How long have you got? It’s a long story! The creation of a sustainable building and gardens using earth was first planned in 1996. Eventually in 2005 when we managed to buy the superbly located plot of land. And finally in 2018 permission was obtained to start building. All good things are worth waiting for.
The plot is perfect because it is spacious (half a hectare), adjacent to the town walls, easy to find, has quick access to the souks and other places of interest, has an ideal long shape so most of the building are a long way from the road, has amazing views of the High Atlas and it was easy to build the rooms with a south-facing aspect, so important to the sustainable design.
We have been enormously fortunate in having such a wonderful building team led by Mohamed Zaki and for the enthusiastic and inspiring input from so many people, but I must make special mention of Brian & Gwenda Mark without whose expertise some of the more unusual sustainable design features would not have been possible.
Our design aims to provide a comfortable, healthy living environment with minimum energy use both during the period of construction and more crucially during the lifetime of the building. It is during its life time that our design will create the greatest saving. Our design obviates the need for heating and air conditioning, lighting during daylight hours and electrically operated fans.
We have been able to minimise the energy used to create the building (embodied energy). Most of the of the materials that we are using are local and hence require little transport. Here are some examples:
1) These materials required very little energy indeed to produce, most energy arising from transport over a short distance:
a) geological resources: aggregates; stone paving; earth quarried from the building site itself or “waste” from a project a kilometre away to make the rammed earth walls.
b) biological resources: used for beams, ceilings and shading (cypress, eucalyptus and “bamboo” – actually Arundo donax).
2) These materials used more energy to produce will only be used where necessary:
a) geological resources which have been processed: cement (which, although it produced locally using lime-rich rocks from the Anti Atlas Mountains, uses huge amounts of energy to produce it) and steel. Both of these are, of course, essential structurally, but we shall use them minimally to meet building regulations eg for ring beams at roof level, for foundations and for rooms with a width over over 4 metres.
b) biological resources: the wood for windows and doors is imported. We will protect the wood by shading and with good quality microporous paint to ensure they last well.
The building is a rammed earth construction, the method used to built both Taroudant’s Town Walls and massive aqueducts (both built in the late 16th Century) when Taroudant was the capital of Morocco and sugar production from cane was an important local industry; it was even supplied to Queen Elizabeth 1 who would eat no other!
The aqueduct (much still standing) was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The method and material is sustainable – the earth is derived from a local source; it lasts for centuries if it is correctly plastered and the roof top (chapeau) is maintained; it produces comfortable living conditions due to its ability to moderate temperature and humidity inside the building AND it looks and feels so organic, which, of course it is! It uses and helps to sustain centuries-old skills of the local Berbers.
We want to be a showcase for these methods which are also viable even in damper climates – old “cob” houses still survive in the British Isles.
You can choose to read below details in the blog that Jane wrote during the build. It includes lots of illustrations from November 2018 onwards.
At the end of 2019, there was so much work to do on the site – there were gardens, building & furnishings to attend to- that little was written but there were some brief updates posted on our Facebook page.
We finally opened in January 2020 until Covid-19 led to border closure in mid March. At least we had lots of time to work on the garden which changed beyond recognition over the next few months. We also had a chance to make lots more improvements to make it a veritable paradise for our guests.