A dwelling needs to protect its occupants from the heat and from the cold.
Excessive heat is the cause of a common feeling of tiredness and reduces our stamina. This state of tiredness does not let children perform well in school.
Excessive heat at night does not let us sleep well and feel rested in the morning when we have to face our daily responsibilities. This lack of sleep and this feeling of tiredness robs us of our energy and our enthusiasm for many good things in life, including our sense of humor.
Excessive cold makes us wear more clothing and demands more energy from our bodies. This extra demand reduces our energy level and makes our bodies more vulnerable to the common cold, the flu and many respiratory problems.
We often say that we got a cold because of the cold weather. But it is not the cold weather that makes us get a cold or a flu. It is the extra demand on our energy levels that weakens our energy reserves making our bodies more vulnerable to these ailments common during the cold months of the year.
Excessive cold at night, just as excessive heat, does not let us sleep well.
It is very important the we feel protected from the cold and the heat when we are inside our dwellings. It is very important that a building, and especially a dwelling, provide a comfortable environment to its occupants.
We cannot do anything to control the temperature and the humidity of the outside air, but we can do a lot to control the temperature and humidity of the air inside our dwellings.
Good ventilation helps a lot, but it is also necessary to protect the interior of our dwellings from the excessive effect of the sun. This is an important role for walls and roofs and can be accomplished by insulating well walls and roofs. Insulation stops the outside heat from entering the building.
When the weather is cold, or at night when the sun goes down, good wall and roof insulation will keep the interior heat from escaping to the outside cold air.
Walls that are made with adobe, mud, mud bricks, straw or wood products offer a better insulation to the cold and the heat than walls made out of concrete blocks and corrugated iron sheets.
Mud, straw, palm leaves and various wood products are much better insulating materials for building walls.
It is very important to ensure that walls and roofs protect us from the wind and do not let through unwanted air currents. This is very important.
Dwellings that are made out of so called traditional materials are much more comfortable than those built out of concrete and iron sheets.
These dwellings can be very attractive and friendly over and above being much more comfortable.
Similarly, roofs made out of traditional materials such as straw, palm leaves or wood products offer better insulation to the heat and the cold than iron sheets, the most common material used in our dwellings and other buildings.
These traditional materials may not protect us from the rain as well as iron sheets do and may need more ongoing maintenance. Two of the reasons why they have been used less and less. The price we pay in comfort is a dwelling that is much hotter when the sun shines and much colder when the sun sets.
However we can use metal sheets protected by a layer of insulation made out of those well known traditional materials such as straw or other dry vegetable products. This layer of insulation can be applied from the inside or from the outside giving the building a more traditional look.
On the inside, in addition to straw or palm leaves, we can use bags of rice husks, or other dried shells, attached to the interior of the roof structure with a wire mesh or pieces of string or rope made of natural fibers.
As in the picture above, this may not look very nice. But we can easily improve on the appearance if we cover the ceiling with a mat made out of natural fibers as in the picture below.
There is an endless number of ideas that can be used to build a comfortable dwelling. On the oriental coast of our equatorial Africa there are buildings where the roof is separated and elevated from the ceiling of the building. Just like the picture below although the actual look is not as modern.
In those buildings a corrugated steel roof is separate from the ceiling and built over a ceiling made of wood, reeds and mud. The outside air circulates freely between the ceiling and the roof. This makes the building much more comfortable than the typical building where the roof and the ceiling are attached with no air circulation in between, or those buildings without ceiling at all.
In these buildings the ceiling protects the occupants from the cold and the heat. The roof protects the building from the direct sun light and the rain. A very practical and efficient combination.
I am going to explore this idea a bit more in another blog. I think it has a lot of potential.