09 May 2018
M'zab Valley, Algeria
Sustainable Housing & Construction

Within many different cultures, home is much more than a simple shelter, it is a living space that provides comfort and protection. Against the backdrop of a more sustainable economy, green and eco-friendly homes are thriving in line with innovative developments and technological advances. In Algeria, one man has figured out how to combine the modern and the traditional; cutting-edge innovation and ancient craftsmanship. Daddi Addoun El Khoudir has taken on the challenge of building a better world.

In the distance, you can make out five ksours (fortified cities), perched on a rocky hillside, 600 kilometers south of Algiers in the M’Zab valley. The ksours seem to blend into the landscape – since the 10th century, they have been specifically designed to support a communal way of life. Comfortable, basic, and built using locally-available resources, the houses in these fortified cities still stand strong, in the midst of modern, concrete buildings which are gradually dominating the urban landscape.

El Khoudir is in awe of these ancient houses, which represent the true historical and architectural heritage of the area. Born and bred in the M’Zab region, and a structural engineer, he is fully committed to preserving this heritage, which today finds itself under threat. So, what’s his solution? We should rethink our approach to construction from a more eco-friendly and sustainable point of view, taking inspiration from the old houses in the ksours. For he believes that they provide us with an efficiency benchmark due to how they were designed and the materials used to build them.”

This project has driven him to set up his own company – ‘The Oasis Builders’. He describes it as an eco-friendly construction company which draws on traditional building methods. His main objective is straightforward: to combine the traditional and the modern, and protect skills, the environment, and the local economy, all at the same time. It involves adapting construction methods to suit environmental conditions, thereby creating energy-efficient houses. Equally, it involves selecting the right materials: stone, limestone and raw soil, and eco-friendly and locally-sourced within the region itself. That in addition to making use of local labour, thereby contributing to the economic and social growth of his region.

His project is, therefore, three-dimensional: environmental, economic, and social. Designing and creating ‘intelligent buildings’, which also involve traditional construction techniques, is part of the drive for a more sustainable and green economy.

Faced with the prospect of the valley being buried under concrete, and fully aware of the need to take direct action to preserve the architectural heritage of his home region, El Khoudir grasped the opportunity to take part in SwitchMed training. This training programme has allowed him to pinpoint his idea, and to gradually launch his project.

“I continue to receive support from SwitchMed, to raise the profile of my project, and to increase buy-in from stakeholders.”

During the 8-month business incubation period, SwitchMed is supporting the launch of his company, particularly in terms of marketing and communication strategies.

El Khoudir is also keeping one eye on the past, whilst looking intently towards the future.There’s a lot riding on him, as he takes his first steps towards creating a greener, more sustainable world.

For more information check their website.

This story was originally published on the SwitchMed website.

Les Bâtisseurs des Oasis Sustainable Housing & Construction
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