Maison des Yvelines - Nubian Vault

  • by Chloé Adloff
  • /
  • 2017-06-13 17:47:11
  • /
  • International
  • /
  • 14610 / EN
  • Building Type : Other building
  • Construction Year : 2016
  • Delivery year : 2016
  • Address 1 - street : OUROSSOGUI, Other countries
  • Climate zone : [BSh] Subtropical Dry Semiarid (Steppe)

  • Net Floor Area : 370 m2
  • Construction/refurbishment cost : 107 000 €
  • Cost/m2 : 289.19 €/m2

Proposed by :

  • Primary energy need :
    0 kWhpe/m2.year
    (Calculation method : Other )
Energy consumption
Economical buildingBuilding
< 50A
51 à 90B
91 à 150C
151 à 230D
231 à 330E
331 à 450F
> 450G
Energy-intensive building

This amazing Nubian Vault* building, inaugurated on Dec 4th 2016, is one of AVN's major recent achievements in Senegal. Financed in part by the French Conseil Départemental des Yvelines, in collaboration with the NGO Le Partenariat and the Regional Development Agency of Matam, the local Commune, and the Regional Urbanism Service, it is an exemplary project. The building is due to house volunteers working with and for the local community, and provide them with office space and meeting facilities.

The construction, with technical guidance from AVN, was carried out by the firm Habitat Moderne, run by the Burkinabe NV entrepreneur Richard Somda. It is an early and excellent example of the recognition now awarded to the Nubian Vault concept by the formal sector, and also serves as a model demonstration building for the region.


*The Nubian Vault is a novel reinterpretation of an ancestral technique, revived by AVN in order to allow access to appropriate and affordable housing to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. AVN bases its action on key technical innovations, adapted to the Sahelian climate, resources and social and economical context.

The Nubian Vault (NV) technique is an age-old method of timber-less vault construction, originating in Upper Egypt. It uses only earth bricks and earth mortar. Nubian Vaults built over 3,500 years ago at the Ramesseum Mortuary Temple in Luxor are still standing.

During the last fifteen years, AVN has successfully introduced a simplified, standardised version of this ancient technique in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin and Ghana. This standardised NV technique is:

  • ecologically sustainable: no corrugated iron roofing sheets, nor timber beams, rafters, or supports;
  • carbon neutral - none of the construction materials are manufactured, or transported long distances, nor do any trees need to be cut down;
  • economically viable: only locally available raw materials (earth, rocks, and water) are used, favouring local economic circuits and self-sufficiency;
  • comfortable: due to the excellent thermal and acoustic insulation properties of earth construction;
  • durable: NV buildings have a far longer lifetime than those with corrugated iron and timber roofs, and maintenance is simple;
  • modular: applicable to a wide range of buildings (houses, schools, healthcentres...), of different styles (flat terrace roofs, two-storey buildings, courtyard buildings...), which are easily extendable;
  • vernacular: incorporating tradtional practices and aesthetics of earth architecture.

AVN's simplified and standardised version of the technique has been adapted to the climatic conditions and traditional know-how of the Sahel region, making it easy to learn on-the-job:

  • roofs are exclusively vaulted (no domes), and can incorporate a traditional flat roof-terrace ;
  • vaults are a standard width (3,25 metres), made from mud bricks of a standard size ;
  • a guide cable is used to define the curvature of the vault ;
  • walls are a standard thickness, and openings for doors and windows a standard size ;
  • plastic sheeting is incorporated in the roof to reduce water penetration and erosion.

See more details about this project

Data reliability




    Conseil Départemental des Yvelines

    Construction Manager

    ONG Le Partenariat

    Nicolas Dupuy, Directeur Technique Le Partenariat - Coordinateur Sénégal /Mail : / Tél : (221) 33 961 46 51 ou (221) 77 535 38 86


    Habitat Moderne

    Richard Somda

    Structural Work


    Association la Voûte Nubienne

    Samuel Rodrigues, Responsable Pôle Technique / Mail :

