Dom Arquitectura designed 4 Houses in Jeddah, a large city in western Saudi Arabia, where summer temperatures often surpass 109 °F. Hit the jump to find out how the studio used Islamic and passive design to keep the homes cool.
While temperatures in the Gulf countries may be steadily rising as climate change escalates, it’s always been hot on the peninsula.
Lacking modern conveniences such as air-conditioning, pre-industrial builders devised several ingenious methods to keep building interiors comfortable, many of which were lost to contemporary designers.
Recently that has begun to change.
While using earth construction is still uncommon, studios such as Dom Arquitectura are beginning to incorporate ancient Islamic techniques such as mashrabiya screens, courtyards and plants into modern construction for non-mechanical climate control.
The 4 Houses in Jeddah are arranged around a central courtyard in a fairly uniform pattern mandated by the site’s layout. While the symmetry may appear rather dull, it was important to the design team to not only meet modern aesthetic standards, but also to ensure functional homes with a gentle environmental footprint.
The ground floor zocalo was built with concrete and wood and the floors rise from that foundation in a fairly standard open box style.
Like traditional Islamic buildings, the central courtyard filled with natural light and plants provides natural cooling thanks to cross ventilation; sliding shutters act like a second skin that create a transition zone between the main interior and outside.
The mashrabiya-like wall screens not only provide ventilation, but also views and a sense of privacy. The homes’ lower level walls are particularly well-screened from the outside, while the upper levels are more open.
Saudi Arabia is wealthy enough that its residents still have high standards and there is very little incentive for most citizens to embrace green building, so it is especially rewarding to see such thoughtful design coming from the Gulf country. Hopefully we will see more like it in the coming years.