Embedded in the mountainside of the rural village of Kigutu, the 18-bed Kigutu Staff Housing is a romance between East African elemental aesthetics and inventive off-the grid sustainability. Cutting a skewed line in the terrain, the 6000 square foot dormitory captures breathtaking mountain views. Currently rebuilding after many years of horrific civil strife, the villagers hope that this housing will create a model for the sustainable future of both the community and the country.
To encourage the Kigutu outdoor communal culture, the oversized public porch doors seamlessly connect inside and out, welcoming all who enter. Similarly the private sleeping rooms, each with its own personal vividly colored entry porch, echo this semi-permeable sensibility. The porosity of the porches encourages sociability, enhances airflow into the adjacent sleeping rooms, and frames magnificent unobstructed transverse views of the landscape.
The same elemental design moves that establish its aesthetics will also advance its sustainability. Since Kigutu is 100% off the municipal grid, a nearby solar array and local solar water heaters exclusively power the housing. Sited partially below grade, the location of the building both reduced excavation costs and takes advantage of the earth’s natural insulation for temperature control. Eliminating the need for air conditioning, the personal porches create three-sided natural ventilation within the bedrooms. The location of the window openings also creates a natural stack effect that amplifies the airflow. The extended roof overhangs provide solar protection to optimize the use of natural daylight, while French drains distribute runoff rainwater for irrigation. Yet the greatest efficiency is the human efficiency. The villagers, using local bricks, manually built the housing, eliminating the need for fuel consuming machines and creating transferable job training skills for members of the entire Kigutu community.