By Ray Brosnan
As urban developments across Africa continue to grow, the architectural styles and design trends that are being used are continually evolving. One of the main trends—and an understandable one is given the plight of the environment lately—is one of sustainability, making use of recyclable materials.
Homes that are built with sustainability and the environment in mind are often win-win in the sense that, not only do they benefit the environment, but they are also more cost-effective for the people who live there. Requiring as little energy as possible, as well as being more efficient with things like water usage, makes perfect sense for African homes, but what other trends are popular right now? Let’s take a look.
One thing that often surprises people from the Northern Hemisphere is the need for strong roofing in African houses. The perception is often that because Africa is typically warm, that the weather may be a little more forgiving on properties.
Unfortunately, the combination of warm—often hot—weather and rainy seasons requires a robust solution, which is why materials like slate and metal, asphalt, and even concrete are finding more and more use on African homes. These materials must provide adequate thermal qualities, bearing in mind that, unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, African homes are often trying to keep the heat out rather than in.
One of the ways African homes are achieving those sustainable goals we mentioned is by incorporating more traditional styles and building techniques. Africa has been a hot continent for all of human history—certainly, all of the history that involved us building—and things like air conditioning and electricity are very recent in that context.
By making use of traditional designs, African homes stay cooler and more protected from the elements without the need for excessive technological assistance. One example of this is the traditional Maasai Manyatta design, which can remain cool even when the temperatures outside start to climb.
Letting Nature In
While the need for urban development in Africa is obvious, there will always be a reluctance to trade the beauty of nature for human-made construction, and Africa has some of the most breath taking nature on the planet.
That is why it is becoming increasingly popular to incorporate lots of windows, larger windows, and outdoor spaces, such as balconies and porches. These not only reduce the need for electricity during the daylight hours, but they also make the home feel less separate from nature beyond the walls.
Another growing trend among African homes is the incorporation of tribal art in interior design. African people are typically immensely proud of their heritage, and it makes perfect sense that they would want to take that heritage with them into their new homes.
Architects often look to bring these elements into new African houses, blending traditional tribal themes with modern designs and vibrant colours, all the while keeping a cohesive look and feel.
Building sustainable homes are not just about day-to-day living—the electricity bills and water usage—the construction process can also take a heavy toll on the environment. This is why renovation, rather than new construction, is often considered when building new homes.
Renovating existing structures not only reduces the cost in materials of building a new home, but it can also often decrease the financial cost as well. Especially when the original property that is to be renovated is abandoned or mostly unused.
Accessible Living for the Elderly
Multi-generational living has long been an African tradition, with elderly family members living with their younger counterparts, so that they can be cared for by their loved ones in their twilight years
Of course, this means there are certain things to factor in with the design of the property.
Things like ground floor bedrooms and bathrooms, handrails where needed, slip-proof tiling, and other aspects that make life a little easier for the more senior members of the family.
In the face of this, constantly evolving African house design continues to innovate, finding ways to incorporate sustainable, efficient living with modern and traditional techniques alike, all the while staying true to the cultural roots of the region.
Innovation is so often borne of necessity, and it would not be unexpected if Africa soon finds itself serving as a major source of architectural inspiration for the rest of the world.
Ray Brosnan is the co-owner of Brosnan Property Solutions, a property maintenance company who help many homeowners and businesses with their property needs.