The Right Building Materials Could Eliminate The Need For Cooling

The heat of California, particularly in the summer, means many Californians turn up the air conditioner to stay cool. But there are some areas of the world that can get just as hot, if not hotter, and do without cooling systems. How do they manage it? In Burkina Faso, which frequently reaches temperatures over 100 F, it’s the type of stone used for construction.

Burkina Faso is rather low on the Human Development Index (HDI), ranking 184th out of 191 countries as of 2020. This means much of the country doesn’t have access to electricity, and importing concrete is expensive. What they do have easy access to is a stone called laterite, which forms naturally in the region. Laterite is quite strong once formed into blocks, and its thermal properties help keep the interior cool. Constructing buildings using laterite is not a new concept, but in much of the world it has been replaced by concrete.

Unfortunately, laterite is not a solution for California. With its advantages come some pretty severe disadvantages. Laterite has extremely low earthquake resistance. In California, which has over a hundred earthquakes per day and building laws requiring high earthquake resistance, laterite buildings simply won’t work.

Photo by Georgiana Andreca on Unsplash