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This report shall be dealing with a family of four currently residing in Rovaniemi, in the North of Finland. This family consists of a couple and their two teenage children, who are currently planning to move permanently to Malta within this following year. They have invested in a plot of land on a promontory in Qala (Gozo) overlooking the sea.

                      Clients’ Background 

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, which is located in the continental climate zone. Rovaniemi has a subarctic climate with short, pleasant Summers due to the Gulf stream. On the other hand, Winters are long, cold, and with a heavy snow coverage. Rovaniemi’s extreme Northerly location together with frequent overcast skies, leads to very low levels of sunshine in the winter months.  During the month of December, the average amount of sunshine daily, is that of just a few minutes.There is a strong seasonal contrast of dark versus bright and cold versus warm.

There is a great deal of rainfall in Rovaniemi, even in the driest month. According to Köppen and Geiger, this climate is classified as Dfb. The average annual temperature in Rovaniemi is 0.5°C, with the lowest average temperature in the year occuring in February, when it is at around -12°C. The temperatures are highest on average in July, at around 14.7 °C.The average annual rainfall is 512 mm. 


Figure 1: Climograph Rovaniemi
Retrieved January 2018, from


Figure 2:Temperature graph Rovaniemi 
Retrieved January 2018, from


Figure 3: The mean monthly wind speed (meters per second)
Retrieved January 2018, from Sunshine,rovaniemi,Finland 

Figure 4: The wind rose for Rovaniemi showing how many hours per year the wind blows from the indicated direction.
Retrieved January 2018, from

Figure 5: The number of days each month with rain, snow, hail etc.
Retrieved January 2018, from  Sunshine,rovaniemi,Finland 
Figure 6: The mean monthly relative humidity.
Retrieved January 2018, from Sunshine,rovaniemi,Finland

Figure 7: The mean monthly precipitation, including rain, snow, hail etc.
Retrieved January 2018, from Sunshine,rovaniemi,Finland

mm rain
Approximately 90 percent of buildings in Rovaniemi were destroyed in 1944,  due to severe bombing during World War 2. The rebuilding process started immediately after the tragedy, led by one of Finland’s national architects, Alvar Aalto. Finland boasts approximately three million buildings, and it’s location at the North, natural conditions, and the often sporadic resources, are behind Finland’s unique architectural tradition. Influences from the outside have been adopted to suit the Finnish conditions. The architecture in Finland has been dominated by wood for thousands of years. Until the 1940s, the use of timber in construction continued in towns and in rural areas, and it is still popular up to this date. Timber is available locally, and it carries a sense of nostalgia.

Figure 8: Map of Finland. Retrieved January 2018, from

The oldest and traditional building type in Finland is the hut with horizontal joints of timber. It was used for living in and for keeping the animals. It had an open fireplace in the middle to give warmth, together with a hole in the wall to let out the smoke, as back then windows and glass were still unknown. Roofs were cladded in birch-barks, turf, or split beams. In Figure 9, an example of a log roof can be observed, where each half-round forms a gutter to carry the water to the eave. The assembly can expand and contract as need be without impacting the envelope.   

Figure 9: Traditional log roof.      Figure 10: Wall connection locking together     a wood-log structure with a smaller annex.
Both images retrieved January 2018, from 

Figure 11: Traditional Finnish Log House.
Retrieved January 2018, from

  Clients’ Requirements 

The clients shall be moving from a traditional wooden house in Finland, complete with a slate roof, to a complete opposite dwelling in Gozo built with traditional Maltese building materials. They are also moving to a completely different mediterranean climate, and they are unsure what materials and techniques are the most appropriate for Malta’s climate. They need the dwelling to be cool in Summer and warm in Winter, without using any air conditioning and heating, relying only on natural ventilation and sea breezes.

Malta’s climate is typical of the Mediterranean and is strongly influenced by the sea. The Maltese islands have a pleasantly sunny climate, with an average of 12 hours of daily sunshine during the Summer months. Midsummer, when the hot African “Sirocco” winds sweep across the island, temperatures  can reach up to 45°C. During the Winter months, Malta still has an average of 8 hours sunshine daily. The climate is that of hot, dry Summers, and mild Winters. There is a very low level of precipitation, however, short but strong rain showers can affect the island badly, due to the poor water drainage system. Humidity is one of the island’s main issues, and also winds can be quite strong.
Figure 12: Average temperatures in Malta.
Retrieved January 2018, from,Malta,Valletta

