Santa Yalla, Primary School, Senegal

locally sourced sand + laterite for a thermally comfortable and healthier learning environment

Let’s Build My School (LBMS) is a UK charity, run by London based architects who believe that education is a universal right. With strong local links in Senegal, LBMS has now completed it’s second primary school building project on its second site. They focus on supporting underprivileged communities across Senegal, using sustainable and locally sourced materials such as earth and recycled car tyres. While researching and implementing innovative and low-cost + low skill construction techniques.

LBMS  and SAWA have many shared values and approach to working with vulnerable communities in challenging environments. Collaborations like these make these kinds of projects ever more possible increasing the potential of the project, pooling knowledge, skills and know-how.

Primary School Exterior

Phase 1 is now completed, so the school can open in September 2019, 3 classrooms, 4 WC cubicles, hand washing area and an office. The subsequent phase 2 will be to deliver 3 more classrooms to complete the courtyard enclosure and have a full 6 classes operating for the 6 age groups for the primary education system.

Primary School Interior

The walls are constructed using a technique popularised in California by Cal Earth Institute, called superadobe.  Taking a mixture of sand, clay, cement and some water, pouring the damp mix into a long sack which you lay along the wall. The sack is filled, then tapped down solid and flat. Each layer is tied together with a metal bar or barbed wire. Once the wall mixture has cured after 1 month, the sack can be burnt off . A similar mixture for the plaster, only that the laterite rich earth must be sieved through 1mm fine mesh. The final layer is with a thick lime wash, to keep the interiors cool, light and attractive.

The thick earth walls stay cool throughout the day, keeping the temperature of classrooms, even when temperature outside are above 40 degrees. The flat metal roof, can be covered at plates date with earth and make it a brown or even green roof.

The buttresses play an important role for several reasons, one to give lateral strength to the wall, two they act cool sinks and shade the windows from sun and thirdly provide a pleasant social sitting space on a bench out the sun, in the gentle breeze.

Work in Progress

Build Cost


Build Area

500 m2


Phase 1 04/2019-07/2019 Phase 2 completed 2021