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< prev - next > Construction Earth construction woodless construction 3 (Printable PDF)
Woodless construction: change and adaptation to local needs
Practical Action
drawn upon Development
Workshop's earlier experience of
building with vaults and domes in
Egypt and Iran countries which
many centuries ago, facing similar
conditions, developed their own
techniques of dome and vault
construction using mud bricks.
In practical terms, adaptation of
the traditional vault and dome
techniques to the Sahelian context
has focused on two main aspects:
making the techniques easier
to learn and use - often for
illiterate and sometimes non-
numerate builders - and thus
making the techniques
Figure 2: A mobile rotating guide at work.
respond to local needs and expectations - which includes keeping costs low and providing the
shapes and appearance that the public want.
Adaptation has reflected both observations of local building techniques in the Sahel and discussion
with the builders of each locality. The evolution of building techniques and forms is inspired by local
practice, by local building techniques and styles, and by existing local solutions to problems and
needs. Finding a solution to today's needs is thus a question of mixing viable existing local ideas
such as the use of local wall renders with the new woodless construction techniques.
Making woodless construction quicker to learn
The most important aspect of change in the way
woodless construction has been introduced has
been the development of a clearly structured
training process managed by trained trainers. In
both Egypt and Iran, traditionally builders learnt
through an apprenticeship system with the
guidance of a master mason. Gradually an
apprentice would be allowed to do more and more
complex structures. This could take many years. In
West Africa, with the pressing need to slow down
the excessive cutting of trees, there has not been
the time to slowly develop the skills of new builders
in an apprenticeship process. DW therefore
developed a faster training approach using a
detailed curriculum and specially designed training
structures, a process which works efficiently. The
training module for starter builders lasts three
weeks and enables a novice builder to reach the
point where he can build his own woodless house
and in the second part of the training, each trainee
does indeed build his own home using the woodless
construction techniques. For more detail on the
organisation and content of training cycles, (see
Woodless Construction - 2: The training of trainers
and builders).
Figure 3: CSB uses local hand made local
adobe bricks - no presses and no cement.