Design of a Model Water- and Energy-Efficient Low-Income Apartment Building in Abu Alanda, Jordan.

Abu Alanda Housing
Abu Alanda Housing
Abu Alanda Housing
Abu Alanda Housing

Entry for the „Affordable Housing for the Future“ Competition by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) and the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) and the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDC)


The typical four-story apartment block has become a common housing typology in urban areas across Jordan and is being adopted by developers in large-scale housing complexes, especially in the limited-income sector. It is hoped that the competition will generate further creative ideas in the design of water- and energy-efficient dwellings and propose aesthetic, practical, and sustainable solutions for urban areas in the highlands. Such ideas are particularly significant given the current economic conditions in Jordan where lowering the running cost of low-income housing has become a priority for both private- and public-sector limited-income housing developers.


Conceptual Design:

A local “solution” to housing cannot separate local environmental and cultural needs; both aspects must be taken into consideration. Looking to traditional Arab-Islamic architectural styles we find many environmentally and culturally relevant designs that still fit perfectly for our modern needs.


Looking at the unit from the outside, the façade is closed, having few small openings to allow light, but preventing excessive heat gain and keeping the interior space private. Mashrabiyas are used to lessen heat gain even further and enhance the sense of privacy people long for in their homes, permitting buildings to be built closer together.


Homes may still be provided with a view and ample sunlight by the open courtyard at the center of the building. This design is emulating the open-courtyard houses well known in the Arab world whether it be the single story houses of Damascus or the multi story units of Morocco. The windows facing the courtyard are large, allowing natural daylight to come in without direct sunlight that would heat up the building. Also, natural ventilation is provided, without costly and energy intensive systems.


Apart from adding benefits to the individual apartments, the courtyard is made so as to be a place for gardening and landscaping where the building community can gather for recreation and socializing. This courtyard can become the center of the building both physically and emotionally, where various community activities can occur. The inner courtyard will provide a breathing lung for the building, where the city air is cleaned by the plant life, ventilated naturally by the roof chimney effect.


Underneath the building an 185.000 liter cistern for grey water and rainwater catchment that will provide the building inhabitants with an extra source of water for watering gardens, cleaning cars, etc. The size of the cistern is calculated to buffer the peaks in production and demand for grey water and rain water. The design proposes separating the “grey water” and “black water” produced by the building inhabitants. The grey water coming from showering, bathing and hand washing can be recycled by the proposed “green” plant filtration system and moved to a cistern at the bottom of the building. Black water produced by washing machines and toilets goes straight to the regular sewage works.


The walls of the building are double layered, consisting of lime-cement plaster from the outside, a red brick layer, an air void, a compressed earth brick (CEB) layer and finally a lime-gypsum plaster. This combination of materials allows for the most natural and low energy form of cooling and heating. The accurately calculated investment cost for the proposed design amount to approx. 0,5 mio JD (1 block with 8 units, 121 sqm net usable area for each unit).


After approx. 10 years the savings from water and energy preserving measures (double plumbing work, double layered wall, ventilated roof etc.) compensate the extra costs for those measures. From then on the proposed energy and water preserving design “pays back“: After 20 years the savings amount to approx 2 mio JD for the proposed design when implementing the energy and water preserving measures.


Scope of Work:

conceptual design, cost calculation, Life-Cycle-Cost-Analysis, 3d modelling, rendering