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Energy-Efficient Wooden Houses are also Earthquake Safe

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In Argentina, an innovative housing project has married good design with energy efficiency, earthquake resilience and the use of local materials and labour. As energy resources continue to be stretched around the global South, innovative building designs will be critical to the creation of sustainable housing for the future.

The happy mix of efficient modern design with affordable local materials and labour can be seen in three row houses designed and built by Buenos Aires-based Estudio BaBO (estudiobabo.com.ar) in the El Once neighbourhood in Villa La Angostura, Patagonia, southern Argentina.

The wooden houses are built in a Norwegian style. Estudio BaBO, founded in 2007, discovered that the Scandinavian nation’s housing traditions were well suited to the particular needs of the region and the local government.

The local government imposed a number of planning guidelines and restrictions that needed to be met to receive planning permission. This included creating row houses which must be made of wood – a plentiful local resource. They also had to be earthquake-safe since the region is seismically active and be able to withstand the heavy rains common to the region.

Looking around for the right guidance to tackle this brief, Estudio BaBO discovered SINTEF – Norway’s leading disseminator of research-based knowledge to the construction industry (http://www.sintef.no/home/Building-and-Infrastructure/). The Nordic nation has many wooden homes and also has similar environmental conditions and challenges to Patagonia – though its precipitation tends to fall as rain, rather than snow.

The black-painted homes look typically Norwegian, with a tasteful and clean design that does not clash with the forested surroundings. An air chamber has been created inside the homes’ walls allowing for constant ventilation of the wood, which prevents the wood from rotting and extends the life of the house. With the high rainfall of the region, wood is at risk of rotting if allowed to become damp. The air cavity also insulates the house, providing significant energy savings while keeping the interior warm and comfortable.

Adding to the energy efficiency of the design, the windows are double glazed and heat is also circulated through the floor – an efficient way to heat a home because heat rises.

To keep costs down and the project simple, the palette used for the homes is simple but attractive: black, white, wood and metal. The local wood is cypress and is painted black. The interior walls are all white and the floors are made from black granite on the ground floor and cypress wood parquet on the upper floor. The rest of the woodwork in the house is also made of cypress.

Using locally sourced materials also helps to keep costs down.

The project was initially conceived in 2009 and the houses were built in 2010-2011. While wood is plentiful in Patagonia, traditionally the use of wood in construction was rudimentary and local labour skill levels were low. This meant the design had to be simple and easy to build.

“Despite the profusion of wood as a material in the south of Argentina, the lack of specialized knowledge and of a specialized industry narrow its uses to isolated structural elements and interior and exterior finishes,” said one of the architects, Marit Haugen Stabell.

The three units of two-storey row houses each come with a living room, dining room, kitchen, toilet, two bedrooms and a laundry room. Each home also has an outdoor patio. The homes are designed to receive maximum natural light. Deploying this energy efficient design is considered unusual for Argentina and Estudio BaBO has set a new standard for sustainable housing in the country.

It looks like the CLF Houses could inspire others to look again at wood as a building material.

Resources

1) A story on how researchers are perfecting wooden home designs to withstand heavy earthquakes. Website:http://inhabitat.com/wooden-house-can-withstand-severe-earthquakes/

2) A website packed with photographs of wooden and other houses for inspiration and lesson learning. Website:http://www.trendir.com/house-design/wood_homes/

3) A step by step slideshow on how a Norwegian wooden house was re-built. Website:http://www.dwell.com/articles/norwegian-wood.html

4) Inspirational wooden home decorating ideas from across Scandinavia. Website:http://myscandinavianhome.blogspot.cz/

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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A New House Kit for Slum Dwellers that is Safe and Easy to Build

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

By 2030, some 5 billion people around the world will live in cities. Next year, 2008, is predicted to be the tipping point, when urban dwellers (3.3 billion people) will outnumber rural residents for the first time. These are the conclusions of UNFPA’s State of the World Population 2007 Report. Even more strikingly, the cities of Africa and Asia are growing by a million people a week. And 72 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa live in slum conditions.

But as populations grow — and most will be poor, unemployed and under 25 — it becomes critical that effective solutions are found to ensure people can live with dignity and comfort. And design is being used more and more to overcome this challenge.

George Martine, author of the UNFPA report, is blunt: “We’re at a crossroads and can still make decisions which will make cities sustainable. If we don’t make the right decisions the result will be chaos,” he told the UK newspaper The Independent.

Guatemala-born architect Teddy Cruz of Estudio Teddy Cruz in San Diego, California, joins a small but growing number of socially responsible architects. He applies a concept more associated with middle class shoppers at the furniture design emporium Ikea to the world’s estimated one billion urban slum dwellers (UN-Habitat). Without legal title to the land they live on, packed tightly into densely overcrowded shantytowns, most squatters and slum dwellers live in makeshift homes made from whatever they can get their hands on. This is estimated to include half the urban population of Africa, a third of Asia and a fourth of Latin America and the Caribbean (Click here for more information).

