Off-grid Njoro Children’s Library in Tanzania keeps naturally cool with compressed earth

Patricia Erimescu
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Architect Patricia Erimescu recently completed her latest humanitarian architecture project: the Njoro Children’s Library designed and built with the local Tanzanian community and the NGO Excel Education Foundation.

Built for just $5,400 USD, the library serves 408 primary school students in the village of Mailisita and the surrounding area in the Kilimanjaro region. The low-cost library operates off the grid and is built solely from local materials using traditional construction methods.

Since the Njoro Children’s Library is located in a fairly remote area on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, it was essential that the building function efficiently with a comfortable environment without use of grid energy. All village inhabitants and parents were actively involved in all stages of the design/build process, from the location of the library and layout to construction techniques. “The Njoro Children’s Library aims to develop education and to involve children, parents, teachers, locals and international volunteers to come together to build a space where pupils can read and study,” writes Erimescu. “In this context it is essential that progress is made in breaking the circle of poverty, educating the children and raising living standards.”

The design of library combines elements of a traditional masai hut with a layout dictated by the golden ratio. The hidden entrance, located at the side of the playground, is situated to allow room for a ramp. Compressed earth is the main construction material and is selected for its temperature-regulating properties. Perforations in the baked brick wall allows for natural ventilation and light, while window shutters protect against harsh sunlight. Banana trees and other vegetation shield the building from the hot dusty wind.

Off-grid Njoro Children’s Library in Tanzania keeps naturally cool with compressed earth