Malian ‘H’ blocks make A/C unnecessary at the Falatow Jigiyaso orphanage

Falatow Jigiyaso Orphanage, F8 Architecture, green design, Mali, sustainable design, H blocks, hybrid construction system, Malian green building , Gabion, Banco, desert architecture
In the middle of the summer with no shade, the Sahelian region of Mali is hot. Blistering hot. So how did F8 Architecture build an A/C-free orphanage 50km south of Bamako without endangering the children? It’s all in the design.

People lived in the desert without air-conditioning for eons, but now we can’t imagine living in a home or staying in a hotel that doesn’t have a giant cooling box to take off the edge. That’s due, in part, to an entire generation or two of architects and developers who forgot how to listen to nature.

Falatow Jigiyaso Orphanage, F8 Architecture, green design, Mali, sustainable design, H blocks, hybrid construction system, Malian green building , Gabion, Banco, desert architecture

Since the Falatow Jigiyaso orphanage commissioned in 2010 by Fresness Mayor (France) Jean-Jacques Bridey was located far away from any municipal services, the design team ‘had no choice’ but to make the orphanage self-sufficient, according to F8 Architecture.

In order to achieve this, the design team dug a 70 meter well to source water, which, when polluted, is then purified with a sophisticated natural system that uses a digester and a bio-filter made with anaerobic bacteria on sand beds.

The treated water then flows to an on-site fish farm, and overflow is used for agriculture. As a result, the orphanage is able to produce some of their own food with several harvests each year.

Falatow Jigiyaso Orphanage, F8 Architecture, green design, Mali, sustainable design, H blocks, hybrid construction system, Malian green building , Gabion, Banco, desert architecture

Related: Mali’s life-changing mobile solar lamps are made of reused bicycle parts

F8 Architecture also installed a photovoltaic array to generate renewable energy, but less energy than normal is required to maintain the orphanage thanks to a Malian-designed hybrid construction system that reduces indoor temperatures by 20 percent.

This system combines H-shaped concrete blocks and Banco, a local mix of mud and grain husks that helps to boost the material’s thermal properties. The block buildings are arranged around a central courtyard and the walls that are most exposed to the sun are clad in gabion.

Roofs over the top of buildings help to reduce solar gain and natural ventilation also keeps the interior environment pleasant.

Falatow Jigiyaso Orphanage, F8 Architecture, green design, Mali, sustainable design, H blocks, hybrid construction system, Malian green building , Gabion, Banco, desert architecture

In their design brief published on Architizer, the designers said this about their experience building the orphanage in Mali.

“As a conclusion, this whole adventure will be always remembered by our team not only because of the nature of the project but also thanks to the quality of the exchanges we experience with people,” they wrote.

This first project will be also remembered for bringing our team together to create our architecture firm.

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