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. 

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Thanks for an awesome 2017!

“The future belongs to the few of us still willing to get our hands dirty.” – Roland Tiangco

As the end of the year approaches, we want to wish you well over the festive season, and thank you for your support in 2017. You helped us finish the Delft Early Childhood Development centre, start and almost complete a training centre for early childhood development in Delft, as well as host our two usual natural building courses and co-host a sustainable building course with earth and tyres in partnership with our friends Long Way Home. Prior to the course Long Way Home commissioned a manual for sustainable building which was authored by Peter McIntosh and Guy Williams (LWH).

During the past year, we were part of the design team for a new ECD in Strand with our focus on sustainable materials and passive solar design. It will be built from rammed earth, compressed earth brick and some ecobricks, offgrid and treat its own black water. This five star rated green building will serve a disadvantaged area in Strand for around 400 children. Unfortunately, it’s on hold due to the current drought. We have also been giving design inputs on other City of Cape Town projects that are in various stages of planning. We are also working with Ikamva Labantu on using sustainable building in ECDCs in the NGO sector.

It has been a tough year, but a year of advances too.  So we would like to give you an overview of the year, and to thank you, especially our donors, friends and volunteers, for the contributions you have made to the successes of the year.

We give you a very brief recap of the blog and then continue to update you on the Delft ECD, as well as our progress with the training centre.  Continue reading

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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

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Reflections and observations on a recent visit to the former Transkei

I had the pleasure of recently visiting a really magical place, Mdumbi in the former Transkei. Mdumbi is about 30km north of Coffee Bay in the typical rolling green landscape. Travelling with fellow architects Carl Morkel and Wim Els at a slowish pace, either walking or watching from the car window, one is aware of a soft silence, endless, gentle rolling hills with the silhouette of small pastel huts and sometimes the ocean in the background. Grandmothers moving peacefully and slowly, a shout from one hillside to the next, fishermen just appearing as almost out of nowhere.

Figure 1: Typical Transkei landscape, round huts in pastel colours.

Figure 1: Typical Transkei landscape, round huts in pastel colours.

One would like to think of this place as the ultimate sustainable example of natural building. Huts have been made here forever with soil and clay, either with using the wattle and daub or with mud brick method. You could easily imagine that all buildings here are still made with the smallest possible footprint on the earth. There are tiny mud brick making “factories” all along the roadsides, with clay being excavated directly out of the hillside and the small holes being covered with grass growing over it fairly quickly. People are going about making the bricks, talking, mixing, moulding, laying the bricks out to dry.

Figure 2: Local mud brick factory with possibly best view in the world

Figure 2: Local mud brick factory with possibly best view in the world

Figure 3: Local mud brick factory with possibly best view in the world

Figure 3: Local mud brick factory with possibly best view in the world

 

Deep-rooted traditions, foreign to outside observers, is visible in the very nature of the buildings, with huts in ruins not because of a lack of maintenance but out of respect for the inhabitant that has passed to another life, with contemporary car tyres forming the crown of the round roof and sharp pieces of glass embedded in them, not for adornment or ornament, but to keep the evil owl away.

The “evil” that has crept into this landscape dispels the romantic idea that all here is inherently sustainable. The landscape is pock marked with entire hill sides being bull dozed to mine sand and left un-rehabilitated. Thermally poor performing materials with a high environmental cost, such as concrete block have become the status symbol for affluence. Understanding of all the reasons behind these changes, which are many, is the topic for another discussion, but the low maintenance of a concrete block building cannot be left out of the picture.

The “charm” of the degradable, organic buildings is thwarted by the very aspect that makes them charming. If just left, they can degrade. Easily. The national “eradicate mud schools” agenda is by now well known. It is a multibillion-rand programme. This year alone the delivery delays on this programme have apparently cost 7 billion rand. (Legal Resources Centre, 2014) The mud school has developed a very bad name. And it is only through involvement and education that this will change.

Figure 4: Wattle and daub degrading

Figure 4: Wattle and daub degrading

The reasons for the mud schools have a bad name is given one blogger as “having no toilets, having no electricity, having not water, coughing in a dusty classroom where the roof is caving in”…………..this from http://realisingrights.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/we-do-not-have-toilets/ Also read this http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-08-00-forgotten-schools-of-the-eastern-cape-left-to-rot and this http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/Mud-schools-gone-by-2015-minister-20130226.

