The Impact of Rainfall


on The Conservation of Traditional

Nigerian Heritage Buildings:

A Case Study of The Museum of Traditional

Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA), Jos



By Iliya MELA and Yongkang CAO

Department of Architecture
School of Design
Jiao Tong University

Shanghai, China


Advancements in building construction technology and the advent of foreign materials that came with Nigeria’s colonial and post-colonial periods led to the mass abandonment of traditional buildings for a “contemporary” option. The need to preserve the nation’s architectural heritage led to the establishment of the Museum of Traditional Architecture (MOTNA). Within the museum are life-size replicas of various traditional buildings across the country. Studies, observations, and documentaries reveal how the longevity and functionality of indigenous Nigerian buildings have been altered by weather elements such as precipitation and relative humidity. This study investigates the impact rainfall has on the conservation of traditional heritage buildings over time. Four buildings that together represent the bioclimatic zones in Nigeria were selected through purposeful sampling. Heritage buildings were investigated through the case study/observation method. The studies revealed that all heritage buildings were significantly affected by the effects of rainfall due to their design morphology and material usage. The investigation concluded that the conservation of Nigerian traditional heritage buildings can be unusually challenging. This is because most local building materials are susceptible to the effects of rainfall and require frequent replacement, which might be against conservation laws.

Keywords: Rainfall, Heritage Buildings, Conservation, Traditional Architecture, Preservation


1.1 Background

The traditional architecture of any society reflects its historical significance, sociocultural values, craftsmanship, and religious beliefs, as well as the aesthetic appreciation of its people. Preserving the heritage buildings of a people is as critical as preserving their values. Building conservation can be referred to as any measure taken towards maintaining the physical outlook of a building without altering its original fabric or introducing a foreign element to it (Bernard, 2003). Prior to the colonial era, most Nigerians lived in traditional houses made of locally sourced building materials. The design and layout of these local architectures were partly an expression of cultural values and a response to bioclimatic factors. Nowadays, with the introduction of modern building technologies and foreign building materials such as steel, concrete, aluminum, and glass, a significant number of Nigerians are now opting for contemporary houses made of unsustainable foreign materials. Hence, the need to not only preserve the nation’s heritage but also innovate the “old” as a sustainable substitute for the modern becomes of paramount importance.

Numerous studies have revealed the role of conserving a nation’s heritage buildings in the development of its history, architectural identity, and cultural values (Bernard, 2003; Osasona, 2017; Adeyemi, 2008; and Al-Sakkaf, A., Zayed, T., & Bagchi, A., 2020). Other authors have also studied the reasons responsible for the negligence of Nigerian traditional architecture and the factors influencing its longevity and have discovered issues like poor maintenance, obsolescence, exposure to dampness, erosion, inadequate funding, poor legislation, poor physical planning, and vandalism at the top of the list (Akinbamijo & Alakinde, 2013; Iliyasu, 2014; Bomi-Daniels, 2022) It should be noted, however, that all existing studies, except Eneh & Ati (2009), did not go beyond listing these factors. This study, Eneh & Ati (2009), focused on the influence of rainfall on Hausa traditional architecture and did not examine the traditional house forms of other regions. Using individual buildings as case studies to analyze how rainfall affects the various traditional buildings will revalidate previous findings. This will also explain how these deteriorations occur and suggest ways that design and innovation can help improve the longevity and usability of traditional buildings.

1.2 Research Objective

  • To ascertain the various building components ruined by the effect of rainfall and why it x
  • To analyze the local building materials used in heritage buildings that are prone to the negative effect of rain and moisture
  • To highlight design character or material selections that allow for the impact of rainfall

1.3 Scope of Study

The study only looked at indigenous Nigerian buildings on the grounds of MOTNA in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Among these buildings, four were selected for the study based on their geographical origin. These buildings represent the traditional architecture of Nigeria’s four climatic zones, namely: tropical monsoon, tropical savannah, hot desert climate, and hot semi-arid climate. For the sake of this study, the hot desert climate and the hot semi-arid climate will be considered a single climatic zone because of their physical and cultural similarities. Case studies will be conducted on two buildings from these regions. MOTNA was chosen because of its comprehensive representation of the nation’s traditional architecture, with over twenty life-size replicas of typical traditional Nigerian buildings.


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How to cite this paper: Mela, I. and Cao, Y. (2023). The Impact of Rainfall on The Conservation of Traditional Nigerian Heritage Buildings: A Case Study of The Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA), Jos; PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pmwj125-Jan2023-Mela-Cao-Impact-of-Rainfall-on-Traditional-Nigerian-Buildings.pdf

About the Authors

Iliya Mela

Shanghai, China


Iliya Mela is a Master of Architecture (Research) candidate at the School of Design, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, under the supervision of Prof. CAO Yongkang. His research interests range from the use of digital technology and innovation in vernacular architecture to architectural heritage conservation and design research. With experience from both professional practice and academia, he hopes to engage in a research-based design practice going forward.  He can be contacted at Mellee07@sjtu.edu.cn


Yongkang Cao

Shanghai, China


Professor Yongkang Cao is both the director of the International Research Center for Architectural Heritage Conservation and the deputy director of the Department of Architecture, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His work mainly engages in the theoretical and practical research of architectural heritage conservation, especially in the collection of data and management of architectural heritage, disease investigation, precision intervention design and other aspects. He has presided over 97 projects including the National Natural Science Foundation project and led the team to complete more than 200 architectural heritage conservation work, including conservation planning, urban protection, and renewal design, building conservation design, restoration research and the likes. Professor Cao can be contacted via ykcao@sjtu.edu.cn