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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The driving factor behind this project is the belief that simple design is high design, particularly when working in the developing world.

For the Love of Earthbags (F.L.O.E.) is an interactive design project that aims to prove that it’s possible to approach high-design in a manner that is tasteful, modern, and groundbreaking by using only the most basic materials, such as the dirt beneath our feet.

This project is an initiative led by architect Travis Hughbanks and supported by Edge of Seven (www.edgeofseven.org) in partnership with the local community of Basa, Nepal.

Edge of Seven is a nonprofit organization that generates awareness and volunteer support for projects that invest in education, health and economic opportunity for girls in developing countries. According to the World Bank, 30 percent of Nepalis live in poverty and this population is most concentrated in rural areas where people survive off of agriculture and subsistence farming. For Edge of Seven, earthbags offered an opportunity to improve rural educational infrastructure and combat poverty in the most low-cost, efficient and sustainable way possible.

How will the funding be spent? The money raised through this campaign will be used for supplies to create the earthbag school, educational tools, and the production of the graphic materials.

F.L.O.E.’s end goal is to elevate the practice of earthbag construction by producing several engaging and creative educational materials that will be used both to promote earthbag construction and teach local residents how to build with this method. The materials to be produced are an animated video and a graphic print manual.

To read more about this innovative project and see more of their interesting graphics check out this website: www.indiegogo.com

We have profiled the Nepali school project on several other posts:
finished-earthbag-school-in-nepal
earthbag-building-spreads-in-nepal
earthbag-school-in-nepal

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Vernacular architecture of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Vernacular architecture of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico


Desert vernacular architecture – “the word refers to the type of architecture that is indigenous to a specific time or place and is not copied / imported from anywhere else.” (click to enlarge)

Desert vernacular architecture – “the word refers to the type of architecture that is indigenous to a specific time or place and is not copied / imported from anywhere else.” (click to enlarge)


French vernacular architecture

French vernacular architecture


Iron Age roundhouse

Iron Age roundhouse


“Vernacular architecture is a term used to categorize methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs and circumstances. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural and historical context in which it exists. It has often been dismissed as crude and unrefined, but also has proponents who highlight its importance in current design.

It can be contrasted against polite architecture which is characterised by stylistic elements of design intentionally incorporated for aesthetic purposes which go beyond a building’s functional requirements.

The building knowledge in vernacular architecture is often transported by local traditions and is thus based largely – but not only – upon knowledge achieved by trial and error and handed down through the generations, in contrast to the geometrical and physical calculations that underlie architecture planned by architects. This of course does not prevent architects from using vernacular architecture in their designs or from being firmly based in the vernacular architecture of their regions.”

Green Home Building.com: “There are many wonderful building styles from all over the world that can inform us with their shapes, materials, arrangements, decorations, concepts for heating and cooling, etc. Vernacular architecture has been loosing ground over the last couple of centuries, as modern methods prevail. This is unfortunate since many of the old ways employ natural materials and simple concepts that are energy efficient. Also the buildings themselves are often beautiful. Perhaps you will find some ideas from among these pages to help with your own designs.”

Source: Wiki
Source: Green Home Building.com (lots of interesting books)
Image source: The Natural Vernacular
Image source: asdesigned blog
Image source: Green Home Building.com
Image source: Geograph

Comment: What type of architecture is most enduring, vernacular or non-vernacular buildings designed by architects?

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Architecture without Architects -- Bernard Rudofsky

Architecture without Architects -- Bernard Rudofsky


“In this book, Bernard Rudofsky steps outside the narrowly defined discipline that has governed our sense of architectural history and discusses the art of building as a universal phenomenon. He introduces the reader to communal architecture–architecture produced not by specialists but by the spontaneous and continuing activity of a whole people with a common heritage, acting within a community experience. A prehistoric theater district for a hundred thousand spectators on the American continent and underground towns and villages (complete with schools, offices, and factories) inhabited by millions of people are among the unexpected phenomena he brings to light.

The beauty of “primitive” architecture has often been dismissed as accidental, but today we recognize in it an art form that has resulted from human intelligence applied to uniquely human modes of life. Indeed, Rudofsky sees the philosophy and practical knowledge of the untutored builders as untapped sources of inspiration for industrial man trapped in his chaotic cities.”

