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The Climate Advantages and Future of Traditional African Architecture!

Why African influenced bioclimatic architectural systems are a must for the planet's future?

The Future doesn't have to be an apocalypse!


African Architectures Climate Advantages

The African people of Ancient Kemet the Kemetui (called Egyptians by Greeks) used architectural design for conditioning air. They created natural ventilation within buildings to keep them cool inside. They also used an evaporative cooling method by hanging wet reed mats over doorways and windows. African houses are often cylindrical (round) in shape.


Round homes hold a distinct advantage over European traditional square houses when it comes to wind resistance and earthquake durability. For one, round homes are more aerodynamic, deflecting wind around the structure instead of allowing wind to push against the wide, flat surfaces of a square building. Since round houses have less surface area, relative to floor space, there is less surface coming into contact with the weather outside. Therefore, it takes less energy to maintain their interiors to comfortable temperatures. It's the most efficient shape as well, a spherical object has no stress points as every part is equal.


Thousands of years ago, the arch was first utilized, the circular element being self-supporting, a process of construction which hasn't changed to this day. Round Houses cost significantly less to build than rectangular ones. They use less materials for the same floor area and are faster to build. It is clear a round house has distinct advantages in terms of thermal insulation, and structural stability. Sounds are softer inside the house mak­ing it ideal for rest and reflec­tion, but also for social­izing and playing music. The shape also resists noise pen­e­trat­ing from the out­side. Sound waves dis­si­pate as they wrap around the build­ing, shield­ing the interior from loud noise out­side.


In response to climate change, the modern go to is to resort to energy-intensive heating and cooling systems to maintain thermal comfort within buildings. However, passive solar systems (which harness solar radiation) and smart building designs (that create optimal indoor conditions) have for centuries been adopted across Africa to reduce energy consumption. Building on previous investigations into passive solar systems and design is the goal of future architects so the knowledge of the past can inform a climate changed future of the globe. Ideally, human bodies are comfortable between 21 and 26°C, with a relative humidity between 20 and 70%. However, studies show that "Western" building designs themselves need to be adapted to make indoor environments more comfortable, energy conserving and cost effective.


African countries that are experiencing severe environmental and socio-economic effects because of above-average temperate rises associated with climate change historically have used solar protection, cooling through a high thermal mass, evaporative cooling, air conditioning through architectural design creating wind tunnels, cooling through natural ventilation, and dehumidification. However, not all of these solutions are currently used throughout Africa. During the European dark ages Gao, a major city of the Mali and Songhai Empires was full of flourishing homes with indoor toilets 200 years before Sir John Harrington, godson of Elizabeth I, invented a water closet with a raised cistern and a small downpipe through which water ran to flush waste in 1592. Thomas Edward Bowdich paid a visit to the Ashanti Empire in 1819, and he was impressed by the flush toilet system that was commonplace in the area on the second floor of this building for example.


So Europe is not new to African technological advances like castles. Castle-building techniques of which I was aware were brought back by the Crusaders to Europe from the Holy Land, adapted from the Saracen (Blackamoors) who had conquered not only North Africa and Spain for over 600 years. The Moors invaded France as far as the city of Tours where they were defeated by Charles Martel, king of the Germanic Franks and grandfather of Charlemagne who invaded Spain and kept the Moors at bay. Edward the First of England, while then still only heir apparent, went on the failed crusade to both North Africa and the Holy Land and brought castle-building techniques home with him. He employed Black African knowledge and innovations in the castles he built in Wales after he conquered it and also introduced them to southern Scotland.


The Europeans castle was different from its ancient keeps that housed the animals with the human occupants it was more militarized as a stronghold in stark contrast to the much older and more lavish Palaces of Africa especially the Sudan. A palace is a large building where kings, queens and noble people live. Castles are fortified which means they were almost synonymous with forts built mainly to keep the people inside safe. Palaces are all about looking good and being comfortable. European castles were cold, dank, noisy and smelly.



Buhen is known for its moat, constructed during the reign of Senusret III around 1860 BC (12th Dynasty Kemet) It boasts a moat three meters deep, drawbridges, bastions, buttresses, ramparts, battlements, loopholes, and a catapult.

Coming from an ancient tradition of creative and innovative thinkers, architects in Africa are always looking towards the future of this highly unique industry. But in order to continue the legacy, relevance, practicalities and importance of climate resistant architectural practices in Africa, we must also embrace, examine, and learn from the past. In the early 20th century, reinforced concrete became common in Africa and we saw the start of larger buildings and the influence of European and westernized modernists can be clearly seen throughout Africa.


One of the main factors contributing to climate change and global warming is modern Western style architecture. The sector is accountable for about 50% of the greenhouse emissions! Global warming is receiving a variety of responses, from those who support the cause, to others who believe it is a hoax. The majority of those who are concerned about global warming are in the Gen Z to Millennial age range. This is because, in the not too distant future, they will have been the ones to deal with the effects of the changing environment. This is also where we will find the architects that truly matter and will change the course of human architectural development. There are now attempts being done to assist address this issue, although it is not frequently discussed. Modern architects must increasingly take climate change into account when designing new buildings. African influenced bioclimatic architectural systems are a must to inform modern architecture It is that impactful.


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