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close this bookBASIN - News No. 13 - February 1997 : The Great Habitat Debate (BASIN-GTZ-SKAT, 1997, 31 p.)
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View the documentThe BASIN-AEA Awareness seminar for Egyptian decision makers

The BASIN-AEA Awareness seminar for Egyptian decision makers


An Awareness Seminar on Appropriate Building Technologies (ABT) was jointly conducted by BASIN and the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) in the newly completed AEA Guest House at the Inshas Science City Project site, about 40 km northeast of Cairo City. It took place from 14 to 25 September 1996.

The aim was to introduce a range of building technologies that have potential for application in Egypt and other countries of the, region, whereby the emphasis lay in the use of low-cost, locally available, and environmentally suitable materials, which can be processed with average skills and relatively low capital input on a small and medium scale.

In all, there were 29 participants, 24 of which were mainly Egyptian architects and engineers both from the private sector as well as governmental institutions, and 5 were architectural students.

The costs were shared between AEA and GATE, with contributions in kind from the other BASIN partners and Misereor.

Lectures and demonstrations

The seminar was opened by the AEA Chairman, Prof. Hisham F. Aly, at a ceremonial opening session at Sonesta Hotel in Cairo, attended by a number of dignitaries The participants and invited guests then proceeded to the AEA Guest House at Inshas for the introduction of the participants and lecturers.

The first working session was a keynote presentation by Hannah Schreckenbach, Vice-President of BASIN, who gave a general overview of the economic, social, environmental, technical and other aspects of appropriate building technologies, stressing the importance of utilizing local resources, of energy efficiency (not only in the application of a technology and ultimate use of a building, but also in the initial processing of raw materials) and of appropriate building design, in order to achieve significant improvements in the building sector.

Hugo Houben, President of BASIN and Vice-President of CRATerre, gave a general introduction to earth construction techniques worldwide and described possible applications in Egypt. He then went into greater depth on the production of compressed earth blocks (CEBs). A highlight of the seminar was his demonstration of soil testing methods. Adel Fahmy, one of the most experienced Egyptian architects in earth construction, demonstrated the production of CEBs on a manually operated press and many participants were then able to make their own CEBs.

In his slide presentation, Adel Fahmy showed examples of projects carried out by him in Egypt and West Africa, explaining the advantages of using "tafla", the clayey soil found all over the Egyptian Desert, which he had used for building his own house at Lake Karoon.

Hany El-Miniawy, another well-known Egyptian architect, described projects carried out in Algeria and Egypt, which included individual buildings as well as urban upgrading projects, eg the Nasriya Project in Aswan, Upper Egypt.

Prof. Raif Muhanna of Damascus University, Syria, presented his award-winning stone shell construction system using undressed natural stone, which is found on the ground all over Syria-hence no quarry and little energy is needed. The vaults of stone and cement mortar are constructed on wooden formwork and require no reinforcement.

An overview of energy-saving building materials, design principles and construction techniques was given by Prof. Gernot Minke of Kassel University, Germany. He then presented innovative earth construction technologies developed at his Building Research Laboratory. Under his guidance, at the demonstration site, the participants were able to lay bricks with the help of a rotation guide and learn the principles of constructing a structurally optimized dome.

The British architect and lime expert, Stafford Holmes, explained the traditional techniques of processing various building materials, particularly in the context of maintaining and repairing old buildings. In the demonstration shed, the participants were shown the principles of slaking quicklime, and were able to prepare and apply limewashes.

Hannah Schreckenbach's keynote presentation.

Solomon Mwangi, of ApproTEC, Kenya, explained the principles of micro concrete roof tile production, a technology that is quite unknown in Egypt, mainly because, until recently, sloped roofs have not been very common there. However, there are now good chances of introducing it as an economic alternative to burnt clay tile roofing, which is increasingly being used in new building projects. The participants were able to make MCR tiles themselves and were amazed how simple it was.

