Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Residential Building Design, 1st Impression

Prior to my departure for Johannesburg, I was warned to pack for cold nights:

“It’s winter there and they don’t have insulation or heaters.  Bring your warm clothes, even though it’s Africa.”

The houses here are designed for hot weather: single level, tiled floors, dark rooms, etc.  They remind me of the houses I’ve seen in Arizona and Honduras.

But it isn’t always hot here.

The week before I arrived in Johannesburg, it snowed!  My friend sent me the following link of photos to prepare me for this new country on the other side of the world:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19163119

 It doesn’t snow often; the previous recorded snowfalls were in May 1956, August 1962, June 1964, September 1981, and June 2007.  But it happens.  And even if it’s not snowing, it’s cold at night.  The temperature is below freezing and, with no insulation, it feels like camping in your own house.

 People here just endure the cold weather.  My co-worker said, “When it’s only cold for 3 months of the year, it doesn’t make sense to have double-paned windows.”

 Um… three months is 1/4 of the year.  That’s a long time to freeze in your own home!

 My new friends keep joking, “Look at how bundled up you are!  Aren’t you used to Canadian winters?  Aren’t you used to the cold weather?”

 I’ve gotten tired of explaining to people that Vancouver does experience the stereotypical “Canadian” winter.  Instead I say, “I’m also used to central heating.”

 I am trying to hold back my judgments regarding SA architecture.  I’m sure I’ll recognize its value once summer begins.  But right now, I honestly think a little insulation could go a long way.

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One thought on “Residential Building Design, 1st Impression

  1. Dark rooms for hot weather? (is that because lighter colored rooms reflect radiant light and heat up faster?).

    Haha 3 months is a significant chunk of the year, indeed.

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