Lamella Roofs

lamella roof

A lamella roof, also known as the “Zollinger roof” (after Friedrich Zollinger), is a vaulted roof made up of simple, single prefabricated standard segments (mostly in timber) as a way to span large spaces. The individual pieces are joined together with bolts and/or plates to form a rhomboid pattern. Wooden sheathing covers the structure on the outside. The lamella roof was patented in 1910 and became popular between the World Wars, especially in Germany when metal for construction was in short supply. Some of these structures are now almost 100 years old and many of them remain in very good condition.

Read more: Lamella Roof, Open Source Ecology.

Building With Salt

building with salt

“The Salt Project is a biomimetic attempt to create architecture using seawater in the desert. By using locally available resources we can grow plants and create architecture without producing waste. The idea is to pump up seawater in arid areas around the world, split it in salt and fresh water, use the fresh water for produce and use the salt for architecture.” [Read more…]

African Vernacular Architecture Database

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

I am a registered architect and I have a passion for African vernacular architecture. I recently (Sept. 2014) traveled to Malawi to document the vernacular architecture in the entire country. 4,700 pictures are on the web page.

http://www.malawiarchitecture.com/

I also wanted to share with you my latest project… a data base on African vernacular architecture. This project was started because of the lack of information available on line. The data base includes images from every African country. Here is the link to the site:

http://www.africavernaculararchitecture.com/

The goal of the project is to have people, who live or work in an Africa country, submit pictures of vernacular structures to the data base to share with the world. Full credit is given for every picture submitted. For too long, African vernacular architecture has been a topic that has been both under-documented and, unfortunately, ignored. People say there needs to be documentation but yet nothing is done. Whether this is due to difficulties in obtaining funding or just apathy, the fact remains that very little data can be found online

malawi house with porch

House with porch in Malawi. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Architecture is as much of a part of a countries culture as is language, music or art. African vernacular architecture is disappearing. I witnessed that fact in Malawi. There are many reasons why vernacular materials and construction techniques are being abandoned in favor of western ones. One main reason is the lack of documentation, especially finding information on line.

I am hoping you could share the project with your readers, the more awareness, the better the chance to convince people to submit pictures to the data base. There is no other resource for African vernacular architecture like the data base: there is no organization gathering information, there is no active research, there is no voice for it. I will gladly answer any questions that you might have about the project.

Cheers,

Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Cutting Back on Glass

glass buildings

“How do we go about designing buildings today for tomorrow’s weather? As the world warms and extreme weather becomes more common, sustainable architecture is likely to mean one major casualty: glass. For decades glass has been everywhere, even in so-called “modern” or “sustainable” architecture such as London’s Gherkin. However in energy terms glass is extremely inefficient – it does little but leak heat on cold winter nights and turn buildings into greenhouses on summer days.”

“For example, the U-value (a measure of how much heat is lost through a given thickness) of triple glazing is around 1.0. However a simple cavity brick wall with a little bit of insulation in it is 0.35 – that is, three times lower – whereas well-insulated wall will have a U-value of just 0.1. So each metre square of glass, even if it is triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall. Cutting back on glass would be an easy win. Windows need to be sized, not glorified, and sized for a purpose: the view, or to provide natural light or air. Windows also need to be shaded. Many would argue that we need to re-invent the window, or the building. We need to build buildings with windows, rather than buildings that are one big window.”

Read more: Climate change means we can’t keep living (and working) in glass houses. Via Lloyd Alter.

What Can Be Learnt From a 17th Century Town

wattle and daub wall“In Plymouth, Massachusetts — the site of the first English colony in America — Matteo Brault spends his days living a 17th century life, along with dozens of other re-enactors on the modern-day Plimoth Plantation. Brault works full-time as a 17th-century style blacksmith, using traditional tools like a grindstone, hand-made nails and a large bellows for making the fire hot enough for forging iron and steel. He also helps build the traditional shelters.”

“The simplest homes in town were built using cratchets — natural forks in trees — as support for the ridgepole of the roof. The walls are built up with “wattle” — small sticks for the lattice structure — and “daub” — a mortar of clay, earth and grasses. Instead of using the traditional English lime wash to protect the walls, the colonists took advantage of the plentiful wood in the America and created clapboard siding by cleaving wood into thin boards. For the thatch roofs, large bundles of water reed or wheat straw are woven with a giant needle by two people working in tandem (one outside and one inside). “It’s like a giant quilt made of grass,” explains Brault, “which makes a water-tight roof that essentially acts as a giant sponge. It absorbs water and laps it off.”

Watch the video. Picture: a wattle and daub wall in Germany.

A World Made of Rotor Blades

public seating rotor blades close

Almost a quarter of a million windmills worldwide will need to be replaced by 2030. The rotor blades are made of valuable composite materials that are difficult to recover at the end of their energy generating life. New generation rotor blades made of glass or carbon fibre composite material have average lifespans of between 10 and 25 years. Recycling of glass fibre composite is possible though complex. Recycling of the more highly valued carbon fibre composite is currently impossible. In many EU countries landfill of carbon composites is now prohibited. Thus, many rotor blades at the end of their wind turbine life are currently shredded and incinerated. At current growth rates, by 2034, there will be about 225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material produced annually, worldwide.

