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Natural Energy and Earth Brick Architecture

Advantages of Woodless Construction

Reduced consumption of wood and organic matter will:

  • prevent loss of species and enhance survival of forests.
  • sharply reduce fire insurance costs.
  • protect the environment and encourage the manufacture and use of local, rather than purchased industrial building materials.
  • reduce the transportation of materials and expenditure of fuels required for their fabrication.
  • encourage the design and construction of dwellings and public service structures that are environmentally healthy, comfortable, sturdy, accessible in cost both to municipal administrations and to the local population. Beauty of surface and form is a bonus.
  • promote the building of vaulted and domed roofs fashioned of adobe brick.

The following elements of design will ensure natural air conditioning and cooling with adobe block housing:

  • house orientation.
  • the physical properties of earth as high insulation building material with time-lag convection of heat and cold.
  • courtyard configuration which
  1. captures coolness of desert night. air movement begins when sun’s morning heat causes eddies of air to circulate. these currents are guided throughout the house via openings — doors and windows — to courtyard.
  2. controls passage of cool air from courtyard to rooms via openings placed above doorways.
  3. allows for further cooling through humidifying benefits of central fountain, and planting of vegetation which not only lowers temperatures through shading but purifies the air.
  4. allows for placement of outdoor sitting loggia on shaded side of courtyard where ceramic water jugs and food can also be stored in coolness.
  • wind-catch and cooling tower.
  • small exterior windows keep out heat and glare, plus shutters increase protection from sun’s heat.
  • high exterior windows in sandstorm areas to reduce dust invasion.
  • larger windows onto courtyards invite into the house light muted by the leaves of trees and shrubs.
  • turbine or small belvedere at uppermost point to evacuate hot air while cool air enters from courtyard at lowest opposite point of the house through elimination of one removable brick.


The addition of vegetation radically lowers exterior temperatures of patios and streets, creating a fresher micro-climate within an entire area. Studies of regional botanical resources will guide planning for the town, neighborhoods, street and gardens. First on the list are shade-yielding plants that require little or no irrigation.

Trees: Certain species of trees lend uniformity to the town design, starting with plantings on the periphery, with sheltering grids and shaded walkways. Allees of trees, double or single, can line each street, and each household would be given at least one tree from the local municipal nursery. Clumps, clusters and grids of trees can shade such areas as child care centers, parks, parking and walkways. For example a double avenue of shade trees covering a walkway encourages enjoyment of the landscape plus physical exercise. Benches along walkways encourage community solidarity.

Depending on availability of water, trees can be used not only as cooling agents but as food providers: In Marrakesh, Morocco, streets are lined with fruit-bearing citrus trees which passersby pick at will.

Shrubs: Herbs such as rosemary and lavender can be used as borders and landcovers to reduce dust and to perfume the air. Dried, they can be harvested for consumption.

Simone Swan, 1990.