Climate has a major effect on the performance of the building and its energy consumption. This study is based on a student workshop, which has been carried out for a hot dry area of Turkey. The study first aims to show the similarities and the differences of the traditional housing principles from the climate responsive design point of view. Secondly, it aims to put forward the basic principles and their meaningful changes in usage that can be used in the sustainable housing designs of the future. In this study, design strategies in mardin, a town situated in the hot-dry area of the south-eastern part of Turkey, were examined and modern and traditional houses were evaluated in terms of design criteria such as, selection of the area, distance between buildings, orientation, building envelope and building form. In this paper, a simplified thermal evaluation and comparison of a traditional house with a contemporary house have been given by using only data derived from the measurements and this evaluation has been done via both measurements and questionnaires which are carried out for 100 buildings. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.