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Marianne Loof | Innovative heat management

03 July 2015

Cobouw marianne loof 150630 innovatief door de hittex

The Hague – The tropical weather in the Netherlands this week was reminiscent of the climate in Mali, where my business partner is currently visiting our projects: about 36 degrees in the boiling sun.

We are implementing a heat management plan at home, while heat is an issue that has to be contended with on a daily basis there. Here, we have well-insulated homes, trees and shade, and we have air conditioning and cold showers to cool us down. In Mali, life virtually grinds to a halt between 11 o’clock in the morning and 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, it is precisely these harsh conditions, coupled with poverty and a lack of building materials, that produce exceptional innovations that we can utilise here too. Whereas we require ever more installations here to protect us from environmental conditions (cold and heat), we use other strategies there out of necessity.

Traditionally, the Dogon people knew what to do. The Dogon culture has been studied by architects and artists since the sixties. Their traditional method of building with loam provides dark but cool, small houses. The problem however, is that the sun-dried loam is washed away every year during heavy downpours.

Applying a Dutch innovation - a high-pressure loam press that can be mounted behind a car - local builders can now make bricks from the loam, comparable in terms of compression strength to our own Dutch baked bricks. Locally trained bricklayers use this stone, made from locally-sourced loam, to construct new (school) buildings with a cool and comfortable indoor climate. Floors, walls and roofs are made of the same loam bricks using plans we produce here in 3D drawings according to brick size, using the expertise of the Romans who were able to build large arches and domes with roofs out of stone.

This 2000-year-old collective knowledge produces something from which we can learn in the Netherlands: innovative, minimally labour-intensive, climate-resilient, sustainable use of materials, local anchorage and beautiful architecture.