Living in the desert

The night’s cold and the day’s heat can be harnessed to balance the extremities of the desert and provide sustainable living. Where people live, nature changes. And, where nature changes, the climate can change. Settle down in the desert and beat it. Photographer Florine van Rees brings life back to the desert.


When it rains in the desert one realizes how much the sand contains

Living in the desert using the cold of the night and the energy of the day

When using desert land our living space expands by 30%

We beat the desert with innovation, old & new techniques and tons of aspiration

Imagine the space we would have if we could beat the desert and use all of that land for agriculture, for woods and meadows, for cities and settlements. And we have proof that it can be done. 

Bahram Ahmadkhani is an Iranian scientist who is convinced that living in the desert is not only possible but also offers a solution to desertification and the energy problem. Ahmadkhani believes that the traditional architecture of the hot and arid Iranian desert can be a model for modern construction. It exploits natural resources and local materials.  

Iran’s hot-arid-zone architecture contains numerous unique features that take both aesthetic necessities and ecological capacity into account. Admittedly, this kind of architecture not only exploits natural resources, but also produces more beautiful buildings. As a result, its techniques involve many of the latest concepts in sustainable architecture. 

Bahram Ahmadkhani describes harsh, cold winters, warm, dry summers, low rainfall, humidity, and herbal cover, a significant difference between night and day temperatures, and the dusty winds as the main climatic conditions of desert regions. But these disadvantages are reversed to become advantages when using traditional building methods. The villages and cities in hot-arid regions can be compared to cacti or desert plants. Because the living spaces of these regions – consisting of urban spaces, roads, yards and buildings – are completely protected against undesirable winds. 

This way of thinking also inspired the architects of the modern Sustainable City, a suburb of Dubai. This desert town has experienced an interesting transformation over the last hundred and twenty years. It is estimated that in 1900 only 10,000 people lived in a desert-like city. Dubai currently has a population of over 2.1 million. The completely new suburb Sustainable City is not really accessible to the average Joe but indeed highly sustainable. It comprises 500 villas in five residential clusters and has around 2700 residents. The suburb collects more solar energy than its citizens use.

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