Q&A with Anita Venter, from Start Living Green grassroots development in Bloemfontein

In honour of women’s day we asked Anita Venter a few questions about her grassroots development initiative using sustainable building methods in Bloemfontein. We have great admiration for the shack replacement initiative and what she has done to empower her change agents to become more self-sufficient and build community in her local context. We first got to know of the work Anita does when she invited Peter to participate in the Lebone Arts and cultural centre, a collaborative project with Los Tecnicos in 2014. We were also honoured to host her and six of her change agents on one of our natural building courses in 2015.

How did you first get involved in natural/sustainable building? Tell us about the journey.

Since the early 2000s I have done many research studies on housing from socio-economic and policy perspectives. Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

We need your help with our crowdfunding campaign

We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign because we really need your help to finish building the edu-centre in Delft so carers from informal crèches can get training in early childhood development.

We are busy building a passive solar, earth sheltered building out of tyres, cob, compressed earth bricks and glass bottles at the Delft Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre. But, we need your help to finish building it. The building will be an edu-centre so carers from informal crèches can get training in early childhood development.  

Please consider making a contribution to the campaign or spreading the word to people you know.

Following our involvement with building the Delft Early Childhood Development centre with natural and sustainable building materials we saw the space and need for an adult training centre there so that, amongst other things, carers from informal crèches in Delft and surrounding areas can receive training in early childhood development.

If you’ve ever been to a township you’ve seen how many children under the age of seven are often milling about, quietly entertaining themselves. They are starting their young lives at a distinct disadvantage as they will start primary school at age seven without any educational preparation. This is disastrous for these children and the future of our country. In the Cape Town area there are a staggering 18 000 children up to the age of 7 years old who do not attend an edu-care (according to local authority figures). Strong, inspiring and tenacious women (and occasionally men as well) qualify themselves as ECD teachers and operate an ECD from informal structures.

Visit Thundafund to make your contribution!

It has been widely accepted that the first 1000 days in a child’s life is critical to their, as well as society-at-large’s health and wellbeing. During this period, children’s brains can form 1,000 neural connections every second and these connections are the building blocks of their future. But, we need your help to complete the building…

What we have achieved to so far:

  • Peter McIntosh has raised R120 000 from the Sophia foundation towards materials and has donated three months of his time towards the success of the project.
  • We have provided employment for eight members of the local community during the building process.
  • We have provided a month-long training sustainable building course including for architecture students of CPUT. The course was presented in collaboration with Guy Williams on behalf of international NGO Long Way Home from Guatemala.
  • We have also used provided other learning opportunities for volunteers, architecture interns.

We need to get from here:

We are this close to finishing

We are very close to finishing the building

To here:

The end-goal

This is what we’re aiming for and with your help can achieve

How we’ll use your contribution:

With your help we can complete this building… Your contribution will go towards completing the following activities:

  • Planning gum pole purloins to level to install roof sheets
  • Installing IBR roof sheets
  • Complete last two sections of ring beam (shutter/form and pour concrete)
  • Source and make over 2000 more bottle bricks
  • Install bottle bricks in cob above ring beam
  • Cob scratch plaster coat, form coat and final lime plaster coat internally
  • Form and final plaster coat on internal and external bottle walls
  • Level and stamp floor
  • Gravel, newspaper, cob and compressed earth brick floor layers
  • Final layer on floor
  • External plaster finishes on tyre walls and ringbeams
  • Final touches on tyre retaining wall and earth berm
  • Front level ramp and paving threshold
  • Painting fibre board on door-front

With your support we are making a difference… Please consider making a contribution to the campaign or spreading the word. Thank you! 

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Join us for a unique free, natural and sustainable learning opportunity

We recently embarked on our first Sustainable Building Course with Earth and Tyres in collaboration with international NGO rockstars Long Way Home. You may have been eager to join in, but due to time or financial constraints had to sit it out? The sustainable building course ends on Friday 19 May, but we still have a lot to do to complete the building. That’s where your opportunity comes in…
Volunteers on site

Natural building course alumni, Bennett and Monre, volunteering on the Delft ECD

Since 2010, I have been dedicated to training people interested in natural and sustainable building. The only common denominator among all the participants was their eagerness to live a life more in harmony with nature and the natural environment.