The Dutch firm Superuse Studios has found a solution to the growing mountains of waste generated by the wind industry: making use of end-of-life rotor blades in design and architecture. The realised projects demonstrate the technical applications and potential for blade made designs and architecture. In their second life as design and architectural elements, rotor blades could be used for a further 50-100 years, or more. Blade made designs are durable, iconic, compete economically, and reduce the ecological footprint of projects in which they are used. [Read more…]

Older Buildings Increase Urban Vitality

older smaller better buildings“All across America, blocks of older, smaller buildings are quietly contributing to robust local economies and distinctive livable communities. This groundbreaking study demonstrates the unique and valuable role that older, smaller buildings play in the development of sustainable cities.

Building on statistical analysis of the built fabric of three major American cities [San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.], the research demonstrates that established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better than districts with larger, newer structures when tested against a range of economic, social, and environmental outcome measures.”

Older, Smaller, Better. Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality“, National Trust for Historic Preservation, May 2014. Via Lloyd Alter.

Adapting to Climate by Being a Nomad within your own House

While some people seasonally move between dwellings, others are nomads within their own houses. In such diverse places as Iraq, Algeria, and India, climates and cultures may vary, as do the directions and rhythms of movement. But all share migration within the dwelling as a primary mode of adaption to climate.

Families living in traditional courtyard houses of Baghdad, without mechanical ventilation or heating, migrate by day and season for comfort. In September or October, they move around the courtyard to rooms facing south. In April or May they shift to the north-facing rooms. In summer there is a daily vertical migration, the afternoon siesta being spent at the lowest levels and the nighttime sleep traditionally being taken on the roof under the stars.

old baghdad house

Picture: muhammadshnait91.tumblr.com

Such migrations mean that space is used with a freedom unusual in modern life and in the West. Recent correspondence from Mounjia Abdeltif-Benchaabane, a professor of architecture in Algiers, describes how rooms there have not traditionally been organized with regard to individual use or established purpose:

A living room becomes a sleeping room at night. Closets are full of mobile furnishings. In the morning everything is hung near windows to air out under the sun before being reused, perhaps in a different room. The kitchen is a multifunctional space. They cook on the floor even if they have modern tools.

A long-established Arab concern with privacy, in conjunction with the custom of migrating through the house, established the texture of some old cities like Baghdad. Since the roof is used for sleeping during nearly half of the year and the privacy of the family at night is fundamental, no house could look down upon its neighbor nor could one house look into the courtyard of another. The result was an effective building height control with advantages for solar access: no house could overshadow another, thus assuring wintertime light and heat to upper living spaces.

Quoted from “Ritual House: Drawing on Nature’s Rhythms for Architecture and Urban Design“, Ralph L. Knowles, 2006.

Decorated Mud Houses in Burkina Faso

decorated mud house 2

“In the south of Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in west Africa, near the border with Ghana lies a small, circular village of about 1.2 hectares, called Tiébélé. This is home of the Kassena people, one of the oldest ethnic groups that had settled in the territory of Burkina Faso in the 15th century. Tiébélé is known for their amazing traditional Gourounsi architecture and elaborately decorated walls of their homes.”

“Burkina Faso is a poor country, even by West African standards, and possibly the poorest in the world. But they are culturally rich, and decorating the walls of their buildings is an important part of their cultural legacy in this area of the country. Wall decorating is always a community project done by the women and it’s a very ancient practice that dates from the sixteenth century AD.”

Read more: Decorated Mud Houses of Tiébélé, Burkina Faso. Picture (and many more pictures): Rita Willaert.

A Passively Cooled House in the Tropics

passive house tropics

Build-It-Solar blog writes:

Kotaro Nishiki built a passively cooled home in Leyte Philippines at 11 degs north latitude that incorporates a number of unique cooling features that allow the home to be cooled passively and without electricity…

In this area, most homes are constructed of concrete, and the concrete structures tend to absorb solar heat during the daytime, and then retain that heat through the night making the homes uncomfortable.

Kotaro’s design is centered on eliminating these daytime solar gains. He keeps the whole house shaded using these techniques:

  • The south facing single slope roof has on overhang on the south that keeps the south wall in shade most of the day.
  • The north side of the house is shaded by an roof extension sloped down to the north that shades the north side of the house most of the day.
  • The roof is double layered with airflow between the well spaced layers.  This greatly reduces solar heat gain through the roof.
  • The east and west walls of the house are double wall construction with a couple feet between the walls.  The shading that the outer wall offers plus airflow between the double walls keep the wall temperatures low.
  • In addition, he has worked out ways to take advantage of the night
    temperature drop and to use thermal mass on the basement to provide some
    cooling.

More: A unique, passively cooled home in the Tropics (Build-It-Solar), Passive Solar House in Tropical Areas (Kotaro Nishiki). Build-It-Solar has more examples of passively cooled houses.