Re-Thinking Courtyard Housing: Development of Traditional Islamic Courthouses into Zero-Energy Buildings


Sustainable design is the philosophy of designing physical objects, building environments, and services that comply with the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability [1]. The idea of courtyards as a method of plan configuration goes back to thousands of years to Neolithic settlements. In the beginning, the logic behind this configuration was mainly to provide a shelter against outside forces, such as invasions by humans and wild animals. Over time, it developed into a solid, logical configuration that not only maximizes the built-up area in the urban context but also allows controlling sunlight penetration, especially in regions where it is abundant. However, it soon became a generic typology in hot, arid, climatic landscapes and therefore formed the basis of the urban patterns of the Madina's in the Islamic World. Furthermore, the cultural relevance of this plan’s typology is of high importance [2]. A field study was performed to analyze various physical elements of six valuable traditional courtyard houses located in a hot, arid region in Egypt. These elements included the orientation, extension, rotation angle, dimensions, and proportions of enclosed and open spaces, as well as physical bodies (opaque walls), transparent surfaces (openings), and natural elements (water and soil). This research also discusses the application of the Golden proportion in courtyards of low – rise housing in hot, arid, climate. The survey based data will be summarized and integrated to propose a prototype containing the energy–efficient strategy concluded for contemporary sustainable housing in this region so as to be used for houses in similar climatic conditions.


Dr. El-Sayary, Samer, Dr. Omar, Osama