The ad-hoc shelters and houses they build can be dangerously unstable, and vulnerable to natural disaster from flash floods to earthquakes. Cruz had noticed that while building supplies and materials were plentiful, nobody was selling safe and affordable housing frames for slum dwellers. According to the International Labor Organization, formal housing markets in developing countries rarely supply more than 20 percent of housing stock.

Cruz’s solution was to design a simple kit for building the frames for a house or a business that he now sells in Mexico. Each customer receives a manual, a snap-in water tank, and 36 frames that can be assembled in many configurations, or serve as a frame for poured concrete. These sturdy frames can also be added to with locally found materials. Cruz said he was inspired by “the resourcefulness of poverty” and by the cheap and affordable pre-fabricated homes that once were sold by catalogue by the American retailer Sears.

Cruz has been testing the structures in Tijuana, Mexico – a rapidly growing city on the border with the United States and a destination for Mexico’s poor. His work as an architect has centred on exploring how informal settlements grow faster than the cities they surround. These settlements, he says, break the rules and blur the boundaries between what is urban, suburban and rural. Cruz’s frame kits can be used to build a home, or combination of home and business, acknowledging the fact many people need to use their home as a business for a livelihood.

“These start-up communities gradually evolve,” said Cruz., ”or violently explode out of conditions of social emergency, and are defined by the negotiation of territorial boundaries, the ingenious recycling of materials, and human resourcefulness.”

Resources

There are many ways to play around with your dwelling and architecture ideas. Here are some products available online:

  1. Arckit: Arckit is a tangible and hands-on design tool for spontaneously bringing your architectural ideas to life right before your eyes. Website: https://www.arckit.com
  2. SmartLab Archi-TECH Electronic Smart House: Build your house and power it up! This creative STEAM toy allows aspiring architects and engineers to design and build modular structures – and then power them up with lights, sounds, sensors, and motorized parts! Website: https://www.mastermindtoys.com/products/smart-lab-archi-tech-electronic-smart-house

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: July 2007

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Like this story? Here is a dirty secret: this website is packed with stories about global South innovators. We spent 7 years researching and documenting these stories around the world. We interviewed the innovators to learn from them and we visited them to see how they did it. Why not use the Search bar at the top and tap in a topic and see what stories come up? So, stick around and read some more!    

Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/Httpwww.slideshare.netDavidSouth1development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjuly2007issue

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjuly2007issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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UNDP Mongolia Handbooks And Books | 1997 – 1999

Publisher: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office

UNDP Mongolia Communications Coordinator: David South

Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson.
Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2002) said: ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC AWARENESS AND THE ROLE OF NGOS The Dutch / UNDP – funded Environmental Public Awareness Project ( EPAP ) has been among the most interesting and possibly effective to be implemented in Mongolia.”

Mongolian Green Book by Robert Ferguson et al.
Mongolian Green Book by Robert Ferguson et al.

More books by Rob Ferguson:

The Devil And The Disappearing Sea: Or, How I Tried To Stop The World’s Worst Ecological Catastrophe (Raincoast Books).
Mongolian Rock and Pop Book: Mongolia Sings its Own Song by Peter Marsh.
Mongolian Rock and Pop Book: Mongolia Sings its Own Song by Peter Marsh.
Pop music helps fuel Mongolia’s market economy by Oyuntungalag.
As cited in the book Collaborative Nationalism: The Politics of Friendship on China’s Mongolian Frontier by Uradyn E. Bulag (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010).
Mongolia Update 1998 by David South and G. Enkhtungalug.

Other

Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless (ECW Press, 2000) is one of many books featuring content and resources resulting from the two-year publishing programme of the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (1997-1999). 

Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless.
Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless.
A review of Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia in the journal Mongolian Studies (2002) by Alicia J. Campi.
“Yet Ulaanbaatar is often ignored or downplayed in Western accounts (see, for example, Croner (1999) and Severin (1991); but see Lawless (2000) for a partial exception). Most Westerners who visit Mongolia seem anxious to get out to the countryside, to see the “real” Mongolia of nomads …” from Truth, History and Politics in Mongolia by Christopher Kaplonski (2004).
In their own words: Selected writings by journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 by David South and Julie Schneiderman.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2017

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Indonesian Wooden Radio Succeeds with Good Design

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

One Indonesian industrial designer has pioneered an innovative business that has rejuvenated the economy of a farming village and improved the sustainability of local forests – and he’s doing it all with wood.