Realizing that many participants were not fully aware of the differences between various types of soil and natural stone, Gerhard Merschmeyer, the building materials expert of Misereor, Germany, focused his presentation on the identification of raw materials and suitable methods of processing them. He also devoted considerable time to brick production, with and without firing.

Khaled Nabil, architect and lecturer at Zagazig University, outlined the principles of ABT, describing it as a multi-disciplinary process rather than a choice of a product. Based on the example of interlocking blocks (developed in Thailand), he illustrated the difficulties of introducing a new technology in Egypt.

Prof. Samy Kamel of El Minia University, presented his vault construction system using natural limestone blocks, which are available in great quantities in Egypt. Prof. Abdelbaki Ibrahim, President of the Centre for Planning and Architectural Studies, Cairo, presented a project proposal for a housing scheme for sheltering the needy.

In his presentations, Sherif Aigohary, architect and co-ordinator of the Inshas Science City Project (see BASINnews No. 12), gave an overview of the project concept and described the principal passive design (energy saving) features of the buildings, both in theory and during a tour through them.


Three excursions were undertaken, each of which gave the participants and lecturers an opportunity to study traditional Egyptian architecture. The long trips in the bus also gave them a chance to discuss various issues of the seminar and draw up plans for future activities:

a. Visit to the house of Hamid Said

This was the first private house built with mud bricks by Hassan Fathy. It was built for his friend, Hamid Said, in 1942 and expanded in 1945. At that time, the house was surrounded by palms and open fields on the outskirts of Cairo, but now it is an oasis in the midst of a dense urban area (Marg), with brick and concrete buildings all around. Hamid Said and his wife, both artists, still live there and occasionally permit visitors to see the house and discuss art, architecture and philosophical themes with them.

b. Visit to the coptic monastery of St. Macarius and the Ramses Wissa Wassef Arts Centre

The monastery, located at Wadi El Natrun between Cairo and Alexandria, dates back to the 4th century A.D. It is not open to the public and can only be visited with special permission. Some of the finest examples of Coptic art and architecture can be seen there. Most of the old buildings have been carefully renovated to preserve their historic features, and several new buildings have been built since 1969. The monastery is completely self-sufficient, with large farm areas, power generator, farm buildings, health care facilities, as well as modern printing facilities.

The famous Arts Centre, named after the Egyptian architect, Ramses Wissa Wassef, is an excellent example of traditional Egyptian mud brick architecture (which won an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983). The Arts Centre, located near the pyramids of Gizeh, was built for poor children of the neighbourhood to learn traditional Egyptian crafts, such as carpet weaving, pottery and batik dyeing, the results of which have even been on display in several exhibitions in Europe

c. Visit to the House of the Sun and Wind

The house, owned and built by Adel Fahmy, is situated in a little village overlooking Lake Karoon, about 130 km southwest of Cairo. It was built mainly from the stone and "tafla" clay available on the 1750 m² site. When he began to build in 1936, he trained some villagers to build domes and vaults without shuttering, a technique that was new to them, but which they now master and have applied in many other buildings in the village.

Group work

At the end of the seminar, the participants were divided into four groups at random, and each was asked to draw up feasible proposals for follow-up activities based on the issues dealt with during the seminar. This exercise was a new experience for all the participants and resulted in some very interesting proposals, such as:

- establishing an Egyptian Earth Construction Association;

- preparing an ABT atlas for Egypt;

- setting up an ABT Building Advisory Service Centre;

- developing a mobile ABT workshop for demonstration in rural areas;

- implementing an ABT awareness seminar for small producers;

- collaborating with the Ministry of Industry to formulate ABT standards and building codes;

- revising the curriculum of the architectural course of Zagazig University and utilizing the workshop and equipment at Inshas for practical demonstrations and laboratory tests;

- building a new community for 20-25 young families, using ABT.


