“Renewable Energy - A Leap Towards Human Development”
For thousands of years, building with Earth has been one of the world’s oldest archaeological traditions. In Northern Europe, wattle and daub houses were constructed to insulate against the frequent rain and cold weather, while in Abu Dhabi, a Majlis in historical forts helped inhabitants to stay cool in the intense heat of the desert. The widespread use of earth’s natural insulation properties meant that it could provide the optimum level of shelter across a range of climates.
Over the last century or more, these traditional techniques have been discarded in favour of more industrial construction techniques. As a consequence the technical skills and abilities involved in Earthen architecture are being lost. However, in an era where individuals, organizations and Governments are increasingly focused on the environment, sustainability and energy efficiency, the field of earthen architecture is once again coming to the fore.
Earlier this week, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) arranged a lecture on ‘Earthen Buildings, History and Future Perspectives’ at the Assilah Festival in Morocco. Festival goers heard presentations from Dr. Sami el Masri, the Deputy Director General for Culture and Heritage and Director of Strategic Planning and Development, ADACH and the prominent German architect Eike Roswag.
The lecture focused on the UAE and its commitment to the integration of earthen architecture into modern, sustainable building and development projects, but also looked at the compelling reasons for returning to some of these ancient traditions, materials and methods.
According to Eike Roswag, “this type of building is part of all of our culture. Combining current and future building technologies with this older tradition makes sense, and it’s not something that a lot of people are focused on. If you look at basic factors like the difference in humidity absorption between cement and earth, you find that earth is far more efficient.”
“The architect, Hassan Fathy built an earthen home and a concrete home in Cairo in the 1970s, and his studies showed that the temperature inside the earthen house stayed within the comfort zone for longer periods of the day with less fluctuation, whereas the concrete structure saw huge fluctuations in temperatures during the day.”
To put it in the context of global warming, Roswag continued, “the global warming potential for a cement wall is up to thirteen times greater than for an earthen wall of the same size when you consider the energy needed to produce the materials required for both structures. “Roswag’s lecture also highlighted the fact that one half of the world’s population live or work in earthen buildings.
Dr. Sami el Masri, highlighted the work of the ADACH’s Centre for Earthen Buildings, “this will provide architects, engineers, craftsmen and others to learn about the techniques involved in building with earthen materials. We are also focused on research and innovation in Earthen Architecture – and it is necessary to establish a scientific basis for the understanding of earthen materials so as to enable our contemporary requirements to exist within these structures and to reach a level of performance required for modern living. The Centre will also focus on design issues and materials, and we will welcome applications for research grants to facilitate this.”
An extensive series of events have been being organised by ADACH at this year’s Assilah Festival under the title of: "Renewable Energy - A Leap Towards Human Development". With more than forty-five countries from around the world participating in this year's festival, the Earthern Buildings exhibition will form a key part not only of ADACH’s activities, but also an important part within the festival as a whole.
ADACH, along with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Masdar are representing UAE officially at Assilah Festival as a guest of honor this year.