Since those early days I have seen a steady increase in the number of people interested in what was initially considered an alternative lifestyle. And as the planet seems to be going a little bit more haywire with every passing season, be it electoral or climatic, more and more people are starting a journey towards greater independence and freedom. For many people this means ensuring their primary needs, food, shelter and water are taken care of in one way or another. Often the first step on this journey is building their own dwelling, a deeply satisfying and empowering experience.

Recently, I’ve been engaged with the City of Cape Town and introducing natural and alternative building materials to the public built environment. The first project was the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in Delft. Delft, is one of the poorer suburbs in Cape Town with some staggering violent crime statistics. The city is playing the long game as the first 1000 days of a person’s life plays a vital role in the rest of their lives. Early intervention and development is essential. That is why I’m excited about the subtle potential of the environmentally friendly building, exposing children from a young age to the creative potential of earth and other alternative construction materials. And let’s face it, it’s a beautiful and healthy environment that any child will be lucky to grow up in.

The storytelling tree at the Delft ECD.

The storytelling tree at the Delft ECD.

But, I wanted to take it a step further and provide a beautiful and natural training space for ECD carers to train in too. We’re presenting it in collaboration with international NGO Long Way Home – tyre building experts and all-round inspiring humans doing amazing things in rural Guatemala. With support from the Sophia foundation and buy-in from the City we embarked on this journey at the end of April with our very first Sustainable Building Course with Earth and Tyres. You may have been eager to join in, but due to time or financial constraints had to sit it out?

We are busy building a passive solar, earth sheltered building out of tyres, cob, compressed earth bricks, ecobricks and glass bottles at the Delft Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre. But, the sustainable building course ends on Friday 19 May and we still have a lot to do to complete the building (check out our progress). The anticipated date of completion is the end of June. That’s where your opportunity comes in!

We’re sending out a call for volunteers to participate and assist in the completion of the build. It is impossible for us to say what will happen on which dates, but overall the following activities will be taking place from now until the end of June, and we hope you can join us:

  • Cob pack-out and plastering of tyre walls
  • Steel reinforced concrete ring beam installation
  • Bottle bricks in cob
  • Compressed earth brick floor
  • Roof installation
  • Lime plaster finishes
  • Paving
  • Earth berm installation
  • General tom-foolery

To participate in this unique opportunity you need to have completed one of my previous courses. Please email us your name and contact information as well as days that you are available to join us.

To find out more about the Delft ECD centre and what we’ve been up to you can read the article that appeared in Earthworks Magazine, or you can check out the albums on Facebook and Flickr. We’ve also created a series of shortfilms about the different materials that were used in the build, you can check them out here.

We hope you can join us on this journey.

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Guest post: Hybrid alternative and natural building blocks at the Delft ECD (Early Childhood Development Centre)

In Delft, an impoverished township on the outskirts of the Cape Flats, local government is changing its approach to building early childhood development centres with a pioneering project showcasing a hybrid of natural building methods and up-cycled waste materials.

By Mary Anne Constable

This post first appeared on Earthworks Magazine in February 2017. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Young Africa Publishing and author Mary-Anne Constable. 

Peter McIntosh, founder of the Natural Building Collective was the project coordinator for the alternative materials (natural and recycled) portion of the Delft ECD build.

Delft ECD_Natural building collective

The new Delft ECD (Early Childhood Development Centre) represents the first time that government – in this case the City of Cape Town – has significantly integrated alternative and unconventional building methods for the construction of a public building.

The considered design of the Delft ECD building is an example that will make an essential contribution to the development of South Africa’s youngest residents. The alternative building materials, which include both natural methods (compressed earth bricks and cob) and recycled waste materials (ecobricks, tyres, glass bottles), deviate from conventional brick and concrete, while creating a healthy environment.  Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Announcing natural building course dates for 2017

We are thrilled to announce that both courses will be held at Jakkalskloof bio-dynamic training farm in Swellendam this year.

Dates for 2017:

  • 19 – 25 March: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm
  •  14 October: Natural building course: materials and techniques (7 category 1 SACAP credits) ~ Jakkalskloof farm

For more information please visit our course page or send us an email at naturalbuildingcollective@gmail.com to book your spot!

natural-building-course_poster_03_2017

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Q&A with Paul Marais, award-winning architect specializing in rammed earth

First off, congratulations on winning the Afrisam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation for Sustainable Product/Technology for your design of the rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. 