On the last day, the participants were asked to express their opinions about various aspects of the seminar. 10 boards had been prepared with questions regarding the suitability of the venue and seminar facilities, time schedule, sequence and content of lectures, the information material provided, and so on, In each case it was necessary to attach self-adhesive dots next to 2 or 3 possible answers, such as "good", "satisfactory" or "poor". In some cases, they had to write their comments on cards and pin them on the boards. By this method, views could be expressed anonymously, so nobody had to fear being asked to explain why a negative view was expressed or something was rated "poor". One could therefore expect a fairly impartial evaluation of the seminar, which on the whole received very positive ratings.

In reply to the question about the relative percentages of time that should be given to theory, case studies, practical demonstrations and excursions, should a similar seminar be organized again, the result was 25 % for theory, 25 % for case studies, 35 % for practical demonstrations and 15 % for excursions. Asked what they felt were the highlights of the seminar, the replies were:

- the visit to Hamid Said's house;
- the group work;
- the interactive method of conducting the seminar;
- the encouraging spirit of the lectures;
- the mixing of theory and practice;
- and, in view of the achievements of the lecturers, the confidence gained that things can be changed in Egypt.


Judging by the attention that the seminar received from the media (several news paper articles, special reports in architectural and scientific journals, and a full coverage by Nile TV), it undoubtedly made an impact in professional circles. Prof. Fawzy H. Hammad, the former Chairman of AEA and initiator of the Inshas Science City Project, who actively participated in some of the sessions and excursions, even spoke of this being a historic event for the Egyptian building sector.

Therefore, summing up the experience of this first awareness seminar on ABT in the Arab region, all the participants, lecturers and organizers felt that it was a great success. As the seminar evaluation showed, the degree of satisfaction was very high and many participants were eager to start projects to apply the knowledge acquired at the seminar. The participants have agreed to keep the BASIN members informed about their ongoing activities, which shall be reported in forthcoming issues of BASINnews.

Kiran Mukerji
Consultant Architect
Stamberg, Germany


With hopes and aspiration,
Men, women, children, youth and old
Step out of their homes into our global neighbourhood.
Many fulfil their desires and ambitions.
Millions remain desperate and defeated.

Our neighbourhood of villages, towns, cities and metropolis,
Our neighbourhood for jobs, food, clothing and homes,
Our neighbourhood is insecure and unsustainable.

Rich and poor nations in the north and the south,
In the east and the west of our neighbourhood
Have equal cornerstones to live and work in peace and security
Rich and poor have opportunities for a better neighbourhood.

Truthful living and hard work,
Enlightened leadership and effective governance,
Form the cornerstones of our better neighbourhood.
Friendships, partnerships and solidarity in
Our homes, factories and schools is the neighbourhood worship.

Sustainable environment, social and economic security for all,
Adequate shelter, health, education and employment for all,
do not have to be mere slogans for us all
Make them your goals and commitment to a new neighbourhood for all.

T.S. Chana, Kenya


Here I stand in Istanbul
Trying to understand all this confusion
I was warned, but never thought it would
Be so evident

Yes, I stumble over fallen shacks and houses
In Tibet, Atlanta and Turkey
As I mumble my housing rights
And my right to survive and exist.

I was warned, but never ever thought
The gap between the rich and the poor was so wide
The gap between NGO's and government was so wide
And the understand between NGO's
And the poor was so poor.

How much of this information will reach
The homeless? only God knows
Why is it so hard to give recognize and approve me my
Housing rights? Only they know.

Nevertheless I will continue
To mumble my housing rights
And probably take them if they not recognize
From an empty stomach
Maybe this time they will hear because, here I stand in Istanbul

This poem was dedicated to South African Homeless People
Patrick Hunsley Magebhula, South Africa


Second Asia Regional RAS Seminar
on Micro-Concrete Roofing Technology
Baguio City, Philippines: 9 - 14 June 1997

The international Roofing Advisory Service (RAS) hosted by SKAT (Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management) within the framework of BASIN (Building Advisory Service and Information Network) is organizing in cooperation with MCR Network Philippines, the Second Asia Regional RAS Seminar on Micro-Concrete Roofing (MCR) Technology.

