Western Architecture versus Tropical Architecture: Why you shouldn't import your house plan from Europe/America

The love for anything western is atimes foolishly adopted by some people in diaspora to include importing house plans to build in africa.
But topography, culture and climate of africa is far different from what you have in the western world.
The reasons are listed below.
1) In tropical architecture due to high humidity, designs are done to expel as much heat as possible so that fresh and cool air will be absorbed, hence fenestrations or windows are of high priorities,but in western buildings heat is usually conserved therefore you may find less windows in some buildings, the ones you have windows in them are mostly to encourage sunrays from penetrating into the house.
that is why you will may see green house in these places (house made of glass) but for the tropical designs, the sunrays are usually shielded by different shading devices recommended by the architect.
2)The african man prefers showing off his house ,hence the aesthetic considerations is in the exterior of building while the western people prefers to have more of the aesthetic reflects in the interior of their buildings.
3)Religion also contributes a lot to the type of building your architect will design for you. The western world are far more liberal and most of them are of no religious linnings.
But in Nigeria we have three major religion which constitutes 98% of the population.
For a muslim man with the probability of having more than one wife, his building plan will be different from that of a christian not to talk of the western people that are now having gay marriages.
4)Culture is deep rooted in the African setting, can you say that of the western world?
When you are designing for an african, it is appropriate to consider your sibblings as part of the family and provisions are made for them in your design but for the white people your brother will have to be invited before visiting you.
The father is seen as head of the family, the grandmother will have to be at home with you one time or the other, in short your extended family is your immediate family in africa. You are somehow tied to where you were coming from hence it affects the type of design of your building that your architect will give you.
5)Sociologically, you can’t compare the two worlds side by side and not see a wide difference. For the myopic, you may say there way of life is better, but if you take a second look you will notice that they commit more suicide than what is obtained elsewhere.
The tropical people that are more of Africa and a little of Arabs accomodate outsiders more. You can decide to have your friend that is yet to secure a job to stay in your house for sometimes.Your friend can barge in and out at anytime without invitation.
Your house can be used as a meeting place for your local club members, you can afford to do other things with your house that will be out of place in the western world, therefore your house may have to accommodate all these activities.
6)Security, if you look at some houses in Europe, they are practically designed for outsiders to view the interior of the buildings , very low walls or no walls at all are used, but what we have here tries to discourage robbers vandalizing our houses, hence you see high fences, burglary proof and some architect will even go the extra mile to provide escape routes for you when they are designing your building.
There are cases where we have to make the staircase of a duplex concrete, and this helped someone in Victoria Garden city when armed robbers invaded his house, He locked himself and families upstairs and the robbers were unable to gain access to him.
7)The big gap in technology also makes a lot of difference in the two worlds designs. The western architecture is backed up by up to date technologies that you may practically not need to work too hard to get the building done.
In most parts of the western world,wood or timber is used, these are not ordinary woods but well seasoned that can even last more than our concrete buildings we have down here. Prefabricated houses are much and they are used extensively.
8)Cost: It is far more expensive to build a good house in Nigeria/Africa to the ones you have in Europe e.t.c
9)Economy: The economy of the countries that constitutes the tropical regions does not give rooms for too much of luxuries, these countries are mostly poor countries so unnecessary rooms that are in vogue in western world are practically non-existent in the tropical regions.
10)Erratic power supply: This is by far the most important area to consider when designing your house. The western architects care less about using the natural lights to lighting the building because he knows he will always have stable and steady flow of electricity, but for the tropical architect, a long dark corridor without natural light is considered a failure .
Hence, high priority is given to natural light.
11)Government incentives or Subsidies: The government of the western world seems to care more for their citizens and they make it possible for everybody to have shelter by encouraging different kinds of schemes and subsidies.
12)Development of traditional styles of building: African and others are beginning to look inwards and they are developing their own brands of buildings/architecture improving the traditional building styles to modern innovations.
So changes are taking place so is buildings and their designs.
13)Lack of maintenance culture will also hinder the tropical architect or probably the Nigerian architect from designing and planning your building to look like that of the people of western world.
All said, you can however tell your architect back home to design a modern building that will reflects or meets up with the western architecture.
He is well trained to do that so just tell him what you want and when you aren’t satisfied don’t hesitate to let him know.

An architect with decades of experience


  1. I aggree with your assesment/comparision of western stle houses.I wished this article was brought to my attention before I started building my house in Nigeria.
    Why dont we have tripical house plans on line? If there any, please refer me to one.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *