A newly built earthbag orphanage in the rural outskirts of Nakuru, Kenya is one of the latest examples of how passive solar design is paving the way to sustainable and affordable architecture across Africa. Designed by humanitarian design organization Orkidstudio, the St. Jerome's Center houses the Kikuyu community's disadvantaged children within an airy and brightly colored space. The project is made from clayey soil that was excavated on-site for foundation, sanitation, and rainwater storage purposes, and then packed into grain bags to form earth bricks.
The Nakuru earthbag orphanage stands out from the surrounding architectural typology, which is dominated by stone and concrete homes. The use of local earth as the primary construction material not only gives the orphanage a warm appearance, but also absorbs heat during the day to help passively cool the structure and then releases that heat at night to regulate temperatures. The orphanage is also clad in timber recycled from pillar cores, a waste product of veneer processing. Clean running water is provided through a system that combines on-site rainwater harvesting and the integrated community tap.
Unlike the typical African orphanage which groups children en masse into large dormitories, the St. Jerome’s Center is separated into smaller rooms that occupy four to given children more privacy. In addition to the rooms, the new light-filled orphanage offers a variety of social spaces, including open communal areas and quieter spaces for solitary study. The project was completed in just eight weeks with the help of a small group of UK architecture students.
Images via Orkidstudio