The materials used for the construction of arches, vaults, and cupolas can be the same as those used for walls and can be found or produced locally. Construction is therefore less expensive, creates jobs, and allows foreign currency savings. There is no use of wood, which also totally eliminates the risk of fire. The massive nature of these structures provides good heat storage capacity and delay in heat transmission, meeting comfort requirements, especially in dry climate regions. This mass also gives good sound insulation.
The cost of buildings using arches, vaults, and cupolas varies according to the materials employed, the complexity of the design and of the construction technique, the size of the
structures, and the surface protection used. However, buildings employing sun-dried earth bricks (adobe) and protected with an earth render can be built at a lower cost than traditional buildings of a similar standard. In general, arches, vaults, and cupolas made from water-resistant materials and protected by durable waterproofing cost more than simple buildings covered with roof sheeting but remain less expensive than buildings with reinforced concrete slab roofs.
Significant foreign currency savings are possible. The basic materials are generally available on site, and little power is required for processing them. Transport costs are also reduced. The investment in site equipment, centering, compass, and scaffolding is generally very small, and most of these can be manufactured locally without any major difficulty.
Building with arches, vaults, and cupolas is highly labor intensive. Therefore, the technology has great job creation potential, not only with regard to construction but also with regard to building materials production.
The many possibilities of forms, sizes, and combinations of different elements and types of finishing enable highly attractive spaces to be created. Thus, arches, vaults, and cupolas can be used not only for low-cost housing programmes but also for high-quality, luxury dwellings (see Figures 6 and 7).