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Eco-Dome 1: The Moroccan start-up, Eco-Dome, is building 72m² ecological houses. These homes are split into four rooms and are made from a mixture of earth and cement. Source: Eco-Dôme Morocco

Eco-Dome 2: A 250m² cultural centre is currently being built for students in the Agouim region, which is found between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. Through this project, the company is able to offer children of this rural region a place to read, create and grow. Source: Eco-Dôme Morocco

Eco-Dome : building ecological ‘houses of tomorrow’ in rural Morocco

A Moroccan start-up, Eco-Dome, is working to create inventive and innovative housing opportunities thanks to traditional materials. Using a mixture made from 90% earth and 10% cement, each construction takes the shape of a dome. Both environmentally friendly and resistant to natural disasters, these houses cost less than reinforced concrete alternatives. The advantages of these domed houses are multiple: they are soundproof and offer thermal insulation, as well as reduced CO² emissions of up to 64%. Construction time is also reduced.

At first glance, it does not seem like Eco-Dome’s technique is doing anything new. Actually, you could say that using earth to raise the walls of your house is an ancient tradition and a tried and tested technique. However, this Moroccan start-up has a few new tricks up their sleeve.

Their alterations are simple: Eco-Dome builds houses made from 90% earth and 10% cement, and forms them into domes rather than constructing four walls and a roof. As basic as this sounds, the resulting domed house has astounding qualities: both the materials used and the construction method are ecological. Equally, the round shape of the building is a self- stabilising mechanism, which makes it resistant to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and earthquakes, without any need for structural reinforcement. The materials used can even withstand house fires. By sourcing natural building materials from local areas, this start-up has produced a sustainable cheap housing alternative.

The brainchild of engineers, the company developed through support from Empact – an accelerator programme launched by the OCP entrepreneurship network and Enactus Morocco.

Eco-Dome gained recognition on a global level at the international CleanTech Open Global competition in San Francisco in November 2015, and continued to make an impression at the MassChallenge event in Boston that December.

For local residents, the main appeal of Eco-Dome might be the incredible 45% cost reduction per m² when switching from reinforced concrete to this start-up’s more natural building method.

Or it might be because this method also cuts the required construction time in half. Or because these earthy domed shaped houses provide both sound and heat insulation for their occupants, allowing the rooms to stay cool in the summer and to remain warm in the winter.

With a reduction in CO² emissions of up to 64% throughout the building process, it is equally hard to overlook the houses’ environmental attributes.

A 72m² Eco-Dome with four rooms, electricity and running water, sanitation and electrical installations included costs around 140,000 DH.

The Moroccan start-up currently has two on-going projects to its name. They are a house in Sidi Allal El Bahraoui that fits a family of five, and a 250m² cultural centre in the process of being built for students in the Agouim region. Through this project, the company is able to offer children of this rural region a place to read, create and grow.

Following the original earth-based model, two new versions are now available in Morocco, one made of wood and the other in a handy kit format which can be easily assembled in two weeks. These cost around 250,000 DH with delivery and construction included, and cover a surface of 100 m². The walls and the ceilings of this new model are made of Canadian wood, which is known for its strength and insulation properties.

Furthermore these kits meet international quality standards, and can accommodate power generation equipment, whether that means wind turbines or solar panels. Suitable for private housing or for hospitality purposes, this environmentally-friendly option is well adapted to the Southern climate.

By Stéphanie JACOB – L’Economiste, Morocco

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