The Mashrabiya House Beats the Heat with Traditional Arabic Technique

green design, passive design, sustainable architecture, green design, eco-designThis contemporary home located between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is wrapped in a Mashrabiya screen, which keeps the home nice and cool even on scorching hot days.

We’ve lauded the benefits of  ancient building techniques many times before. Both Hassan Fathy’s incredible mud structures in Egypt and ancient Syrian beehives are a model for sustainable design because neither require an air-conditioner to stay cool. But don’t worry. It isn’t necessary to live in a mud building or a cave in order to enjoy the benefits of passive design.

This 1700 square meter home designed by Senan Abdelqader is a contemporary stand out among the solid stone homes that typify architecture in the Palestinian village Beit Safafa located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It is wrapped in a mashrabiya – a latticed screen envelope on the outside of buildings that is not only aesthetically appealing, but also serves several practical functions.

green design, sustainable design, eco-design, passive design

The terraced home’s basement is tucked into the side of a steep slope. Natural lighting is facilitated with sunken courtyards that act as light wells. From this stout base emerges the rest of the home which is wrapped in a stone mashrabiya facade.

Stone is an excellent building material since it has superior thermal massing. In other words, it absorbs the heat of the day which can then be released at night when it is cooler. That being said, most of the stone being used in this region is Jerusalem stone – and its excess use exacts a steep environmental cost.

green design, sustainable design, passive design, eco-design

Set apart from the building, the pixelated envelope serves multiple functions: it circulates air to provide passive cooling, it deflects excess solar gain as well as wind and rain, and it allows just the right amount of diffused light to enter the home. This beautiful home also has a rooftop garden.

Arch Daily notes that Beit Safafa is on the precipice of rapid urbanization. If that is the case and it has to be, we at least hope that other homes in the region will look to Abdelqader’s sustainable leadership for inspiration.

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