Passive Solar House (PSH) [Afghanistan]

Garm Khana

technologies_1602 - Afghanistan

Completeness: 78%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
HELVETAS (Swiss Intercooperation)

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

A clean energy technology for converting solar energy into heat for warming homes.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Passive Solar House technology is documented by Sustainable Land Management Project/HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation with financial support of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Households in Bayman Centre experience very cold winters and meeting household energy needs for the Bamyan population is challenging. They mostly rely on unsustainable solutions such as burning manure or mountain shrubs. Shrub harvesting for firewood is a major cause of land degradation in the province. Fuel expenses also deplete the financial resources of an already impoverished population. Also, due to the intense cold, very few activities are possible during the winter. To overcome the challenges of heavy dependence on biomass for winter heating and to improve living conditions, many families in Bamyan Centre are adopting the passive solar technology for improving their living conditions, while reducing pressure on environment.
Passive solar technology captures sunlight in a room or building, and converts that energy into low-temperate heat. It provides an efficient mean of capturing the sun's energy, reducing the need for fuel wood and coal for heating.

(1)The passive solar house (PSH) technology has significant economic, socio-cultural and environmental benefits. They are as follows:
(2)reducing the reliance on shrubs and other heating materials; saving expenditure on fuel (aprox.25,000 Afghani/year) and the time usually spent on harvesting bushes;
(3)provision of extra space in the house for washing/drying cloths, bathing, social activities, play and study area, space for vegetable crops for home consumption; savings due to this technology offset the high initial investment cost;
(4)improved health due to less exposure to cold;
(5)reduced pressure on environment. The technology contributes to re-greening of common lands or rangelands where fewer shrubs are collected (uprooted) for firewood.
PSH should have a Southern exposure to take maximum advantage of the sun for daylight and passive solar heating. Most of the houses in Bamyan have southern exposures. The PSH is generally used for 6 months (November to April).
Although the technology was introduced in Bamyan by GERES, an International Non-Governmental Organization, many families have replicated it without any external support.

The main purpose of Passive Solar House technology is to make use of the solar energy for heating homes. As a result, the need for shrubs and coal for home heating is reduced significantly. The technology contributes to re-greening of common lands or range lands on which shrubs are harvested (uprooted) for firewood. Barat Ali's family bought about 60 donkey loads of shrubs per year for winter heating purposes. They did not have to do that after this technology was implemented by the PSH owner. The technology also contributes to the well-being of all family members, especially of women, who can do their household chores, and children who often got sick due to cold exposure.

The PSH presented here was established in September 2013 before the onset of winter. A transparent plastic sheet, metal pipes, wires and ropes to hold the plastic are used for construction work. Metal pipes were purchased from Kabul by the owner.
The PSH measures 17 m in length, 5 m in width and about 4 m in height. However, the PSH may vary from one house to another. The factor to consider is that the PSH should have long area to capture maximum sunlight. The upper part is slopping (about 30% gradient) to drain the water and snow. Local semi-skilled labor and skilled mechanic for welding the pipes were employed for construction works.
Approximately 45,000 Afghani/790 USD was spent on the construction of this PSH. The owner made significant investment. He purchased the pipes and plastic contributing approximately 70% of the costs. Plastic sheets, which are available on the market in Bamyan, are not of very high quality and have to be replaced each year. If the used plastic sheet is not too damaged, it is placed on roofs to protect from snow water/rain seepage. Otherwise, it is simply thrown away, which is not an environment friendly practice.
According to the PSH owner, a possibility for improvement is to use good quality wooden frame instead of pipes so that the plastic sheet can be kept intact by nailing it to the wooden frame. Using wooden frames may also reduce the cost of the technology, making it more affordable for poor families. Provision for ventilation is an aspect which needs to be considered while constructing PSH.

Bamyan province is a remote province of Afghanistan with high poverty rate. It has a temperate and arid climate. During winter, temperatures can drop below minus 22 degrees. Summer temperature can reach up to 34 degrees in the month of July. The average annual rainfall in the area is about 230 mm and some years can be very dry.
90% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods and off-farm activities are marginal.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Bamyan Center / Dashte Esakhan

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):


If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • < 0.1 km2 (10 ha)

Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.00027 km2.
The PSH and house areas are 85 and 270 square meter, respectively.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

The PSH owner saw the technology applied by others and replicated it without any external support. The technology has been promoted by GERES (an International NGO) in Bamyan.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • create beneficial social impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Settlements, infrastructure

Settlements, infrastructure

  • Energy: pipelines, power lines

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Degradation of common lands due to shrub harvesting for firewood and overgrazing by sheep and goats.
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Land degradation due to uprooting of shrubs required for domestic purpose like heating homes during winter and cooking.
Constraints of Infrastructure (House): Lack of alternative energy resources. Heavy dependence on biomass for burning.