The proposed site for the clients’ is located on a highland in Qala, Gozo (Figure 13). Due to the site being on a piece of high land, and also very close to the sea, it is quite exposed to the natural elements, mainly strong winds and the sea. For the clients, a typical Maltese farmhouse is being suggested. Despite Arabic influences, Maltese farmhouses are the primary example fof Vernacular architecture. Farmhouses have a deep respect for time, nature, seasons, and space, to which the layout adapts. Farmhouses were originally built by people who lived closer to nature, worked mainly in agriculture, and whose lives depended on the assessment of the weather and planning for survival. Therefore, they were not interested in fancy dwellings, but in sturdy houses which were rooted firmly to the earth they stand on. Externally, Maltese farmhouses blend really well with their surroundings. 
Figure 13 : Qala, Gozo. Retrieved January 2018, from Google maps. 
Materials – Walls

Stone: Globigerina limestone

It is being recommended that this traditional Maltese farmhouse is built of stone, specifically  locally quarried Globigerina limestone. Globigerina limestone is soft and very porous, with water and its dissolved salts able to pass through it. Globigerina limestone comes in two forms, namely ‘Franka’ and ‘Soll’. Soll weathers and crumbles much easier than Franka, and it has a lower overall porosity and a greater proportion of small pores. Sea salt starts the process of deterioration in soll, and franka resists this environment better. Due to soll crumbling easily, soll is not used for masonry work where it remains exposed. Also, limestone and paint will not stick to it’s surface, so soll will be used in the farmhouses’ foundations below the damp proof course, whilst Franka is used to build  the rest of the farmhouse. 

Figure 14: Machine-cut globigerina limestone in a quarry. Retrieved January 2018, from 

Figure 15: ‘Tad-Dual’ Limestone quarry in Malta back in 1926.
Retrieved January 2018, from
Stone : Lower Coralline limestone

Lower Coralline limestone is a very hard, homogenous rock, it is semi crystalline, and it also is very dense, whilst resisting corrosion very well. The first three or four courses of the farmhouse are to be constructed using Lower Coralline Limestone. This is done to limit the amount of humidity in the house, as Lower Coralline limestone is not as porous as Globigerina Limestone. As previously mentioned, the rest of the walls are all to be built out of Globigerina limestone, namely Franka. 

For external walls, double leaf walls are being suggested. Double leaf walls are constructed by the Globigerina limestone blocks quarried locally, double layered, and filled with stone chips and soil. As this particular stone is very porous and absorbs water, the whole facade or a band of stonework about ten feet high is painted with whitewash, thus forming a protective skin. Whitewash is a solution of lime and water. One of the main objectives of double leaf walls is to insulate the house, and isolate outdoor temperatures from indoor temperatures. This means that the house will be cool in Summer, and warm in Winter. For internal walls, single leaf walls meaning walls which are a stone thick, are constructed. The internal single leaf walls do not require to be insulated, since the heat transfer within the rooms is much less than the external heat gain/loss. This will in turn result in more  internal space, as double leaf walls take a considerable amount of area. Ground floor rooms have small rectangular openings towards the outside, which could easily be closed by inserting a piece of stone . 
Figure 16: Double leaf walls. Own work.

Materials – Roofing system

The farmhouse is to be roofed using stone slabs which are laid onto the walls across the width of the room and rested on timber beams. Timber is considered to be a material which is durable and very strong. Timber is strong in tension and even in compression, but it can be weak in bending due to its fibrous structure, and one must also be careful about the amount of moisture content present in the timber beam, as it must not be too high. Roof construction is also very similar to ceiling construction. The slabs of stone are to be laid on top of the wooden beams. The stone slabs are then to be covered by about four inches of soft stone chippings(xahx) to distribute the load, and they are to mixed with fine material and lime(gir). The second layer of chippings is well rammed down, and then the mixture of ground pottery ‘diffone’, with water and lime, is beaten to a paste and laid uniformly over the whole surface to a thickness of about three eights of an inch. This type of surfacing also serves to make the roof water proof, and the roof also is made to slope down towards the stone water spouts(Figure 18), so that no rain water gathers on the roof. These stone water spouts are fixed jutting out from the roof, and they are constructed in such a way so as to direct the water towards the well in the internal courtyard. In this way, the clients would have a sustainable way of collecting rain water.

Figure 17: Roofing system with stone slabs and timber beams. 
Retrieved January 2018, from

Figure 18: Water spout. Own work

Materials – Apertures

North facing walls are to be kept nearly windowless, due to strong winds. The only windows that the farmhouse will have on the exterior, will only be tiny apertures so as to prevent the strong winds and rain from entering inside. On the other hand, in the farmhouses’ interior, larger apertures leading onto the internal courtyard are to be constructed. These large apertures leading onto the courtyard maximise light and ventilation through the whole house. These apertures are made of wood, and this wood must not be porous, as it has to take in the natural elements. Glass is preferably not used, as they trap heat and do not circulate the air. 

