“In the midst of an energy crisis, a passive design on this school in Niamey, Niger has been a great success,” said a representative of Article 25. “Even when filled with up to 40 students, the classrooms stay significantly cooler than outside, with temperatures typically seven to eight degrees centigrade lower by mid-afternoon.”
Article 25, a humanitarian architecture firm that focuses on creating solutions for underserve communities, is behind the redesign of the Collège Amadou Hampaté Bâ. It’s a new school in Niger, West Africa that made the most of passive ventilation in a unique roof design to keep students cool despite an energy crisis and the hot climate.
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The school provides subsidized education for middle school children from low-income families. The goal in expanding the school is to offer the same educational experience for children in primary school up through high school in a “lycee” model that extends the full educational years of the children in the school. The school also wanted to build a high-quality facility that served as a model for other schools wanting to follow a similar model in Niger.
Additionally, the proposal included refurbishing existing classrooms. There is the addition of five new classroom blocks (totaling 20 classrooms), along with new administrative buildings, an assembly hall, library and latrine buildings. The water and electrical services were upgraded to improve the school’s self-reliance due to intermittent issues with municipal supply.
As a result, the school buildings use local materials. There is an adaptation of vernacular techniques to respond to the hot and challenging climatic conditions. The school aimed to create a “beautiful and comfortable spaces conducive to learning,” according the architects. Therefore, the principle building material used was a locally-quarried laterite stone, an underused building material local to Niger.
Furthermore, the construction of the school buildings gave the community an opportunity to train local masons in laterite construction techniques. It is in the hope that the skills will translate into future projects in the region.
The windows in the buildings are ventilated slat shutters. Above each building, arches allow air flow in and out of the building. They are covered by raised, metal single-pitch roofs perched high above the buildings to shade the buildings from the sun and allow additional air flow. It’s a unique design created exclusively for this region’s climate. When the temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside in the afternoon, the interior of the buildings can remain around 80 degrees Fahrenheit with no air conditioning.
Photography by Toby Pear