Innovative Eco Architecture: Shelter Made of Palm Leaves

What better way to build environmentally friendly architecture that respects the customs and aesthetics of a particular place than making novel use of local materials? We’ve seen lots of cool bamboo architecture built in places where the plant literally grows like a weed, and now a design firm called 3 Ideas Limited is harvesting palm leaves to create a sustainable shelter for food markets in the United Arab Emirates.

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A longstanding tradition in the region, palm leaf buildings have since become less common due to the ongoing push toward modernization. But there’s still a lot of value in these structures, and Dr. Sandra Piesik of 3 Ideas Limited demonstrates how the material can be adapted in new and visually stunning ways.

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The leaves are bound together into beams and then assembled into curving forms upon which water-resistant textiles can be stretched, creating natural tents. The leaves of date palm trees are typically discarded, so they’re free and readily available. They’re also biodegradable and leave no residue on the tensile fabric.

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“With traditional renewable resources for building materials readily available in more economically challenged regions, people could continue using them also today for construction of structures to meet local needs including food shelters, schools or local clinics,” says Piesik. “This is an issue being discussed by UNESCO and UNCCD as we speak. The difficulty is applying indigenous techniques to a culturally developed world.”