Around the World in Five Houses (2)


From freezing icy, to melting sandy environments, humans inhabit most of the terrestrial spots on Earth. The diversity of climatic conditions and naturally-available resources has allowed unique lifestyles to flourish across the world. One aspect of this human legacy is vernacular architecture; the common domestic architecture of a specific region. Vernacular architecture is best reflected in houses that are tailored to address the local community needs and depend on the available construction materials. Let us take a tour around the world to examine some examples of these seemingly simple, yet science‐based, houses.

Icy Poles

The Inuit* have survived one of the toughest environments for hundreds of years; namely, the freezing Arctic region where we can find the Inuit’s amazing igloos. Although they do not actually live in igloos, the Inuit can stay in these icy hunting camps for as long as entire winters. Igloos can range from small one-person shelters, to large multi-room compounds.

Although the building blocks of igloos are made of ice, their interiors can reach up to 40 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. The thick icy walls capture the inhabitant’s body heat inside and block the chilling winds, making the weather feel much warmer. Moreover, the short door opening and the tunnel structure of the gate prevent the harnessed warmth from escaping outside.

Structurally, igloos are self-sustaining thanks to their dome-shaped structure, which keeps them balanced against strong winds and storms. A repetitive process of thawing and refreezing also helps fuse the ice bricks together, making the entire structure super strong. The igloo interior slightly thaws as the inhabitants’ body heat raises its temperature; when the hunters leave it during hunting expeditions, the melted snow freezes over. This process also increases the igloo insulations capabilities, making it much warmer few days after construction.

Stay tuned for a new journey and a new house.

*The Inuit are the natives inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, United States, and Russia.
**Read "Around the World in Five Houses” 1, 3, and 4.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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