Figure 19 : Exterior small wooden aperture. Retrieved January 2018, from

Awnings are to be installed above windows and doors. An awning is a secondary covering attached to the exterior wall of a building, usually made out of canvas, and it extends over or before any place, creating a shelter from the sun, rain, or wind. The awning will protect against water damage, as it prevents rain from entering inside the farmhouse and from leaking inside, and it does not allow any damage to happen to the window/window sill. An awning also helps in keeping a cool climate inside the house during Summer, as it prevents the cool air to escape from the building, as well as provide shade. The awning will also provide enough shade to prevent heat from entering the farmhouse through the window panes. Ventilated awnings are the most ideal choice, as they don’t allow heat from becoming trapped around the exterior of the windows. 

Figure 20: Awning over farmhouse door.
Retrieved January 2018, from

Materials – Flooring 

The flooring itself, will consist of the ceiling slabs laid on top of the timber beams. Two inches of stone chippings are then laid onto these, and finally three inch thick floor stones are laid on top of the chippings. The finished surface is then scraped and covered with a thin coat of warm oil. This helps to harden the stone, and allows the stone to be well polished, as well as form a surface which is beautiful in appearance without any stains. 

For the flooring, traditional terrazzo tiles can be considered as another option. These terrazzo tiles are very durable, and although some colours are most likely to fade with time, their aesthetic value improves with age. These terrazzo tiles are made out of a mixture consisting of white cement, powdered marble, and colour pigment. Colours are poured one by one inside the mould of each particular pattern and design, and left to set. Each tile has to be made individually. It is of utmost importance that these tiles are polished so as to prevent staining.  

Figure 21: Traditional Maltese terrazzo tiles. 
Retrieved January 2018, from

Materials – Mortars

The mortar used to bind the building stone together is lime based mortar. Lime mortar is composed of an aggregate such as sand, lime, and mixed with water. The use of lime mortar in new constructions gradually declined due to the introduction of Portland cement. Portland cement sets quicker, and has a higher compressive strength. However, lime mortar is very durable, and has soft and porous properties, providing an advantage when working with the soft Maltese Globigerina limestone. Lime based mortar allows moisture to evaporate from the joints in preference of the stone. This helps in lowering moisture levels in the wall, whilst reducing the accumulation of soluble salts in the stone face. This reduces the damage done to the stone. 

Natural Ventilation – Internal Courtyard 

The farmhouse will also include an internal courtyard. The cubical rooms of the farmhouse will be built around this internal courtyard, so the rooms will all have openings overlooking this said courtyard. This will provide light and ventilation for all the rooms, whilst also providing plenty of air circulation throughout the entire farmhouse. During the Winter months, the courtyard allows the sun’s warmth to fill the chilly rooms, whilst during Summer it provides plenty of air circulation. Hot air rises, whilst cool air sinks. The farmhouse is built in such a way so as  to enjoy most hours of sunlight during the day. The internal courtyard will also include a stone well, used to collect rain water, and it will also include an exterior stone staircase embedded against the wall of one  of the side rooms, whilst the other doors lead to various rooms.   
Figure 22: Internal courtyard. 
Retrieved January 2018, from inclusion of verandahs

Overlooking the internal courtyard, on the front of the upper storey room(g?orfa), a verandah is to be included. This is a space which provides shelter from the sun, wind and natural elements. The verandah allows the clients to spend time outdoors without having to worry about any weather elements, as the roof is provided. The Verandah will protect the farmhouse from the sun, as it stops the sun from hitting the wall on one or more sides of the home where the verandah is installed. This means that there won’t be a hot interior. The Verandah can be used for entertaining guests, dining outdoors, or for relaxation during any time of year. 
Figure 23: Id-dar Maltija. 
Retrieved January 2018, from

Use of trees and shrubs 

The Farmhouse is to be surrounded by prickly pear trees from all sides. These trees serve as a solid fence against intruders, as well as provide a good shelter to the farmhouse during strong winds which prevail in Malta. During the hot summer months, they also offer shade. On the other hand, the planting of a Carob Tree will help to further shelter the farmhouse during the winter storms, as well as provide shade during the summer heat. 


In conclusion, the proposal of a new farmhouse does not only meet the clients’ needs and requirements, but it also helps to keep Malta’s tradition alive. After Malta gained its Independence in 1964, Malta witnessed a building boom, which continued booming whilst resulting in the demolition of many traditional homes which were considered outdated for modern living. Unfortunately, the majority of traditional building techniques and materials are being replaced by materials such as concrete, steel, and glass. Eventhough these materials help the construction industry move forward with new ideas due to their capabilities, it is of utmost important that one does not forget his roots, as they helped shape the construction and building industry as we know it today. 

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