This seminar will include experience sharing as well as specialized lectures intended to help participants deliver tiles and roofs of good quality. Topics will include roof substructure, limits of application, mix design, and cement additives. A field trip will also be organized to ongoing housing projects using MCR tiles exclusively.

If you are interested to participate, please contact:

SKAT/RAS Mr. Daniel Schwitter, Vadianstrasse 42, CH-9000 St.Gallen, Switzerland, Fax: 0041 71 223 54 55

or MSU-IIT/MSFI Mr. Daniel S. Mostrales, 9200 lligan City, Philippines, Fax: 0063 63 221 4056.


Building materials and construction technologies that are appropriate for developing countries, particularly in the low-income sector, are being developed, applied and documented in many parts of the world. This is an important prerequisite for providing safe, decent and affordable buildings for an ever-growing population.

But such new developments can do little to improve the building situation, as long as the information does not reach potential builders. The types and sources of information on standard and innovative building technologies are numerous and very diverse, making access to them difficult.

Thus, in order to remedy this drawback, Shelter Forum, GATE, ITDG, SKAT, CRATerre are cooperating in the Building Advisory Service and Information Network, which covers five principal subject areas and coordinates the documentation, evaluation and dissemination of information.

All five groups have a coordinated database from which is available on Documents, Technologies, Equipment, Institutions, Consultants as well as on Projects and Programs. In addition, printed material or individual advice on certain special subjects is provided on request. Research projects, training programs and other field work can be implemented in cooperation with local organizations, if a distinct need can be identified and the circumstances permit.

BASIN is a service available to all institutions and individuals concerned with housing, building and planning in developing countries, but can only function efficiently if there is a regular feedback. Therefore, any publications, information, personal experiences, etc. that can be made available to BASIN are always welcome and will help BASIN to help others.


Advisory Service provided by
Shelter Forum
P.O. Box 39493
22 Chiromo Access Road
Off Riverside Drive
Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: + 254 - 2 442108
Fax: + 264 - 2 - 445166
e-mail: [email protected]

Shelter Forum (SF) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations, which deal with issues on affordable shelter in Kenya. The main goal of SF is to enhance access to affordable shelter for all, particularly the poorest, among whom the most vulnerable are women and children, through advocacy, extension and networking.


Advisory Service provided by
P.O.Box 5180
D-65 726 Eschborn
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone: + 49 - 6196 - 79 3190
Fax: + 49 - 6196 - 79 7352
e-mail: [email protected]

GATE (German Appropriate Technology Exchange) a programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, acts as a centre for the dissemination and promotion of appropriate technologies for developing countries.


Advisory Service provided by
Myson House
Railway Terrace
Rugby CV21 3HT
United Kingdom
Phone: + 44 1788 - 660631
Fax + 44 1788 540270
e-mail: [email protected]

The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) is an independent British charity, founded by Dr. E.F Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, to help increase the income-generating and employment opportunities of small-scale industrial activities in developing countries.


Advisory Service provided by
Vadianstrasse 42
CH-9000 St.Gallen
Phone: + 41 - 71 - 228 54 54
Fax: + 41 - 71 - 228 54 55
e-mail: [email protected]

SKAT (Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management) is a documentation centre and consultancy group which is engaged in promoting appropriate technologies in the Third World.


Advisory Service provided by
CRATerre - EAG
Maison Levrat, Parc Fallavier
BP 63
F - 88092 Villefontaine Cedex
Phone: + 83 (0) 474 95 43 91
Fax: + 83 (0) 474 95 64 21
e-mail: [email protected]

CRATerre, the International Centre for Earth Construction, is a specialised unit of the school of Architecture of Grenoble, dedicated to the promotion of earth as a building material.