Desert sustainability: Architects use date palms to create food shelter in Al Ain

The Challenge:
Creating environmentally aware designs for impoverished communities

Traditional date palm materials are being used to create a food shelter at Al Ain Oasis by architects 3 ideas Ltd – a company tasked with exploring how sustainability can be brought to regions facing social and economic challenges.

With resource shortages of both food and construction materials an increasing global issue, London based architect Sandra Piesik worked to create a sustainable solution to store food and a place for farmers to sell products.

The result is a framework of structures which forms the base for a shelter utilising a palm leaf arch structure with fabric covering. The gridshell frame is known locally as “The Sabla”, the project is supported by the local TCA Al Ain Historic Environment Department and the United Nations Commission to Combat Desertification.

Piesik said: “It is the result of a six year research and development programme set up to demonstrate that using traditional materials and modern techniques can deliver cost effective, environmentally sustainable solutions to social development programmes.

“They use free readily available date palm leaves which are and agricultural by-product and can be erected quickly by hand.”

As well as using traditional materials, the traditional Arish technique is employed to bundle the palm leaves together; they are then lapped to form long circular shaped sections that can be curved into arched profiles to form structural members for the arch.