Longest growing period in days: 180, Longest growing period from month to month: April-September

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • energy efficiency technologies

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

structural measures

structural measures

  • S11: Others

Specification of other structural measures: Passive Solar House

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover

Main causes of degradation: over-exploitation of vegetation for domestic use (Shrubs for fuel wood), overgrazing (Mainly sheep and goats), governance / institutional (Specially relating to common lands), lack of alternative energy options
Secondary causes of degradation: droughts, population pressure

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical specification of South facing Passive Solar House constructed by the house owner comprising white plastic sheet, pipes for framers, string tied outside to secure plastic. Entrance gates.
Location: Dashte Esakhan. Bamyan Centre
Date: 12.05.2014

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate
Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: improvement of ground cover
Structural measure: Passive Solar House
Height of bunds/banks/others (m): 4
Width of bunds/banks/others (m): 5
Length of bunds/banks/others (m): 17
Construction material (other): Plastic sheet, metal pipes, wires


SLM Project, Helvetas, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Afghanistan

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Purchase material from Kabul September 2013
2. Construction of PSH using 4 semi-skilled workers for 3 days and one skilled mechanic September 2013

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour labour ha 1.0 190.12 190.12 100.0
Equipment plastic ha 1.0 70.28 70.28 100.0
Equipment pipes ha 1.0 530.31 530.31 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 790.71
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 13.87

Duration of establishment phase: 1 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Maintainance - plastic sheet As required
2. Replacement of plastic sheet every year

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour labour ha 1.0 13.78 13.78 100.0
Equipment plastic ha 1.0 68.92 68.92 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 82.7
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 1.45

Machinery/ tools: Plastic Sheets, Pipes, Wires, Generator, Welding Machine
The prices in Afghani are for September 2013. The exchange rate which was used for the conversion of US$ to Afghani was 1 US$ = 57 Afghani.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Pipes is the most expensive part of this technology

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Most rainfall in spring (April and May) and also there is snow.

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: temperate. Bamyan has cold winter (temperatures can fall up to -22 degree C) and temperate summer.

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:

poor/ none

Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Difference in the involvement of women and men: All the PSH construction work is done by men.
Population density: 10-50 persons/km2
Annual population growth: 2% - 3%
100% of the land users are average wealthy.

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • individual

Well belongs to the house owner

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


energy generation

Comments/ specify:

For winter season

Income and costs


Comments/ specify:

Time saved in shrubs collection, burning Bukharis stoves for house warming, going out for daily chores like drying clothes, etc...

Other socio-economic impacts

Reduced expense on fuel (wood and coal)

Comments/ specify:

Due to less consumption of coal and shrubs

Off-season vegetable production for self consumption

Comments/ specify:

Harvested 5 times during winter/spring

Energy saving (coal bags)

Comments/ specify:

Less use of coal for winter heating

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency

Comments/ specify:

Due to increased fresh winter vegetable production. Cash saved can be used for buying food items.

health situation

Comments/ specify:

Women, men and children are less exposed to severe cold. Also consumption of vegetables grown in the PSH contributes to food diversity and health. PSH also protects chimney smoke from outside entering the house.

cultural opportunities

Comments/ specify:

PSH used for social meeting, children play and studies, washing/drying clothes, bathing etc.

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

Comments/ specify:

In terms of reducing shrub cutting through alternative energy options. Others see and learn.

conflict mitigation


contribution to human well-being

Comments/ specify:

The technology has contributed to less expenditure on fuel, improved health and has created socio-cultural opportunities.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff

Comments/ specify:

As PSH has sloping top without any proper outlet for concentrated runoff

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

plant diversity

Comments/ specify:

As the family can grow certain vegetable crops and flowers inside the PSH during winter time.

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases

Comments/ specify:

Because of less burning of coal and shrubs

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

Increased vagetation cover

Comments/ specify:

Due to less extraction of shrubs for firewood for winter heating

Reduced soil erosion

Comments/ specify:


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local windstorm not well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
Intense sun light not well

Pipes should be replaced by wooden frames because they get heated up and can damage the plastic. Also, using wooden frames may reduce the cost.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive


The cost of the PSH can be covered in 2 years time. This is only in financial terms but if we analyse the overall economic benefits considering health and ecological benefits, the benefits compared with establishment costs will be more.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support
30 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support
There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Multiple benefits for the family - less expense for fuel, children can play inside in warm climate. It is also a good space for social meetings.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
PSH has multiple benefits: house warming using clean energy, less expenditure on fuel for winter, extra room for various activities (like studies, playing, washing, drying clothes, warming water, social meetings), less use of shrubs.
Due to PSH technology, families dependency on shrubs for firewood is reduced which leads to improved land management.
Convinced by the benefits of PSH technology, many families with financial resources have constructed it without seeking external support.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Metal pipe is not good for frame because the plastic sheet cannot be nailed to it so that it does not get blown away by wind. Use of wooden frame.
Distance between pipes is more. More pipes needed to reduce that gap.
The air moisture can increase in the PSH as well as in the other parts of the house. The door and if possible the window of the PSH should be opened for some minutes during the day.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
PSH does not have proper ventilation. Construction of a ventilator.
The poor households cannot apply it due to high establishment cost. Use of low cost wooden frame and some incentives to the poor families for establishment.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


Links and modules

Expand all Collapse all