Building technique and technology in the West African country of Senegal may soon be revolutionized by builders in a community in the historically relevant Isle of Gorée in the capital city of Dakar. This is because an architecture company with an interest in bioclimatic designs is reverting to red earth instead of concretes for building.
The firm, Worofila, has championed this cause since 2016 and has chalked modest success. Worofila is cooperative and it constitutes of architects, engineers and contractors who are specialized in using earth for construction. Based in Senegal and France, its main mission is the design and construction of green buildings in Senegal.
The value objective for Worofila is to create an awareness of the destructive capacity of cement which accounts for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is overwhelmingly common to see concrete buildings in Senegal and all other African countries but Worofila thinks the fight against climate change should force a reimagination of where we live as well.
“Before air conditioning, people paid attention to materials and orientation for the natural regulation of heat. The moment A/C arrived, these considerations went out the window,” said Worofila co-founder Nzinga Mboup to Reuters.
Using red earth mud for building houses has an incredibly long history in Africa. However, after colonization when development was marked by rural-urban migration as well as infrastructure development, mud houses have been associated with rural areas, villages and poverty. But as has been shown by many tests, shelters built with mud naturally regulate room temperatures based on the intensity of the weather.
This is what Worofila wants to bring back. Making earth bricks tends to be easier with laborers mixing the earth with a very little amount of cement for adhesive. The blocks are shaped out of the mixture and then compressed with a hand-held machine. For three weeks, the earth blocks are allowed to dry in the open.
Earth blocks are easier to make but building earth homes or mudhouses is expensive now. This is because concrete is cheaper. But according to Doudou Deme, a partner of Worofila, demand is going through the roof.
“At the start we were looking for clients. Today we don’t look for them. We have a lot of demand,” Deme said.”