Investigating the intelligence of the low-tech earth architecture of the Sahara : A feasibility study from the western desert of Egypt
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Traditional building techniques such as earth construction have withstood the test of time. Its effectiveness and intelligence in responding to the socio-cultural and climatic context of many regions across the world have been well demonstrated. This article is concerned with the technical and social factors that led to the decline of this intelligent-architecture approach in the Sahara desert. The article investigates the potential and constraints of reintroducing earth construction architecture in four of the six western desert oases as case studies. These oases form the New Valley Governorate of Egypt: Baharia, Farafra, Al-Dakhla and Al-Kharja. Two field studies were undertaken. The first took place during a research trip that included Cairo, Giza, the four oases and Luxor, while the second was conducted in Al-Dakhla only. The results suggest a strong possibility for reusing earth architecture in the four oases from the environmental point of view. However, a number of limitations were identified - durability, buildability and the attractiveness of the mud architecture to the locals. Validation of the results and addressing those constraints are the focus of future work to assess the thermal performance of vernacular and modern case studies in the oases under investigation. © 2010 Earthscan.