures throughout the world developed variations of thatched roofs and walls, all of which adapted to the varying climates to accomplish the same goal: keeping inhabitants warm and dry.

Thatch can be created from fast-growing, easily replenished plants, making it a truly renewable building material. It's also an excellent insulator. Many houses with thatch roofs use a simple framework to support the thatch; roofs properly built from this material can fulfill the insulation requirements that several layers of shingles, sub-roofing and roof material do in a modern roof [source: McGhee & Co. Roof Thatchers].

One of the largest and most historic thatch roofs in the world is part of the Kasubi Tombs, near Kampala City in Uganda. Four kings of Buganda are buried within a main tomb at this World Heritage Site. A towering forest of poles supports the giant roof, which shelters not only the tombs but also a one-of-a-kind collection of historic relics. Unfortunately, in March 2010, a fire swept through the main tomb, destroying many of these relics.

The legacy of this massive thatch structure can be seen across the globe. Modern homes -- and rehabbed historic homes -- are being rebuilt with thatch roofs, which can last for 60 years when properly constructed [source: McGhee & Co. Roof Thatchers]. And thanks to modern fire-retardant technology, the chance of fire destroying these green roofs is significantly reduced.

|