Source: Amazon
Note the number of related terms and phrases: vernacular building, indigenous building, green building, natural building, built by hand, handbuilt, owner-built, communal architecture, social architecture, grassroots housing, traditional architecture, primitive architecture, buildings without architects, human scale architecture, people-centered architecture…

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Mr. Banker Mahn

Mr. Banker Mahn


Dear Mr. Geiger,
My wealthy and powerful associates are not happy with your message of low cost owner-built houses paid with cash, and building small and simple with local materials. To us, this is sacrilege. You see, we are the powers that be that control most everything in the world and who have created the present system to enrich ourselves. You Mr. Geiger and others out there like you are upsetting the apple cart. Nothing is worse than someone like you who causes us to lose money. How dare you. We have a sweet deal going and don’t want things to change. While you call the current system a scam, we call it getting filthy rich. [snort!] We love it when people enslave themselves to us for 30 year mortgages when all we have to do is make a bookkeeping entry to create the money out of thin air. [ha!] We love printing money with nothing backing it up. We love exploiting people, countries and the environment. And the thing is, it’s so freaking easy. Congress critters will sell out for a paltry sum. (It’s paltry to us because it’s just funny fiat money.) They are all too happy to create laws that make what we’re doing ‘legal’. [delirious laughter] We take that same fiat money (something from nothing) to buy up everything of real value and leave the rest of the world in rags and ruin. [choking with laughter] It’s business Mr. Geiger, just business, and we are the best. We are the winners. We are the elite. We run the world. Do you believe for one second the nonsense you are spreading? All this happy talk about working together to create a better world is ridiculous and you know it. Won’t you reconsider what you’re doing and perhaps come work for the other side?
– The Borg Collective

Dear New World Order scum,
Take a hike! You have nothing, nothing that I want. You can go where the sun doesn’t shine. I work for the greater good. Goodness and humanity will prevail over evil.
Owen Geiger

Image source: Democratic Underground.com

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The Rural Studio from BluePrint Productions on Vimeo.

One of the earliest Rural Studio projects -- the main house made from straw bales, and a smoker out front made of recycled broken concrete and bottles. (click to enlarge)

One of the earliest Rural Studio projects -- the main house made from straw bales, and a smoker out front made of recycled broken concrete and bottles. (click to enlarge)

“The Rural Studio is a design-build architecture studio run by Auburn University which aims to teach students about the social responsibilities of the profession of architecture while also providing safe, well-constructed and inspirational homes and buildings for poor communities in rural west Alabama, part of the so-called “Black Belt”.

The studio was founded in 1993 by architects Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth. Each year the program builds five or so projects – a house by the second-year students, three thesis projects by groups of 3-5 fifth year students and one or more outreach studio projects. The Rural Studio has built more than 80 houses and civic projects in Hale, Perry and Marengo counties. The Rural Studio is based in Newbern, a small town in Hale County. Many of its best-known projects are in the tiny community of Mason’s Bend, on the banks of the Black Warrior River.

The $20K House is an ongoing research project at the Rural Studio that seeks to address the pressing need for decent and affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama. Nearly 30% of individuals in Hale County live in poverty. Due to the lack of conventional credit for people with this level of income, and insufficient knowledge about alternative sources of funding, mobile homes offer the only chance for home ownership. Unlike a house, which is an asset for its owner, trailers deteriorate very quickly and depreciate in value over time. The $20k house project intends to produce a model home that could be reproduced on a large scale, and thereby become a viable alternative to the mobile home in this area. The challenge is to build a house for $20,000, ten to twelve thousand of which will go towards materials and the remainder on contracted labor. Once a truly successful model has been designed, the aim is to sell the houses in conjunction with the “502 Direct Loan” provided by the Rural Housing Service. The project began in 2005, and there have been 9 iterations of the house so far. The project is typically carried out by four outreach students; international post-graduates with a background in architecture or design.”

Source: Wiki
Image source: Flickr
Video source
The Rural Studio Film
Rural Studio website

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This small structure is the ECHO Asia Seed Bank’s earthbag house that is nearing completion.  ECHO promotes community-based seed sharing and saving. It is also part of their mission to recommend appropriate ways for communities and organizations in the developing world to better store seeds.

James (ECHO Asia intern) and Lue (Assistant Seed Bank Director) were trained in earthbag house construction by Engineering Ministries International (eMi).  To prevent the invasion of surrounding warmer air (the seed bank is located in a tropical/sub-tropical region), a small door with a foam interior and a thick but light ceiling composed of sacks filled with burnt rice husks were installed.  And to keep costs low, almost the entire structure was made from local, cheap materials, including a roof of fan palm thatch.

