Project: A Tale of Two Houses
To test these hypotheses this investigation employed a case study approach. This
approach involves the intense observation of each single case (dwelling or unit of
analysis) separately. The purpose is to analyze the phenomena that constitutes the life
cycle of each "unit" with the aim of establishing generalizations about the
population to which the unit belongs (Cohen & Manion, 1994). Both quantitative and
qualitative methods of gathering data were used. These included:
1. Recording the buildings' thermal performance for one week during the month of
August, 1996 (Note that this limitation is due to the researchers limited stay in Cairo,
Egypt). This was achieved by programming a set of temperature and relative humidity
"HOBO" dataloggers located inside and outside the houses and in different indoor
2. Group Interviews, which were usually informal in nature and carried out with the
entire family occupying the dwelling unit.
3. Intensive formal interviews with architects and designers who were involved in the
design and/or supervision of these houses (since Hassan Fathy and Ali Nassar are dead,
interviews was conducted with some of their apprentices and students who worked with them
during the design of the studied houses).
4. Personal formal interviews with some of the house occupants and Users (e.g. House
Porter, Cleaners, etc.).
5. Photography and field notes were employed to support the data collected and played a
positive role in documenting both physical traces and human behavior. Both of these
instruments were supplemental and they added a visual and written documentation to the
The Settings of the Investigation
After a careful archival survey of the private houses designed and built by Hassan
Fathy (see Richards et al., 1986), Mit Rehan was selected as an example. The criteria for
the selection was based on: (1) being moderate in size, (2) a single family residence, (3)
composed of two residential floors which helps in testing temperature fluctuation in the
indoor volume, (4) containing rich traditional architectural elements, and (5) could be
accessible to the investigator during the short visit to Cairo. After the researcher was
granted access to the Mit Rehan facility, a modern contemporary villa was chosen for the
comparative analysis based on the similarity of its size and floor area to Mit Rehan. The
two settings are described below.
Figure 4a: Cairo Villa - Main Living Area with dining room in the
background. (39K JPEG)
This medium single family dwelling was designed and built in 1961-1962 and took more
than a year for the completion of its construction. The house was built for a government
official and his family. It is composed of two separate floors designed as two apartment
houses. Reinforced concrete skeleton and common brick in-fill comprised the main building
material used for the house. Contrary Mit Rehan (following paragraph) the house has a
small thermal mass (1/3 of Mit Rehan's thermal mass). To minimize heat loss and gains from
the roof, an 80 mm heat insulation (foam core) is used to insulate the concrete roof from
direct solar heat gains. Urban planning guidelines resulted in narrow setbacks between the
house and the surrounding neighbors. This helped create a micro-climate effect that
reduced solar heating of the north and west facades.
Figure 4b: Cairo Villa - Exterior View. (39K JPEG)
Figure 4c: Cairo Villa - Interior View. (39K JPEG)
Figure 5a: Mit Rehan - Courtyard View. (39K JPEG)
The house was designed and constructed in 1980-1981 for the Kazroni family. It is
located on the Sakkar road, outside Cairo, Egypt. This is considered the most stately
domed and vaulted house designed and built by Hassan Fathy. The house is built with
limestone. The project required 272 building days and was supervised by a young man of the
owner's family. The house is also characterized by its massive solid walls (500 mm thick)
and its reliance on a large thermal mass to provide sufficient protection against the
harsh hot and dry weather of the region. The house is located in the middle of a vast
garden, thus limiting the microclimate and shading effects supplied by neighboring
facilities. The use of local materials and lattice wood work resulted in an aesthetically
pleasing architecture that relied mainly on primitive human resources and common building
Figure 5b: Mit Rehan - View inside den. (39K JPEG)
Figure 5c: Mit Rehan - Exterior View. (39K JPEG)
Figure 6a: Cairo Villa - Ground floor plan.
Figure 6b: Cairo Villa - Front Elevation.
Figure 7a: Mit Rehan - Floor Plan. (65K
Figure 7b: Mit Rehan - Building Section.
Table 2: Vital Statistics For The Two Houses Compared
||Beam & Column
|Ground Fl. Area
||200 Sq. M.
||242 Sq. M.
|Ground Fl. Terrace Area
||45 Sq. M.
||170 Sq. M.
|Total Ground Fl. Area
||245 Sq. M.
||412 Sq. M.
|1st Fl. Area
||220 Sq. M.
||110 Sq. M.
|1st Fl. Terrace Area
||40 Sq. M.
||65 Sq. M.
|1st Ground Fl. Area
||260 Sq. M.
||175 Sq. M.
||505 Sq. M.
||587 Sq. M.
||420 Sq. M.
||550 Sq. M.
||90 Sq. M.
||70 Sq. M.
|Masonry Ground Fl.
||42 Cu. M.
||518 Cu. M.
|Masonry 1st Fl.
||50 Cu. M.
||70 Cu. M.
||92 Cu. M.
||588 Cu. M.
|Concrete Ground Fl.
||71 Cu. M.
||70 Cu. M.
|Concrete 1st Fl.
||60 Cu. M.
||18 Cu. M.
||131 Cu. M.
||88 Cu. M.
|Thermal Storage Mass
||941 kJ/deg K/Sq M
||3,012 kJ/deg K/Sq M
|U of Roofs and Floors
||0.48 w/Sq M/deg K
||1.91 w/Sq M/deg K
|U of Walls
||1.73 w/Sq M/deg K
||1.15 w/Sq M/deg K
|U of Roofs and Floors
||5.36 w/Sq M/deg K
||4.76 w/Sq M/deg K
||1,574 w/deg K
||2763 w/deg K
||3.12 w/deg K/Sq M
||4.71 w/deg K/Sq M