Skip to main content

Learning from Informal Settlements’ Architectural and Urban Features: A Study of Comfort Levels in Both Informal and Public Housing Settlements

  • 759 Accesses

Part of the Advances in Science, Technology & Innovation book series (ASTI)


The city of Cairo has witnessed novel housing transformations by the government since the introduction of informal settlements in the 1960s. Despite the heavy subsidisation of these public housing settlements, otherwise known as social housing projects, which are partly payed for by the government yet still are regarded as expensive compared to the informal settlements housing unit counterpart. Informal settlement housing units have succeeded over public housing units basically by imposing an entirely organised city without the surveillance of formal institutes whether economically, socially or through mobile networks. Despite the successful functioning areas of informal settlements, they receive much negativity for their existence as being centres of energy consumption, social and environmental degradation. Currently, there is a gap in understanding how the highly dense urban clusterings of informal settlement buildings and their architectural features affect sustainable development. Public housing settlements are portrayed and marketed as the solution to informal housing complications despite their unsubstantiated design methodologies which do not coincide with many of the design considerations needed. This also raises the question of whether they can contribute to the overall and particular level of contribution to Cairo’s sustainable development through comfort levels such as thermal gains and losses. The objective set were to discover the existing comfort levels of thermal gains and losses in both public housing settlements and informal housing settlements. The second objective was to gain information from professionals and residents which have experience with informal and public housing settlements on which settlement type is more comfortable in terms of thermal gains and losses. A mixed method approach was used to carry out the research, the quantitative data represented the existing thermal gains and losses using Ecotect simulation models of a selected public housing and an informal settlement sample in South-West Cairo. The qualitative data were collected using semi-structured interviews with informal settlement residents and professionals of various professional backgrounds with experience in informal settlements. It is important to mention that the conclusions found that informal settlements have poor, mediocre and good levels of sustainable development in terms of thermal gains and losses in various subdivisions due to their architectural and urban uniqueness which public housing settlements lack. These are not solely a result of the residents control over the many architectural or urban variables involved despite their awareness of them, yet it is also—to a large extent—affected by the obligatory situations and dispositions they face such as economic difficulties, land plot size, lack of professional intervention and the absence of building regulations.


  • Architecture
  • Urban fabric
  • Clustering
  • Planning
  • Elevations
  • Sustainable development
  • Gains
  • Losses
  • Thermal
  • Ventilation
  • Solar light
  • Day light and discomfort hours

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions


  • AbdelGelil, N. (2011). LESS SPACE, MORE SPATIALITY FOR LOW-INCOME HOUSING UNITS IN EGYPT: IDEAS FROM JAPAN. Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research, 5(2), pp. (24–48).

    Google Scholar 

  • Abouelmagd, D., Kesteloot, C., & Corijn, E. (2013) Housing Projects for Low-Income Groups and Modes of Economic Integration: A Comparative Study in Greater Cairo. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 104 (4):456–477.

    Google Scholar 

  • Afify, A. (2004) Towards Stimulating Modern Urban Upgrading Policies For Informal Settlements In Egypt, In CIB World Building Congress.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ahmed, (2013) Egypt’s informal settlements suffer due to inadequate budget allocations, [online] Available at: (Accessed 7 May 2015).

  • Almaiyah, S., Elkadi, H., & Cook, M. (2010). Study on the Visual Performance of a Vascular Dwelling IN Egypt. First International Conference On Sustainability And The Future. Retrieved from

  • Barry, R. (2010) Sustainable Building Design with Autodesk Ecotect, Paris, Le SOMMER Environment, [online] Available at:

  • Elshahed, M. (2015) New Architectural Forms for the ‘Informal’, Cairobserver, [online] Available at: (Accessed 4 January 2017).

  • Gerlach, J., el-Jesri, M., Fink, M. and el-Sebai, N. (2009). Cairo’s informal areas—between urban challenges and hidden potentials. Cairo: GTZ.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gray, D. (2004) Doing research in the real world, London, Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Khalifa, M. (2011) Redefining slums in Egypt: Unplanned versus unsafe areas, Habitat International, 35(1), pp. 40–49.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Khalil, R., Hassan, A. and Saleh, H. (2014) Middle-income Public Housing in Egypt, Evaluate and Improve to Reach a Sustainable Design, ALAZHAR University, 9(33).

