Practices

Maison des Yvelines - Nubian Vault

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This amazing Nubian Vault* building, inaugurated on Dec 4, 2016, is one of AVN's major recent achievements in Senegal. Financed in part by the French Conseil Départemental des Yvelines, in collaboration with the NGO Le Partenariat and the Regional Development Agency of Matam, the local Commune, and the Regional Urbanism Service, it is an exemplary project. The building is due to house volunteers working with and for the local community, and provide them with office space and meeting facilities.

 

The construction, with technical guidance from AVN, was carried out by the firm Habitat Moderne, run by the Burkinabe NV entrepreneur Richard Somda. It is an early and excellent example of the recognition now awarded to the Nubian Vault concept by the formal sector, and also serves as a model demonstration building for the region.

 

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*The Nubian Vault is a novel reinterpretation of an ancestral technique, revived by AVN in order to allow access to appropriate and affordable housing to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. AVN bases its action on key technical innovations, adapted to the Sahelian climate, resources and social and economical context.

 

The Nubian Vault (NV) technique is an age-old method of timber-less vault construction, originating in Upper Egypt. It uses only earth bricks and earth mortar. Nubian Vaults built over 3,500 years ago at the Ramesseum Mortuary Temple in Luxor are still standing.

 

During the last fifteen years, AVN has successfully introduced a simplified, standardised version of this ancient technique in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin and Ghana. This standardised NV technique is:

  • ecologically sustainable: no corrugated iron roofing sheets, nor timber beams, rafters, or supports
  • carbon neutral - none of the construction materials are manufactured, or transported long distances, nor do any trees need to be cut down
  • economically viable: only locally available raw materials (earth, rocks, and water) are used, favouring local economic circuits and self-sufficiency
  • comfortable: due to the excellent thermal and acoustic insulation properties of earth construction
  • durable: NV buildings have a far longer lifetime than those with corrugated iron and timber roofs, and maintenance is simple
  • modular: applicable to a wide range of buildings (houses, schools, healthcentres...), of different styles (flat terrace roofs, two-storey buildings, courtyard buildings...), which are easily extendable
  • vernacular: incorporating tradtional practices and aesthetics of earth architecture

 

AVN's simplified and standardised version of the technique has been adapted to the climatic conditions and traditional know-how of the Sahel region, making it easy to learn on-the-job:

  • roofs are exclusively vaulted (no domes), and can incorporate a traditional flat roof-terrace
  • vaults are a standard width (3,25 metres), made from mud bricks of a standard size
  • a guide cable is used to define the curvature of the vault
  • walls are a standard thickness, and openings for doors and windows a standard size
  • plastic sheeting is incorporated in the roof to reduce water penetration and erosion (...)

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