Article 25 completes low-carbon, passively ventilated College Amadou Hampâté Bâ in Niger
Article 25

Article 25 completes low-carbon, passively ventilated College Amadou Hampâté Bâ in Niger

24 Jun 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

College Amadou Hampâté Bâ is a low-carbon, passively ventilated school located in Niamey, the capital of Niger. The project was completed by Article 25, a leading UK humanitarian architectural NGO whose name is derived from Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The college takes its name from the influential Malian writer, historian, and ethnologist, Amadou Hampâté Bâ — its transformative architecture showcases what is possible when resources are in short supply.

photo_credit Souleymane Ag Anara
Souleymane Ag Anara

The much-needed project transformed an existing middle school into a forward-looking secondary school that will accommodate up to 1,200 children (offering subsidized education to children from lower income families). Article 25 explains: “Niger’s education system faces huge challenges — the country has the highest birth rate in the world and simultaneously struggles to keep young people in the education system, particularly beyond primary schooling.”

photo_credit Article 25
Article 25

Outmoded classrooms were refurbished and twenty new classrooms were built as well as new administrative facilities, an assembly hall, library, and bathrooms. The project placed an emphasis on the use of locally sourced materials, including a local reddish laterite stone with sufficient thermal mass to temper the build-up of heat throughout the day. The design reduces solar heat gain and maximizes passive natural ventilation, eliminating the need for mechanical systems which are expensive to operate and unreliable.

photo_credit Grant Smith
Grant Smith
photo_credit Nicolas Réméné
Nicolas Réméné

In Niamey, daytime temperatures remain above 30°C (86°F) all year round and rise above 40°C (104°F) in “warmer months”. Article 25 engaged students in conversations about the school’s design — the main concern raised was that environmental conditions ensure teaching spaces are comfortable.

Classroom blocks are set apart from each other, helping to facilitate passive cooling. Classroom roofs are constructed from compressed earth brick vaults and have a lightweight flying metal roof above. The metal roof is tilted so the opening between this structure and the brick vaults is narrower at one end — air is then pulled through the roof cavity to passively cool interior spaces below; the roof also protects classrooms from heavy seasonal rains. This technique is widely used in the Sahel region and has been further developed by Article 25 to meet the specific conditions found in Niamey. Classroom interiors are now 7 – 8°C (approx. 45 – 46°F) cooler than outdoors, even when occupied by around 40 students.

photo_credit Toby Pear, Article 25
Toby Pear, Article 25
photo_credit Toby Pear, Article 25
Toby Pear, Article 25
photo_credit Article 25
Article 25
photo_credit Article 25
Article 25

The teaching blocks with their simple and honest form are constructed using both local materials and vernacular techniques. Walls are made from laterite — the soil, hand-excavated from a nearby site, is left in the sun to cure for around four weeks and creates a robust stone-like building material. As a result, laterite has a negligible embodied carbon footprint. The laterite walls remain exposed, displaying the material’s pleasing natural quality and its distinct richness — louvered screens add a contemporary edge to the laterite and provide cross-ventilation.

The college grounds are still in development — it is envisaged they will eventually offer a green and ecologically-diverse haven for students as well as helping to alleviate the summer’s intense temperatures. 

photo_credit Article 25
Article 25
photo_credit Article 25
Article 25
photo_credit Souleymane Ag Anara
Souleymane Ag Anara

The College Amadou Hampâté Bâ project makes a positive contribution to the local community’s educational aspirations. For Article 25, the project itself also provided an educational opportunity, including investing in local skills and expertise and exploring laterite’s potential as a building material. Importantly, sharing construction skills with young women and older teenage girls “is challenging misplaced views on gender in construction and ultimately providing employment opportunities,” says the studio.

 

 

The College Amadou Hampâté Bâ project by Article 25 was part of the “RIBA International Awards for Excellence 2024”.