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Mud architecture in Yemen: a sustainable legacy that requires more effort for a better future

There is a growing awareness of the importance of preserving mud architecture in Yemen as it meets many of the requirements of sustainable cities.

قصر الكثيري، سيؤون، حضرموت. من فنون العمارة الطينية في اليمن. مصدر الصورة AP.
Al-Kathiri Palace, Sayun, Hadramaut. Of clay architecture in Yemen. Image source AP.

Mud construction is prevalent in various Yemeni locations, including Hadramaut and Shabwa, distinctively and remarkably. Despite their aesthetic value, these structures have environmental and technical benefits that make them an excellent alternative for future cities. That is, Yemen's mud architecture is more than just a bygone era.


In the global 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the term "sustainable cities" refers to metropolitan regions that value long-term sustainability, environmental awareness, and social inclusion. These cities are created and developed using a holistic strategy that covers a wide range of interconnected issues including infrastructure, transportation systems, waste management, energy usage, and public spaces. Today, there is a rising awareness of the need to maintain Yemen's mud architecture, which satisfies many of the criteria for sustainable cities.


Mud architecture, with its centuries-long tradition and inherent durability, is critical to the construction of sustainable cities. Clay as a building material has numerous environmental advantages, making it an excellent choice for urban development. Clay is abundant and easily accessible in many places in Yemen, lowering transportation costs and carbon emissions associated with importing building materials.


When compared to resource-intensive materials such as concrete or steel, the low energy of clay construction provides little energy use during production operations. Furthermore, because of their large thermal mass, clay structures have great thermal insulation capabilities, allowing for natural temperature adjustment within buildings and avoiding the need for unnecessary heating or cooling systems. This reduces not only energy demand but also greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.


مسجد المحضار في تريم، حضرموت. نموذج من العمارة الطينية في اليمن. تصوير muneer binwaber، مصدر الصورة shutterstock
Al-Mihdhar Mosque in Tarim, Hadhramaut. A model of mud architecture in Yemen. Photography by Muneer Binwaber, image source: shutterstock

Furthermore, the use of organic components such as clay soil mixed with straw or other fiber materials in clay-based buildings contributes greatly to waste reduction. In contrast to typical construction procedures, which generate massive amounts of non-biodegradable debris, these combinations can be easily recycled or reincorporated into the earth without generating pollution or long-term environmental damage during demolition or remodeling operations.


When correctly conceived and implemented, mud architecture provides incredible resilience against natural calamities such as earthquakes and fires. Because clay structures are flexible, they absorb seismic pressures rather than resisting them rigidly, as some modern construction systems do, resulting in less damage and better safety for people. Integrating mud structures into urban environments also benefits the social development of local communities.


Yemeni people's interest in mud architecture since ancient times must continue in the future, with the implementation of more sustainable city criteria when planning to build new residential schemes. Aside from emphasizing clay as a base material, additional features such as the integration of varied means of transportation such as cycling lanes or electric vehicle networks alongside enhanced public transportation systems should be explored.


Green technology must be implemented; renewable energy sources should be included in building design, and wastewater treatment facilities should successfully minimize pollution and conserve local water resources. Furthermore, forward-thinking urban areas must encourage lively community engagement through inclusive governance frameworks in which individuals actively participate in decision-making processes connected to neighborhood development plans.


Overall, achieving sustainable cities by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals necessitates extensive collaboration among governments at all levels, private sector investment in innovative solutions based on sustainability principles, and strong citizen engagement to promote active citizenship.

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