Thank you, I am very pleased for recognition of this off grid, rammed earth building , where I designed and built the house, energy & water systems and sewerage.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

The award-winning rammed earth Otto cottage in Maun, Botswana. Designed and built by Paul Marais. Photo courtesy of Paul Marais.

How did you first get involved in natural building?

I have been always interested in natural buildings and as a student studied natural building in Malawi and Zambia.  I have travelled a lot in remote Africa and have an interest in indigenous architecture which is both material and energy efficient.  Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Q&A with Jill Hogan, a pioneer of natural building in South Africa

How did you first get involved in natural building? 

Jill Hogan at Cobbit's Cottage.

Jill Hogan at Cobbit’s Cottage.

In the early 90’s my life changed completely and I found my self alone. In wanting to be part of a community, I met Hurta Stuurman and did some work with her on her cob house at Hermanus/Stanford and knew that this is what I wanted to do. It combined my concept of Permaculture with creating an organic home for myself, while allowing me to use my knowledge of earth/clay.

Tell us about your journey.

In the 70’s I worked for a nursery. I had a pot plant business, but was exposed to organic veggie gardening and became more and  more interested. At the same time, I started doing pottery and assisted in teach children with learning disabilities now known as ADHD, and so was exposed to lateral thinking.

In the 80’s I went back to “school” and did a fine arts majoring in ceramics.

In 1992 I was introduced to Permaculture and did the design course with John Wilson from Fambidanzia, at Tlholego in Rustenberg, and I developed a true passion for sustainable development.

Someone was setting up an Eco Village in McGregor and I was drawn to become one of the original developers. But personality clashes among the original six members caused the project to collapse, sending me into McGregor itself where I bought a piece of land in the town. Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Guest post: Rammed earth on the rise

By Mary Anne Constable

This post first appeared on Earthworks Magazine in April 2016. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Young Africa Publishing and author Mary-Anne Constable.

Rammed earth in Botswana

House Freeman is cool in the hot Botswana desert thanks to an evaporative cooling system, which draws air over solar powered sprinklers, a living roof and thick, thermally efficient walls. The shuttering was reused in, for example, the roof, so nothing was wasted.

Of more than twenty different types of earth construction techniques, rammed earth has been lauded for its durability, sophisticated environmental performance and striking earthen beauty.

Rammed earth construction in South Africa has generally been stigmatised as a substandard and primitive building construction method reserved ‘for the poor’. Yet it is now gaining popularity for community social projects, as well as among wealthier clients. Although a building standard is yet to be formalised in South Africa, the rammed earth industry is established in many African countries, Europe, United States and Australia. This means plenty of expertise and established international building standards already exist and this construction method is now far removed from its primitive roots.

Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Natural building course October 2016, Swellendam

We are happy to announce the completion of another successful course at Wild Spirit Backpacker’s Lodge in April, 2016. The second CPD accredited natural building course will be held at Jakkalskloof farm, in Swellendam. Jakkalskloof is an organic mixed-use farm which also provides training in Biodynamic agriculture.

 

Natural Building Collective_Natural building course October 2016 Swellendam

For more information about these CPD accredited natural building courses simply drop us an email at: naturalbuildingcollective@gmail.com

To see what previous participants had to say, visit the Testimonials page; or visit the gallery for photos from our previous courses.

 

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Transition Ethics: The Art of Compromise

This post first appeared on Numundo on 16 February 2016. We are re-posting it here with the permission of  Shayna Gladstone and author Scott Gallant.

To introduce the post, we’d like to share with you why we were so excited to read Scott’s post. Written by Scott Gallant from Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Education Center in Costa Rica, the post is based on his experience teaching the three permaculture ethics during the center’s Permaculture Design Courses, and the realization that a fourth ethic is required in order to facilitate a conversation about compromise.  They filled the gap with the Transition Ethic. Scott quotes Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein, authors of Practical Permaculture, who acknowledge that “the transition ethic says that no one is going from zero to sustainable overnight. Making the transition takes time.” He goes on to say that “We have to meet people where they are at.  We must understand their cultural context.” Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com