Sustainable Brick Architecture Design principles for hot-dry climates with case studies in Kenya and Morocco

This study investigates brick architecture in order to draw key lessons for its application to sustainable development in Africa’s hot-dry climates. The study addresses the unsustainable trends observed in brick architecture which are characterised by inappropriate soil harvesting, high energy brick production techniques and thermally uncomfortable design strategies.

The investigation uses the case study research method to conduct an explanatory study to determine how and why brick architecture is sustainable. The investigation documents and analyses the history of brick production, construction and architecture in order to determine its appropriate application for sustainable development. The study’s scope was limited to hot-dry climates in Africa as its high temperature necessitates low energy and efficient design of the built environment. Secondary data for was collected and analysed from existing literature, internet sources and academic journals and primary data was collected and analysed through documentation and analysis of brick Architecture in Voi ( Kenya) and Tamnougalt (Morocco).

Fieldwork studies in Voi (Kenya) revealed that the soil harvesting along Voi river bank is compromising its flood plain and the burning of brick which causes air pollution and deforestation. The high number of brick artisans has increased competition and hence reduced brick quality over time. Climatic data from the traditional brick house in Voi were more thermally comfortable than the contemporary case study. This can be attributed to the use of 300mm thick walls and timber ceiling with a thatch roofing system, inward facing courtyard designs and compact urban layouts. Contemporary brick construction trends use a 200mm thick single layer wall system, corrugated iron sheets for roofing, isolated housing units with wide roads in between; all of which increases internal heat gain ad reduces occupant thermal comfort.

Fieldwork studies in Tamnougalt (Morocco) reveal that brick production has and still is predominately sun-dried with addition of straw stabilisation for strength. Burning the brick is not viable in this region due to the scarcity of timber for fuel. Traditionally Moroccan earth construction technology uses rammed earth in the lower floors for structural strength and brick for the higher floors. Brick in higher floors was easier to construct and reduces the structural load because brick is lighter. Additionally 500mm thick walls are used with courtyards to create thermally comfortable internal spaces during the high daytime temperatures. Traditional brick architecture had small windows (800x400mm) which prevented appropriate ventilation through the spaces. Buildings typically have flat roofs and multiple verandas to used as sleeping areas on hot nights. Contemporary brick design uses larger openings (1500x1000mm) which increased ventilation and natural lighting in the spaces however the urban layout has moved from compact layouts with winding streets to isolated units. In contemporary design concrete is used for the structural member instead of timber as it is scarce and is vulnerable to termite attacks.

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