Housing Design for Hot, Arid Regions
SARID, May 2003
By Javed Sultan, AIA, Kinoo Inc. (email@example.com), Executive Director,
SARID & Ilyas Bhatti, P.E., The Bhatti Group, Massachusetts, USA
Following a review of submitted housing plans and given the hot, arid,
climate of Mali coupled to the desire to have a cost effective solution,
the following Physical Design is recommended:
1. Internal Courtyard
the design should incorporate an internal courtyard. The courtyard concept
has several advantages:
a. Cross Ventilation: A strategically placed
courtyard allows cross ventilation in an otherwise harsh and dry climate.
If it is a well defined, well planted, contiguous to other rooms, etc.,
it will provide for natural cooling.
b. Infant Play Area: It is helpful to have
the courtyard where small children can play. An enclosed area is preferred
to an open one as it is more secure, so that the care giver goes about
her/his household chores.
A kitchen on one side of the courtyard, traditional in many indigenous
configurations (although not in European housing design with colder climes),
allows a mother to keep visual contact with her child while cooking.
3. Exterior Wall
The traditional walls in hot, arid climates were made of mud, which provided
a great degree of thermal insulation. The use of concrete masonry units,
a low maintenance high strength material, results in significantly higher
room temperatures and hence uncomfortable habitation. Use of lightweight
concrete of higher insulation value should be explored that wouldl reduce
the quantity of concrete per cubic yard and offer greater thermal value.
This will not compromise the structure’s ability to grow vertically
as the overall design can be incorporated in a concrete frame construction.
Furnishing is always an added cost and in resource limited regions, some
of the interior furnishing such as closets, bed base, seating, table tops,
etc. can be incorporated as part of the structure, thereby reducing furnishing
cost. Again some of the furnishing could be made in such a way that they
can be removed eventually without too much additional expense.
The roof is one of the most crucial building elements and is a source
of considerable radiant heat. The roofing system, which may include a
plenum concept, needs to be designed so as to be self-ventilating or cooling
and to be constructed of materials that have a higher thermal value. In
developing countries, European designers have often promoted the use of
corrugated metal roofing, which tends to overheat and is extremely uncomfortable.
6. Sanitation/ Hygiene - Master Plan
Very often design proposals do not address the maintenance of external/
communal spaces. Hence neighborhoods become unkempt and a health hazard.
The housing schemes ought to incorporate a master plan at a macro level
for trash disposal/collection. Areas external to dwelling, communal spaces
such as play areas, community centers, etc. should be carefully designed.
A policy of responsibility/ accountability for maintaining side streets
and contiguous areas is critical.
7. Electricity/ Water Purification
As part of an overall housing project other options for power generation
ought to be explored, especially if housing is built in remote areas where
an electrical grid is not available for electricity. Alternative approaches,
such as wind farms using micro-turbines for electrical power, as well
as UV (ultra-violet) purification of drinking water should be explored.
A design concept which incorporates the above suggestions will add to
any housing scheme advocated for hot, arid climates.