Offgrid humanitarianism ~ Podcast featuring Peter McIntosh

Offgrid vision is a project dedicated to empowering people in developed and developing countries to pursue living off-the-grid through sharing knowledge and experience and raising funds for deserving projects in developing countries.

Offgrid vision logo

Patrick Lunt and Offgrid vision along with partners Biotecture Planet Earth, Earthship Biotecture , Ten Friends, Cuore Attivo and Offgrid Italia have worked on humanitarian projects in Nepal, Malawi and Burkina Faso.

Part of Patrick’s mission is through a podcast with fellow off-the-grid’ders. He recently had a chat with Peter McIntosh from Natural Building Collective about his experience living offgrid and some humanitarian projects that the Natural Building Collective is involved in.   Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

The story of the Delft ECD Training Centre

The Training Centre is 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. The design is centered around minimizing the use of cement and concrete whilst showcasing the potential of alternative and sustainable materials. The building feels warm and welcoming amidst a stark social landscape. 
The character of the building is revealed in its hybrid use of natural, recycled and conventional materials and its journey to completion. From the beginning the environment was focused on creating a rich learning environment, starting off with a sustainable building course, progressing under the hands of local community members, interns and volunteers to its full expression as a training centre for early childhood development. 

Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

Announcing! The Green Building Academy 2018

We’re thrilled to announce Peter McIntosh will be co-facilitating Long Way Home’s inaugural Green Building Academy in Guatemala this year. Participants can expect a solid grounding and hands-on experience in green, sustainable building and construction practices, social development and a rich cultural immersion.  The Academy will take place in Comalapa, Guatemala, and will draw on the expertise of the Academy‘s instructors, who for 9 years have built an 18-building school using state-of-the-art green and sustainable technologies and methods.

The Green Building Academy provides a menu of unique educational options that are relevant to both professionals and students inside AND outside of the construction industry. Guided by best practices in green construction, the Academy is dedicated to educating individuals and organizations, in both theory and practical application, about sustainable design, planning, and building practices. Participants will connect to their environment, and develop increased consciousness & competence relating to sustainability, environmental & ecological balance, and ethical & respectful community development. The Academy equips participants with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to apply their creativity to design and construction using sustainable, unconventional materials and low-impact methodologies with potential for off-grid implementation.

COURSE DETAILS: 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

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

We catch up with Paul Marais about his award-winning off grid, rammed earth house in Maun, Botswana.

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

Transition Ethics: The Art of Compromise

Do we as ethical natural builders have a right to deny someone a home simply based on the argument of its purity? Surely it’s about having the humility to acknowledge that sustainability is about economy and social justice as much as it is about ecology. Scott Gallant from Rancho Mastatal in Costa Rica writes that the transition ethic says that no one is going from zero to sustainable overnight. Making the transition takes time and, we have to meet people where they are at.

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

How to incorporate passive solar design in your building, using thermal mass and insulation.

Passive solar design can dramatically reduce our demands on fossil fuels and other forms of energy input, allowing our buildings to become producers and not consumers of energy and resources, supporting us in a healthier more comfortable abundant way.

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Passive solar design is the starting point of sustainable building. Once one understands the basic principles of using the abundant natural renewable resources at our disposal we become more creative in our approach to design, more in tune and observant, reconnecting us with the natural rhythms that surround and sustain us, if only we would pay attention. Sustainable buildings save money, reduce your carbon footprint and provide a healthy living environment, transforming buildings from consumers of energy to producers and forging buildings that meet our needs.

From a permaculture perspective, incorporating these aspects into the design of your home are excellent examples of several permaculture design principles. To mention the most obvious: Observing and interacting with your environment to make the most of the sun’s migration, catching and storing energy, using and valuing renewable resources and services, integrating functions and elements rather than segregating them and obtaining a yield from the planet’s most abundant energy source, the sun.

Passive Solar Design uses the energy provided by the sun and stored in the earth. First we need to look at how this energy is utilized by defining insulation and thermal mass and then look at the strategies of how to incorporate them into our designs.

