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The Nubian Vault

Traditional mud roofs in the Sahel

The Nubian vault is a traditional, ecological, cost-effective building technique, bringing improved living conditions to sub-Saharan Africa.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - The Nubian Vault
© La Voûte Nubienne

Strong, aesthetic and simple to construct, buildings using the Nubian vault technique are well insulated and cool – a blessing in the Sahel, where over 70 percent of people are inadequately housed (World Resources Institute/UN Habitat, 2006). The region is experiencing exponential population growth and deforestation. As a result, local people run up debts for expensive, short-lived corrugated iron roofing – a situation that trained builders Thomas Granier and Séri Youlou seek to remedy with a not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting the ancient Nubian vault technique, developed in Upper Egypt. Using only mud and stones, fifteen days are needed to build a 25-m2 house.

800 vaults were complete by September 2009, in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. 140 builders have been trained, and the project has created 4,000 months of salaried work. "We aim to spread knowledge of the vault over the widest possible area, so that it becomes integral to local building practice," says Thomas Granier. "Each apprentice builder will act as an instructor in his own right."

The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès is supporting the scheme over a three-year period, highlighting the importance of the transmission of traditional skills to help preserve our planet, and improve living conditions for Africa's poorest people.

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Triennial support – 2008-2010