A range of wooden radios (wooden-radio.com) hold pride of place for the Magno brand (http://www.magno-design.com/?id=wr01a), which has carved out a niche as a maker of high-quality, crafted products that marry traditional skills with modern design. Magno is creating jobs and skills while also creating a unique, exportable product that commands a good price.

Indonesian designer Singgih Susilo Kartono developed the radio design concepts while at the Faculty of Fine Art and Design in Bandung, Java, Indonesia in the 1990s.

He takes an organic approach to designing, enjoying the journey and not necessarily being sure where he is going.

“I never start my design according to the market research or demand. I design by absorbing events, global or local events and even mundane daily life things that happen around me. Consequently, I start to think what will be good and better for these people,” he explains in his brochure.

The workshop in which the radios are made is a handsome wooden-roofed building and craftspeople sit at long wooden tables to assemble the models.

Each radio is made from a single piece of wood and takes a craftsperson 16 hours to construct, drawing on traditional woodworking skills. The radios are made from Indian rosewood, which is often used to manufacture many musical instruments because of its excellent sound resonance.

The radios are made in stages, with more than 20 steps involved in assembling each one. The individual parts are precision cut by machines before being assembled using a tongue and groove (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tongue_and_groove) construction technique.

Some radio models have a chunky, retro appearance and mix dark and light wood to give an eye-pleasing contrast. Others are more modern designs with a sleek profile. There is a large version, a ‘Mini’, a sleek modern Cube’ version and a rectangular version. There is also a round clock and a wooden desktop office set with various essentials like a wooden stapler.

The radios sell for between Euros 99 (US $124) and Euros 220 (US $276), and are shipped to Europe via Singapore to Hamburg in Germany.

“To me, wood is somewhat a perfect material – especially if I compare it to synthetic ones,” Kartono said. “In wood we could find strength and weakness, advantages and disadvantages or roughness and also softness. Wood is hard and solid but yet it is 100 per cent eco-friendly as it is degradable and leaves no waste materials on the earth.”

Great care is taken in selecting the wood and ensuring it is from local, sustainable plantation sources. According to its website, Magno used 80 trees in 2010 for its radios but in turn planted 8,000 trees around the village. This regeneration has become part of the process of creating the radios.

Magno has won numerous awards, including the Brit Design Award (UK), Design Plus Award (Germany), Good Design Award/G-Mark (Japan) and the Indonesia Good Design Selection Awards.

“The wood I use for the manufacturing process may need as long as 50 years to reach maturity,” Kartono said. “I want people not only to think about exotic or precious woods but likewise about the fact that good things require time. All objects that surround us should be thought-provoking. Craftsmanship originally was the art of dealing with raw materials in a sensible and economical way.”

As Kartono tells it, he faced the typical university graduate’s dilemma about his career path. Should he work as an in-house designer in a city or return to his home village of Kandangan and start a business? His choice was unusual. Once somebody with a university education leaves a small village, it is rare they return. And at first, Kartono did not.

But he was drawn back by the dire situation in the village, and decided to apply his knowledge of product design to revive its economic fortunes. He started by visiting just twice a year because that was all he could afford. This had the advantage of giving him perspective on the situation in the village.

“At first glance, these changes (happening to the village) were seen as a ‘progress,’” he said. “But when I looked more closely I concluded that it was only the ‘surface’ which experienced change. The basic structure of the village did not undergo any changes; moreover, some was actually deteriorating.”

He concluded that the village was being damaged by various government attempts to modernize agricultural practices. The debt problems this caused meant many farmers lost their farms and were forced to seek work in the city or look for another way to make money.

Craft work seemed to be the answer to this problem. It has many advantages, as Kartono sees it. It is something that can grow and fits well with village lifestyles. It is labour intensive, doesn’t need sophisticated technology and can use already existing local resources.

Kartono was inspired by one of his teachers at university, an advocate of the ‘New Craft’ approach, which applies modern management techniques to traditional craftsmanship. The idea is simple but very effective. It begins with making sure every step of the manufacturing process is standardized to ensure consistent quality and materials. A new product or design is first broken down into steps and a product manual is put together. Only then is the manufacturing process carried out.

While the New Craft method sounds simple and obvious, many craft makers do not take this approach. By following this methodology, it is possible to quickly train new craft workers and start up manufacturing in a new village or community. Craft is increasingly being seen as a good way to re-employ people who formerly worked in farming. The New Craft approach can create high-quality products that would sell well in the export market. A common problem with crafts is either poor quality control or inconsistent manufacturing methods. This can feed stereotypes of craft products and make them look second-rate in comparison to machine-manufactured products in the marketplace.

“Design for us is more than just creating a well-designed product that is produced and consumed in colossal amount,” Kartono said. “Design must be a way to solve and minimize problems.”

Resources

1) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. It is a manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design. Website: http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm

2) Rio+20: At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want. Website: http://www.uncsd2012.org/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021