    Technical Expertise


    Regional Development Agency of Matam

    Technical Partner


    Regional Urbanism Service

    Technical Partner



    Oumar GUEYE

    Finishing touches



    Assane NIANG

    Metal joinery


    AL-MIZAN. Architecture, développement, écologie au Sahel (Nouakchott)

    architectural conception and technical expertise

Contracting method

Separate batches

Owner approach of sustainability

The "Conseil Départemental des Yvelines" choses the Nubian Vault technique spread in West Africa by the Nubian Vault Association because this architectural concept allows the construction of adapted buildings. A Nubian Vault is:
- Durable: a Nubian Vault has thick walls, is resistant to rain, and is passed on from generation to generation;
- Comfortable: it provides thermal, acoustic, aesthetic and usage comfort, and offer an option of traditional terraced roofs and two-storey houses;
- Ecological: no wood or straw, no production or transport of imported materials (corrugated metal sheets, cement, steel rafters) and thermal stability limiting the need for air-conditioning;
- Economical: up to 50% less expensive than other building techniques for the basic structure;
- Adapted to the local economy: only local labour and materials are used, clients are directly involved in the building, costs are re-injected into local circuits;
- Easy to reproduce: simplified and standardized, the technique can be learned by anyone, with no particular educational requirements and only basic tools. Its simplicity and standardization also guarantee stability and durability.

Architectural description

The Nubian Vault (NV) used on this projet is an ancestral construction technique, originating in Upper Egypt and north of Sudan, using only raw earth bricks and earth mortars. It represents a sustainable and affordable alternative to the roofing sheets and concrete roof that are today widespread in West Africa.

The architectural program consists of the combination of two distinct functions: administrative and reception spaces on the one hand, and accommodation spaces on the other. Regarding these needs and the hard climatic conditions in this area of ​​Senegal, the architectural bias consisted in the creation of three building blocks separated by inner courtyards offering ventilated and shaded spaces as additional quality spaces. The administrative and reception building is aligned with the main road and offers an impressive and welcoming two-storey facade while the accommodation building is more discreetly developed in the depth of the piece.

If you had to do it again?

An integration workshop was embedded to the project, and the production estimates of these workers (from France) have not been done, which resulted on an additional cost.

Building users opinion

“A Nubian Vault, the wind can’t carry it away, the wind can’t break it, the rain can’t come in, and if there were a fire here, earth doesn’t burn… So it is really good. If you compare, the Nubian Vault method is cheaper than cement. If we could, the whole village would be Nubian Vaults.“
René Ndong and Brigitte Phiaw, Nubian Vault customers

“Housing issues are extremely important issues for us, for the environment and it is proven that living and housing conditions are what contributes the most to the health and well-being of populations. The Nubian Vault matches perfectly our resource management policy and our fight against poverty, because it improves the living conditions of inhabitants in rural areas.“
Abdoulaye Baldé, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development - Senegal

Energy consumption

  • Other

    The energy performance of the VN building was first evaluated by dynamic thermal simulation and concluded that there was a significant reduction in energy requirements in the event that these Buildings must be refreshed or air-conditioned.


    • No heating system
    • Individual electric boiler
    • VAV Syst. (Variable Air Volume system)
    • Natural ventilation
    • Nocturnal ventilation
    • No renewable energy systems

Life Cycle Analysis

    The use of the VN technique allowed 324 t CO2 emission savings on this building.

Health & Comfort

    The inertia of the Nubian vault construction provided by the high thickness of the earth walls is characterized by a strong attenuation of the temperature variations and the variations of humidity inside the building VN.

    The Nubian vault construction allows a high acoustic comfort (thickness of the walls).


    Adobe - Mud Bricks (traditional/cut laterite)

    Local informal production


    Gros œuvre / Structure, maçonnerie, façade

    Available widely
    Energy performance = thickness of the walls because static brick and not expensive

    Bricks with pebble-incrusted outer surface

    Local informal production


    Gros œuvre / Structure, maçonnerie, façade

    Brick of banco (adobe) in which there are stones engraved on the part exposed to the outside in order to better hang the coatings (cement mortars> no lime available in africa)

    No maintenance required
    Enables the use of earth architecture for urban / institutional clients who do not plan to maintain

Construction and exploitation costs

  • 150 000

Urban environment

The Maison des Yvelines is located along a highway and therefore benefits from high visibility. There are some shops around but its not a busy place.

Building Environmental Quality

  • Building flexibility
  • indoor air quality and health
  • biodiversity
  • consultation - cooperation
  • acoustics
  • comfort (visual, olfactive, thermal)
  • energy efficiency
  • renewable energies
  • building end of life management
  • integration in the land
  • building process
  • products and materials

Contest categories

Energy & Hot Climates

Energy & Hot Climates

Low Carbon

Low Carbon

Users' Choice

Users' Choice

Green Solutions Awards 2017 - Buildings

Author of the page

  • Chloé Adloff

    Chargée de communication

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    Green Solutions Awards 2017 - Buildings