Desert palm project gets UN backing

005_Liwa_IMG_4546  C Sandra Piesik

A pioneering project aiming to recreate the desert design technology of past millennia by using palm tree leaves as building materials has been adopted by the United Nations.

Architect Sandra Piesik is spearheading the Food Shelter Project – exclusively revealed in Middle East Architect in September – which is looking at ways the leaves can be used as building materials rather than just destroyed as waste.

It has been adopted as part of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the world body is now looking for a community where date palms are cultivated to further examine the project and its feasibility.


The materials could be used to construct homes and schools and also provide shelter for perishable foodstuffs.

Piesik said:  “Each tree has 10 dry palm leaves that need to be cut annually for the next year harvest – so ‘arish’ is in essence an agricultural waste that is being produced in over 40 countries. It is a compelling statistic for its future use.

“It is cheaper than any other building material used for construction of buildings. The leaf may cost from 1 UAE Dirham to 2 UAE Dirhams ($0.27-0.54) This is for collection and transportation of the dry palm leaves.

“I see huge potential in usage of dry palm fronds in a new, modern way.”



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