Arches, vaults and cupolas can often provide a good solution for covering all kinds of buildings of all sizes. However, their acceptability and suitability to genuine needs and local climatic conditions cannot always be taken for granted. This means that preliminary surveys are required. These enable one to choose the correct option and select suitable technical solutions. In order to ensure that structures are well designed and well built, specialized training must be given at all levels: design, engineering and construction.
Mastering the technology
The experience acquired over the last twenty years has allowed the design and construction of buildings using arch, vault and cupola structures to be mastered once again. The technology is now used in several areas of the world: the Sahel belt of Africa, the Near and the Middle East, India, Central America. Initially launched in Niger, the "Woodless Construction" programme suggests simple technical solutions, well-suited to the local context, and follows a policy of research and training which ensures a major impact amongst local people. Winner of the "Habitat" Award 1992, this programme is now spreading to other countries of the Sahel.
Research and development
Even though arches, vaults and cupolas are already well known, research and development programmes are being carried out, mainly in four areas: 1 - systematic identification of models and types, and the various ways of using them; 2 - suitable tools to substitute for the know-how of traditional builders; 3 - perfecting simplified methods of calculation; 4 - techniques to prevent rainwater infiltration: water-proofing, runoff, surface maintenance.
Project of the architect Hassan Fathy, built in 1981 in New Mexico, USA