    Google Scholar 

  • Kipper, R., Howeidy, A. and Wiens, C. (2009) Cairo’s informal areas - between urban challenges and hidden potentials, Cairo, GTZ.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lin, J. (2007) Introduction to Ecotect-Thermal Analysis, California, Cal Poly Pomona Department of Architecture.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall, M. (1996) Sampling for qualitative research, Family Practice, 13(6).

    CrossRef  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mohamed, M. (2010) Traditional Ways of Dealing with Climate in Egypt, In The Seventh International Conference of Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development, The Centre for the Study of Architecture in Arab Region, pp. 247–266, [online] Available at:

  • Massey, R. (2014) Exploring counter-conduct in upgraded informal settlements: The case of women residents in Makhaza and New Rest (Cape Town), South Africa, Habitat International, 44, pp. 290–296.

    Google Scholar 

  • May, N. (2008) OVERSHADOWING ANALYSIS, 1st ed, Bedforshire, Flow Analysis Limited, p. 8,[online]Available at:

  • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, (2015) Thermal performance of buildings, India, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mostafa, M. (2013) In Nagati, O. and Stryker, B. (ed.), Learning from Cairo: Global Perspectives and Future Visions, 1st ed, Cairo, CLUSTER.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rehan, R. (2014). Cool city as a sustainable example of heat island management case study of the coolest city in the world. HBRC Journal, 12(2), pp.191–204.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Rydin, Y., Bleahu, A., Davies, M., Dávila, J., Friel, S., De Grandis, G., Groce, N., Hallal, P., Hamilton, I., Howden-Chapman, P., Lai, K., Lim, C., Martins, J., Osrin, D., Ridley, I., Scott, I., Taylor, M., Wilkinson, P. and Wilson, J. (2012). Shaping cities for health: complexity and the planning of urban environments in the 21st century. The Lancet, 379(9831), pp. 2079–2108.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sayed H., A., Hiroshi, Y., Abdelsamei Eid, M. and M. Radwan, M. (2012) Indoor Natural Ventilation Using Evaporating Cooling Strategies in the Egyptian Housing: A Review and New Approach, IJET, 4(3), pp. 229–233.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Serageldin, M. (2017) The Architecture of Housing: The Development and Morphology of Informal Housing, 1st ed, p. 2.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sham, J., Lo, T. and Memon, S. (2012) Verification and application of continuous surface temperature monitoring technique for investigation of nocturnal sensible heat release characteristics by building fabrics, Energy and Buildings, 53, pp. 108–116.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shehayeb (2009) Kipper, ed. (2009) Cairo’s informal areas - between urban challenges and hidden potentials, Cairo, GTZ. pp 44–49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shehayeb, D., Sabry S., Hafez, Y. (2011). Community Oriented Activity Patterns—Background Study for the Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo Project - UNESCO.

  • Sims, D. and Abu-Lughod, J. (2010). Understanding Cairo. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Stoios, A., Bougiatioti, F. and Oikonomou, A. (2006) Thermal performance of a passive solar house for continental climate, in Florina, north-western Greece, In The 23rd Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Geneva, Department of Architectural Technology, School of Architecture.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, N. (2002) Energy Efficiency for Everyone: Analysis and development of an Energy Home efficient project, BE, The University of Western Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yasser, F. (2017) Renderings of the informal and public settlement models made for simulation in Ecotect to test the comfort levels in each area.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, S. (2015) Ecotect, 1st ed, p. 1.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Yasser .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Yasser, F. (2019). Learning from Informal Settlements’ Architectural and Urban Features: A Study of Comfort Levels in Both Informal and Public Housing Settlements. In: Alalouch, C., Abdalla, H., Bozonnet, E., Elvin, G., Carracedo, O. (eds) Advanced Studies in Energy Efficiency and Built Environment for Developing Countries. Advances in Science, Technology & Innovation. Springer, Cham.

Download citation