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Abo Alanda Affordable Housing

Client : Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) & Ministry of Public Works

Location : Abo Alanda, Amman- Jordan

Competition : UNHABITAT Green Affordable Housing Competition in Abo Alanda

Year : 2010

Main Conceptual Statement

Rethinking sustainability and humanity in our approach to ecological architecture and affordable housing centering on efficiency in everyday practice and a unique built landscape aesthetics were appearance is shaped by ideas of ecological performance and the built environment is intelligently integrated into the landscape. The building design adopts a holistic and all-inclusive system that incorporates occupants as participants in energy and water efficient everyday practices. A reciprocal model promoting a more interactive role between occupants and nature where both form an ecosystem of shared dependency was adopted.

The starting point was to maximize the use of passive design for conserving energy and water in buildings and the site as a whole. At the building scale, several issues were taken into consideration such as:

  • Orientation: The buildings were oriented to face south and stretched longitudinally on an East-West axis while living rooms of all 4 apartments in any floor enjoyed southern exposure.

  • Mass Compactness: The design made best use of the steep land and located parking within the structure of the building instead of locating it within setbacks which would have infringed on natural terrain. Parking is accessed from the lower street level. Each building is composed of two shifting vertical units based on their placement on different land plots; each unit is composed of two apartments on each floor.

  • Zoning of functions within each apartment: Each apartment has its own living room and balcony facing south with a glass area that enables it to trap more heat during winter. Balconies offer a breathing space for occupants, emphasizing the idea of bringing nature into the house especially with the sliding plant screens that act as vertical gardens. The bathrooms are aligned linearly opening up to adjacent shafts for ventilation reducing plumbing costs.

  • Sizing and design of window units corresponding to each façade: The southern façade is distinct for using clear glass windows with sun breakers and sliding plant screens that moderate summer and winter temperatures. During summer, the sliding screens could be placed in front of the window creating shade and cooling effect, while during winter it could be slid aside to allow more sun to penetrate the space, the plants are selected to be deciduous. Eastern and Western windows use clear glass and have a Clostra edge that act as a vertical sun breaker. On the northern facades; windows form insulating units, limited in number and area.

  • Construction method, materials and insulation treatments: The building structure is a fly-ash concrete post and beam system, and the exterior wall infill is composed of double hollow concrete block with polystyrene insulation in between and stucco as an outer finish layer. The roof and other exposed floors are insulated with 5cm polystyrene. The internal walls of the apartments are made of paper Crete which is a green material of paper recycled content that could be produced through a community development project to generate income for local residents and to contribute to the sustainable development of the community and environment.


  • Solar Thermal Water Heating Collectors: The whole roof area is used for placing solar collectors that are tilted at a 47-degree angle (optimal for winter). At winter, heated water by solar panels is circulated not only for domestic use, but also for heating space through radiators where solar heated water is fed into boilers thus decreasing fuel amounts needed to heat relatively colder water.

  • Greywater Reuse System: Greywater is filtered for the irrigation of ornamental plants only in the outdoor areas, and further filtered by chlorination for toilet flushing.

  • Water Conserving Landscapes: A comprehensive approach to water conservation was used at site scale, utilizing filtered greywater from buildings to irrigate plants by gravity (without needing pumps), and harvesting rainwater runoff from the hard landscaped surfaces of the site to be collected by a trench at the lower street leading to a water well at the main intermediate garden to be used for irrigation.

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