Learning Sustainability from Arab Gulf Vernacular Architecture

  • Khaled A. Al-SallalEmail author
Conference paper


This chapter describes an approach that helps to understand the complex relationship between environmental and sociocultural factors and how to learn/derive sustainable design guidelines from vernacular architecture. The method identifies at the outset that vernacular architecture is a result of both cultural and environmental influences. It describes a set of factors that belong to two different categories, sociocultural and environmental, and that have had impact on generating the vernacular architecture of the Arab Gulf. Then it focuses on analyzing selected architectural elements based on the influencing factors. It presents a matrix that illustrates the function of each element and the complex relationship between each element and the factors that affect it. To understand these complex relationships, another matrix was devised to analyze the interactions between these elements under the relevant factors. The outcomes can be used to develop rules of thumb for sustainable design.


Architecture Cooling Desert Design Passive Sustainable Vernacular 


  1. 1.
    Rapoport A (1969) House, form and culture. Prentice Hall, Engelwood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rapoport A (1983) Development, culture change and supportive design. Habitat Int 7(5/6):249–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rapoport A (1999) A framework for studying vernacular design. J Archit Plann Res 16(1):52–64MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Oliver P (1987) Dwellings: the house across the world. University of Texas Press, AustinGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Oliver P (ed) (1997) Encyclopedia of vernacular architecture in the world. Cambridge University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    El Aswad S (1996) The folk house: an anthropological study of folk architecture and traditional culture of the Emirates Society. The United Arab Emirates University, Department of Sociology, Al AinGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dostal W (1983) The traditional architecture of Ras Al-Khaimah (North). Reichert, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Al-Oulfi M (2000) Characteristics of Yemeni architecture: forms and directions of development, unpublished PhD Thesis, Shanghai Tongji University, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lewcock R (1986) The old walled city of Sana’a. Paris: UNESCOGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Al-Sallal KA (1993) The role of indigenous fenestration to reduce energy requirements in the Sana’a house. In: Solar energy: research and applications—proceedings of fourth Arab international solar energy conference, vol 2. Royal Scientific Society, Amman, pp 875–888Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Al-Sallal KA (1996a) Traditional methods in new forms: insight to achieve energy conservation in the modern Sana’a house. In: Sayigh A (ed) Proceedings of the World Renewable Energy Congress, Denver, CO, vol 3. pp 1438–1441Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Al-Sallal KA (1996b) Solar access/shading and building form: geometrical study of the traditional housing cluster in Sana’a. In: Sayigh A (ed) Proceedings of the World Renewable Energy Congress, Denver, CO, vol 3, pp. 331–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Al-Sallal KA (2004) Sana’a: transformation of the old city and the impacts of the modern era. In: Elsheshtawy Y (ed) Planning Middle Eastern cities: an urban kaledioscope in a globalizing world. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Al-Sallal KA (2013) Vernacular tower architecture of Sana’a: theory and method for deriving sustainable design guidelines. In: Sayigh A (ed) Sustainability, energy and architecture: case studies in realizing green buildings. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Al-Sallal KA, Cook J (1992) Sana’a historical windows: integration between comfort and aesthetics. In: Burley S, Arden ME (eds) Proceedings of 17th national passive conference of American Solar Energy Society, American Solar Energy Society, Boulder, vol 17. pp 197–202Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Al-Sallal KA (2001) The balanced synthesis of form and space in the vernacular house of Sana’a: bioclimatic and functional analysis. Archit Sci Rev 44(4):419–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kay S, Zandi D (1991) Architectural heritage of the gulf. Motivate Publishing, DubaiGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UAE UniversityAl-AinUnited Arab Emirates

Personalised recommendations