Continue reading

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com

All good things must come to an end

… and 2014 is no different.

2014 course collage

It is with pride and joy that we look back on the successes and new connections made during 2014.
We launched our blog in March and have had over 5000 visits from people in 98 countries! The blog contributions included knowledge shared by our expert natural builder Peter McIntosh, to fly-on-the-wall takes of life as an architect and educator interested in building naturally and sustainably by Hermie Delport, personal lessons learned by owner-builder Laurie Simpson, and Amanda de Gouveia’s contributions as social development researcher at Qala Phelang Tala, a grassroots community upliftment and alternative building project focused on vulnerable communities in Bloemfontein. Other contributors included heritage consultant Lesley Freedman who about using indigenous earthen architectural knowledge, and green architect Malcolm Worby shared his thoughts on a comparison between natural materials.
Peter wrote a special piece for The Green Times, South Africa’s Green News Portal, on the relationship between building naturally and building sustainably; and our most popular posts this year on the blog has been his three part series on Understanding Earth, how to test earth, and how to make the appropriate decision with regard to plaster and mortar mixes.

Peter McIntosh facilitated three courses this past year: two CPD accredited courses at Magic Mountains in Barrydale, and one 6 day Natural Building: Materials and techniques course at Khula Dhamma in the Eastern Cape. All-in-all 33 people attended these three courses and got to do the mud dance and experience the art of natural building. Hopefully, that translates to at least 33 more natural buildings in South Africa!
Khula Dhamma reckons the course is a winner:

‘It’s hard work but huge amounts of fun, highly therapeutic and more rewarding than one could ever imagine. With the different techniques and materials and their thousands of capabilities, you are literally only limited by your own imagination and there is something so beautiful about that!’.. Read more.

If you want to see what other participants had to say about the courses please visit our updated Testimonials page. Or if you’re interested to see photos of the courses, you can either go to our albums on Facebook, or visit the Gallery page on the blog. Thanks to everyone who has liked, commented on, and shared our posts and events on Facebook! Our page has continued to grow, and we now have over 1200 likes, all thanks to you. If you’ve attended one of our courses, please note that we’ve now added the option to review us on Facebook.

Finally, Peter McIntosh has been part of an amazing project at the Lebone Village Arts and Culture Centre in Bloemfontein as one of the Mentors4Change. This collaboration with Qala Phelang Tala (Start Living Green) started on Mandela day, July 18th when Peter trained a few hundred people in the art of making mud bricks. Amanada de Gouveia wrote about the day here. Since then they have had a team consisting of volunteers and outpatients from the  University of the Free State’s Occupational Therapy clinic in Rocklands location, hard at work on the Shack Replacement project. This team was also privileged to attend the course at Khula Dhamma.
In recent weeks though, the focus has shifted to the Lebone Arts and Cultural Centre and the existing above ground cistern at the local orphanage. The crew includes volunteers, outpatients from the occupational therapy centre, a crew from Guatamalan NPO Los Técnicos (arguably world experts in alternative building practices [tyres, bottles bricks etc.]), and Peter McIntosh . Here you can see the progress from day one to day nine (photos courtesy of Los Tecnicos). For more photos of the building progress, please visit their Facebook album of the project.

The project is set to continue for another week or so, and hopefully they’ll get it all done in time. A great partnership has been fostered between these three organisations and holds great promise for other projects in 2015… Watch this space!

Finally, thank you to old friends and new for a blessed 2014. We’re looking forward to continue this muddy journey in 2015 as we explore new relationships and exciting new projects, more photos, knowledge and experience in how to build naturally and sustainably, to bring you, our supporters. We’ll be publishing our course dates for 2015 early in January so do keep an eye out for that if you missed out this year.

Thanks for joining us again, and we’ll connect with you sometime, somewhere soon…

Warm regards,
the Natural Building Collective

PS If you would like to get involved and write for us, be it a once-off, or more regular contribution, please send us an email with what you have in mind.

https://www.naturalbuildingcollective.com