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< prev - next > Construction Earth construction woodless construction 1 (Printable PDF)
Woodless construction: A south south technology transfer by
Development Workshop over 30 years to address the
environmental and construction issues of the West African
Sahel region
"Woodless Construction"
(Construction sans Bois CSB) is
the name attributed in the Sahel
countries of West Africa to the
construction of vault and dome
roofed buildings using ordinary sun
dried mud bricks. The name
reflects the original motivation for
introducing these ancient Middle
Eastern techniques to West Africa
reducing the consumption of
timber in construction, and
therefore reducing pressure on the
fragile Sahel environment. The
vaulted and the domed roofs are
built using techniques which have
their origin in Iran and Egypt. The
most important characteristic of
these roofs is that they are built
without any supporting shuttering,
nor any wood. The bricks for both
walls and roofs are formed in
simple wooden or metal
rectangular moulds, the mud
smoothed by hand and dried in the
Figure 1: "Local" means the distance donkeys and carts can
open air on the ground - the
method already used throughout the region. Thus the entire structure - walls, lintels, and roofs - is
built with locally available earth.
Why Woodless Construction?
Although some people can afford cement blocks and corrugated iron roofing, most cannot and the
majority of dwellings in the Sahel still depend on the use of organic materials for the structure of the
roof, and often for the supporting walls as well. Flat-roofed buildings traditionally use large wooden
beams and battens to provide the support for woven mats and then layers of compacted earth on top
of the roof. Thatched roofs also use poles, branches and roots to support the grass or cereal stem
thatch. Surveys have shown that for almost all such structures the availability and quality of wood or
branches has deteriorated markedly in the past thirty years1. Finding good and long lasting timber
1 Surveys undertaken in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali include ongoing studies by DW and the following: Uhde, M-L
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