The art of green building may originally have taken root in Europe but the energy saving and environmentally sensitive principles associated with this style of construction can now be found closer to home. True to its nature though, Africa has laid its distinctive signature on green architecture, as can be seen in the examples featured below.
The best efforts have been made to pay attention to the surrounding environment, use sustainable resources, reclaimed or recycled materials, to conserve energy, and get the aesthetics right while keeping within an often tight budget. The following 6 examples prove that innovative green architecture could be Africa’s solution to achievable and affordable housing for all.
1.Visserhoek School – Durbanville
Constructed from retired shipping containers, Visserhoek School is a place where children can learn, grow and play. The roof of the container has been raised to encourage natural ventilation and extended to provide extra shade. The installation of side windows serve to create cross-ventilation, contributing to passive temperature control, and the energy saving costs of keeping the building cool. The steps leading away from the building are a great place for the children to hang out and have lunch, as well as for formal gatherings. The jungle gym alongside the building seals the deal providing a lovely, safe place for the kids to play.
2.Ecomo Homes – Franschhoek
Ecomo Homes are a modern take on the traditional log cabin. By using low-maintenance materials and incorporating sustainable design principles, Ecomo Homes have introduced an element of green architecture to the Franschhoek Valley where they blend in beautifully with the environment.
The homes are constructed in a workshop situated off-site to minimise waste and the impact on the site’s environment. Once complete, they are assembled on-site. Ecomo Homes are a great idea for a holiday home, especially as the layout can be customised by combining the modular units in new and unique ways.
3.Karoo Wilderness Centre
The Karoo Wilderness Centre is designed to merge perfectly with its surroundings without sacrificing aesthetics. The building is designed to maximize natural light with its open spaces and plentiful windows. The raised roof helps to counter the heat and the convex interior curve assists to deflect excess light and heat away from the building. The Centre really comes to the fore with its rainwater harvesting system which makes it self-sustainable; an ideal example of how green architecture can be employed in low rainfall areas.
4.Woodlands Spa and Forum, Homini Hotel – Cradle of Humankind
Building in a wilderness area holds a particular challenge and you ideally want to cause the least disturbance to the sensitive fauna and flora. The Woodlands Spa and Forum has managed to get this balance just right by taking care to blend in with the surrounding bush. The subtle design has been achieved by using reclaimed bricks, materials found naturally in the area, and ensuring indigenous plants are used in the gardens.
Planting a roof garden where small wildlife can graze added the finishing touch. The roof garden also provides passive temperature control, cutting the air conditioning costs and amplifying the Woodlands’ energy saving capacity.
5.El Mandara Eco-Resort – Fayoum, Egypt
Egypt has always been a popular tourist destination though political unrest has put a dampener on the industry in recent years. Nevertheless the Egyptians are rebounding by turning their focus to building eco-resorts such as El Mandara which has turned previously abandoned dwellings into a hot stop on travel itineraries.
The potential in the rundown dwellings was realised by a group of youngsters who paid as much attention as possible to green architectural principles. They used mud bricks and other locally sourced, sustainable materials, and took advantage of the plentiful palm fronds available to construct extra shelter. The result is a serene oasis that melds perfectly with its location on Lake Qurun.
6.Floating School – Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria
Education is an issue of priority for Africa and what better place to give children an education than in a school designed and built with the welfare of our environment in mind. The Floating School has been designed to do just that. It’s an A-frame timber structure buoyed up by 256 plastic drums and can accommodate 100 children.
The two top floors provide classroom space while the floor of the raft is a social, play area. The school was built by the Makoko residents using timber that they sourced locally. They also setup a rainwater harvesting system, making the bathrooms self-sufficient and the solar panels on the sloping roofs are energy saving and eliminate the costs involved with running a generator.
It’s easy to be inspired to create green architecture when there are such excellent examples on our own continent and even in our own country!