Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)
From “The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)” on No Tech Magazine:
The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-storey buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.
In “Tiles as a substitute for steel“, we highlighted the medieval art of the medieval timbrel vault, which allowed for structures that today no architect would dare to build without steel reinforcements. The technique is cheap, fast, ecological and durable. Shortly after the article was published in 2008, the timbrel vault made a comeback with two rather spectacular buildings: Richard Hawkes’ Crossway Passive House in England, and Peter Rich’s Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa.
The cardboard formwork technique described last week promises to bring even more dramatic architecture, but at least as interesting is the news that the catalan vault is now also applied to a much more modest form of housing: the Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU), a low-cost family dwelling built in Ethiopia.
Though less spectacular at first sight, it could form the proof that even megacities can be constructed without the use of steel, concrete or wood.
The double-story building, which was completed in last summer, is entirely made from soil and presents an economical and ecological solution to many of Africa’s most urgent problems. The SUDU stands in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a country with a population of more than 80 million (growing at an average 7 percent per year). The building is a joint project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).
The SUDU combines past technologies from different continents, resulting in a new approach to low-tech construction adapted to specific local conditions. In the Mediterranean region, where the timbrel vault originated, the tiles have traditionally been made from fired clay. In the SUDU, the construction technique is united with the African tradition of cement-stabilized, soil-pressed bricks, which use locally available soil. This technique is called compressed earth block (CEB) construction. The SUDU has been built largely following the same techniques used for the Mapungubwe Centre in South Africa.
Read the full article to find out more about resource pressures and engineering details.