Data loggers will be installed to record the interior temperature and relative humidity.  These will be compared with outside readings over a period of one year. So we look forward to reporting on the long term results of the modification of temperature by the earthbag house and the potential of such structures for community-based seed storage in the tropics.

See sustainabilityquest.blogspot.com to read the entire article.

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How to have a good life (click to enlarge)

How to have a good life (click to enlarge)


The diagram above shows how sustainable building is one important part of having a good life.

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This is how to make a banker cry. It’s their worst nightmare. It’s also how to change the world, one step at a time. Read my comments below after this brief intro.

“Austin Hay is still in high school, but he’s building his own house. It’s only 130 square feet, but it makes him a homeowner without a mortgage at just 16 years old. Right now, it’s parked in his parents’ backyard, but he’s built it on wheels so he plans to take it to college and then wherever he goes after he graduates. He’s been sleeping in his tiny home for a few months now and he’s already decided not to return to big (his parents’ home is 1800 square feet). “Living small means less bills, living big means more bills,” he explained from the tiny stoop of his new home. “I don’t want to pay big bills”. Hay’s 130-square-foot home may make him the youngest member of the growing Small House Movement. Hay expects to spend about $12,000 building his home (the used trailer cost him $2000) and he’s paying for it working two summer jobs (at a camp and at a park snack bar). He’s cut his costs in half (the home’s estimated DIY price is $23,000).” You can read the full story at FairCompanies.com.

What Austin is doing is so powerful. In addition to changing his life for the better, his actions will have a ripple effect through his family, friends, high school, university and those around the world who watch this video. Think how much money Austin and his family will save over the next few years while he’s in school. He’s learning independence, self reliance, confidence, valuable trade skills, delayed gratification, and how to plan wisely and live sustainably. The savings on energy alone are significant. It will be easier for Austin to save on food and cook healthier meals while in university. He will have a quiet space to study, so maybe he will get higher grades. And there’s a good chance he will apply the same thrifty principles to other aspects of his life – saving and buying a car with cash, building his own family-sized home out of pocket, and so on. This will naturally give him a financial edge that will make it easier to start his own company if he wants. Austin will also have more free time to devote to things he cares about. And, most likely, his wisdom will be passed on to his children, who will have a better start in life with little or no debt.

Let’s take this process one step further. What if schools – all schools, not just one here or there – taught this sort of experiential, hands-on, project based learning? I think students would learn far more this way than repeating endless rote-learning drills or ‘teaching to the test’. Students would learn many valuable job skills by creating a practical project from design to completion. Assignments in these cutting edge classes would integrate real world skills that involve research, problem solving, writing, and creating and managing a budget, to name a few. We saw above how Austin and others will benefit from his tiny house. Now imagine the impact of millions of students doing something similar and becoming empowered self-starters. If bankers aren’t crying yet, they will be soon if this way of life catches on.

Watch more videos like this at Fair Companies YouTube channel. (Almost 14 million views, so obviously they’re very popular.) Or check out their Sustainable Shelters channel.

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A big thanks to Luke for tipping me off on the Earthbag Builders group at Facebook. The focus of the group is primarily on earthbag, but there’s also related content such as this excellent video on converting shipping containers into low cost housing. I could watch videos like this all day long.

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Developing a network of friends can be a big help for achieving your dream of home ownership. A quick search on Meetup.com for ‘earthbag’, just one of numerous social networking sites, turned up the following groups that may prove helpful.

Texas Natural Builders “This group is for anyone interested in Natural Building. We explore and experiment with strawbale, cob, cordwood, pallets, rammed earth, earthbags, wattle and daub, papercrete, earthships, adobe, and all other natural building methods. This group is not centered around the Waller location — it is intended for all of Texas locations and all members can set their own meetups in their areas!”

Portland Natural Building Group “Meet other locals who explore a variety of building techniques that use in-situ materials for housing: earth, clay, cob, rammed earth, earthbag, straw bale, wattle & daub, round wood, bamboo.”

Another search on Meetup.com (again, just one possible site to consider) for ‘natural building’ turned up dozens of groups in Chicago, Vancouver, Great Lakes, Syracuse, Louisville, Los Angeles, San Diego and elsewhere. Some groups seem more interested in permaculture or holistic living, but you might find some people with common interests in natural building.

Search for ‘earthbag’ or ‘natural building’ on Facebook and you’ll find loads of interesting sites and most likely find others with common interests who live nearby.

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