• Yahya Qtaishat

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The interest in sustainable architecture continues to grow in recent years. However, research and practice within the built environment are limited to the tangible indicators of sustainable buildings. Therefore, there remains a gap in understanding the socio-cultural indicators of sustainability and their role in delivering sustainable built environments. Vernacular architecture once represented buildings that were culturally, economically, and environmentally adequate to their context. A coherent understanding of the indicators that inform this vernacular-inspired sustainable architecture is thus required. However, few studies specifically incorporate relatively intangible indicators such as the vernacular buildings' historical and cultural development in the sustainable architecture discourse. This research aimed to bridge the gap between the built environment's tangible and intangible indicators by proposing an eco-cultural approach for sustainable architecture that integrates cultural, social, and ecological variables. This study investigated lessons of sustainability from vernacular architecture as a model for this integration. The research also aimed to create and test a decision support tool that can help with the deployment of this eco-cultural design process in Jordan and the wider region.
As a concept, eco-cultural design is the physical interpretation of a region's context and culture based on sustainable architecture principles that are economically viable. An eco-cultural design also adapts, uses, and maximises the technological performance for locally specific needs and socio-cultural system. An eco-cultural logic in architecture calls to examine the reuse of lessons from vernacular architecture as a base for socio-cultural integration within the built environment. The research first critically reviewed recent literature on sustainability and vernacular architecture to understand and map the tangible and intangible indicators that can help the renaissance of a critical regional architecture as a dynamic eco-cultural design. Following that, the research applied a qualitative approach that consisted of 81 semi-structured interviews with inhabitants of residential dwellings of various typologies from two case study areas in Jordan, each representing a historical and a contemporary case. The framework and thematic analyses guided the analytical and synthesis stage.
The research results showed that participants prioritised design factors related to socio-cultural appropriation and linked them to their sustainability point of view. It was also found that due to its intangibility and complexity, most sustainability frameworks in the built environment only focus on the environmental criteria and have failed to integrate cultural indicators. Results also showed that vernacular architecture design elements such as privacy, semi-private open spaces, and the hierarchy of spaces are significant features that still have the potentials to create a balance between social interaction, culture, and enhanced climatic conditions. The fieldwork stage results were combined with other principles of sustainability and integrated as guides to spatial metrics. These were consolidated as an eco-cultural design tool with which to validate the efficacy of the research findings. A panel of experts and professionals also evaluated the accuracy, practicality, and usability of the tool. The tool and its underpinning theoretical contribution made it possible to enhance the Jordan Green Building Guide (JoGBG) to assure an eco-cultural design strategy.
This study makes a significant theoretical and practical contribution by proposing tangible metrics relating to intangible cultural factors so that this can be effectively incorporated into existing sustainable building assessment. Additionally, the research paradigm and approach are repeatable for other contexts and regions. These outputs represent new precedence in research for Jordan and beyond. It dealt with less discussed issues within sustainable building research discourse, such as the loss of many vernacular architectures and local design qualities that informed the production of the built environment. It also resolves the theoretical and applied influence of socio-cultural factors in sustainable design. Contextual design indicators maximise building environmental performance while meeting residents' socio-cultural needs based on locally specific needs. In practice, the tool was deemed useful and usable to integrate socio-cultural indicators within Jordan's architectural practice.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorKemi Adeyeye (Supervisor) & Stephen Emmitt (Supervisor)

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