The effects of climatic conditions on attitudinal changes towards earth construction in South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 13
  • SDG 11
  • Abstract:

    English: Earth construction is an appropriate method for building houses in arid and semi-arid areas in South Africa due to its low environmental impact and responsible use of on-site resources. A South African Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD) project conducted by the University of the Free State’s Earth Unit focused on attitudes and perceptions towards building materials used to construct houses in poor communities. For this article, quantitative attitudinal responses from the SANPAD survey and objective rainfall and temperature measurements were analysed for the 2004 dry season before rainstorms (n=784) and for the 2006 wetter season during/ after rainstorms (n=609). Using a quasi-experimental research design, the study investigates changes in attitudes after rainstorms in relation to respondents’ preferred building materials, preferred qualities of materials, and reasons for disliking earth materials. This article reports on the results of an investigation into the effects of local climatic conditions on changes in the acceptability of building materials with a focus on earth construction. Results indicate that rainfall reinforces and intensifies people’s disapproval of earth as a building material and shift perceptions from aesthetic considerations to strength/safety/ durability. Severity of rainstorms and extreme temperatures also seem to shape people’s perceptions of materials. Perceptions of earth bricks were more negative after the storms and people became more concerned about rain. Findings suggest a link between climatic conditions and perceptions of earth constructed buildings. An understanding of the present attitudes towards earth construction is necessary in order to support traditional earth construction as an acceptable way forward in contemporary architecture.