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Al-Saqqaf on Hadrami Architecture


Dr. Abobakr Al-Sakkaf is an assistant professor at Hadhramout University. He received his PhD in Architectural Engineering from the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada. Recently he published a book entitled “Towards a Climate-Sensitive Vernacular Architecture In the Arabian Peninsula”.


Traditional mud brick architecture has been used for centuries in the construction of urban centers and residential homes, buildings, fortresses, and mosques across the Middle East and beyond. Despite the historical importance of this traditional form of architecture, which in countries like Yemen continues to serve as the visual record of a nation’s history and heritage, the scientific literature available is mostly restricted to identifying the modern challenges to its continued survival and preservation.


This book is a case study of the ancient city of Shibam in Yemen’s Hadhramaut Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a leading example of traditional mud brick architecture. In particular, this book focuses on the impact of local climatic conditions on the design of residential buildings in Shibam. In addition, this book examines how local climate and the surrounding environment affects residential building design in the ancient city of Shibam, Hadhramaut. Given the typically hot and dry climate that is characteristic of much of southern Arabia, the General Electric Foundation estimates that residential buildings in Shibam consume about 26% of the city’s total electrical energy produced. Accordingly, the choice of an appropriate envelope for these residential buildings, in terms of its thermal characteristics, in addition to other considerations, can contribute effectively to reducing the city’s electrical power consumption. Other important factors that help in the rationalization of energy consumption include the choice of more appropriate building materials, the wall thickness, a building’s orientation, and the number of wall openings, taking into consideration the heat generated by the human body. Moreover, the main objective of this book is to examine and design the most suitable custom-tailored envelope for Shibam’s environmental context that will achieve the most optimal thermal comfort of residents while taking into account energy conservation as a key priority.


To sum up, this book identifies the compact shaped building of mud brick material, with a wall thickness of one meter, a southern orientation, and ten percent of its façade surface devoted to window openings (apertures) as the most energy-efficient model available. In addition, this book provides general guidelines for the most suitable combination of variables in terms of energy efficiency pertaining to the use of different construction materials.

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