Why do these school buildings perform so badly? Traditional Transkei buildings require constant maintenance, since most of them lack the two really important protection criteria that natural buildings need to survive. A proper hat and boots. In trying to convince role players that it is not necessarily the “mud” that is the problem in these schools, Lesley Freedman and Andy Horn recently met and then sent a letter to Equal Education to introduce ideas around proper “mud” building standards that will not only improve the schools but also houses in the surrounding villages.

This brings me back to our reason for visiting the Transkei. We went there to take part in discussions regarding the development of a wonderful initiative, Mdumbi Green Destinations. This is a project envisioned by Mdumbi Backpackers in association with the Mankosi community. The Mankosi community will develop a community owned tourist facility where, amongst other sustainable aspects, the buildings will be made with natural, local materials. The local community will be integrated in the design, development and building process and will, apart from getting ownership and employment during and after the process, they will learn about using their local materials in an effective way that makes it last longer (and of course food production and other environmental sustainable things, but we are concentrating on this blog on natural building).

Spin offs of the initiative is that the Mdumbi Backpacker community has learned some valuable lessons and skills about natural building in the long process (read years) towards the project becoming a reality. And some of them learned these skills at Berg-en-Dal.

Through the Transcape “arm” of Mdumbi backpackers that focuses directly on assisting the community, an Eco Centre has been opened. Already here mud brick making, proper building methods (and food gardening) is taught to the local community. What is interesting that we observed when visiting the Eco Centre is that it was predominantly young men and women that took part in the mud brick making workshops, where at the “factories” next to the road it was mostly older women working.

Figure 5: Me at the Eco Centre mud brick training facility

Figure 5: Me at the Eco Centre mud brick training facility

Figure 6: One (wo)man mould_I like the size of this for when you work alone

Figure 6: One (wo)man mould_I like the size of this for when you work alone

Figure 7_Local stone_great to use for “boots” of the building

Figure 7_Local stone_great to use for “boots” of the building

 

Figure 8: Volunteers house at the Eco Centre – putting in proper floor

Figure 8: Volunteers house at the Eco Centre – putting in proper floor

So, I am really looking forward to being involved in this great project and will keep you updated……………..

 

Figure 9: Sunrise and fishermen at Mdumbi Point

Figure 9: Sunrise and fishermen at Mdumbi Point

 

Photo credits

Figure 1-8: Carl Morkel

Figure 9: Hermie Delport-Voulgarelis

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Natural Building in the Architectural Curriculum

The first time I made cob I was knee deep in trouble, there was no way of ever leaving this muddy business again. I simply love the smell and feel of wet earth being mixed. I guess it started when I lived in Prince Albert as a 5 year old and mixed “chocolate milk” in the empty-from-plants-but-not-from-soil flowerpots on our big stoep. My sister and I had to do it quietly and secretly, since my mom did not really appreciate us drinking the soil and water mixtures………….. (In that same garden we had plenty of chickens and ducks, figs and apricots, what a great place for a child to live.)

Currently, I try to impart my love of earth building to my students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). If possible we have an actual physical experience of working with earth and at other times it might be more theoretical knowledge, but applied in design and technological projects. Studio projects that deal with earth technology have become an integral part of the education in our Architectural Technology Department.

What interests me now, are ways in which natural building methods are both taught in the architectural curriculum and expressed in a contemporary manner.

Within the architectural education realm, I love Ithuba Science Centre, which was designed and built by students of the Faculty of Architecture of the RWTH Aachen University.

leon krige 1

Design-build projects are of special interest to me and are defined within the architectural curriculum as “essentially the full-scale investigation of the built form. The typologies of projects are varied, but share the characteristic that it typically gives students the opportunity to engage in a project from design to actual construction” (Delport and Perold 2012).

The project embodies for me the essence required in an architectural student project. It is real, hands-on, design-build, incorporates natural building methods, contributes to a real need in a community and does all of this in an elegant architectural manner.

leon krige 2

The Ithuba Science centre is part of the Ithuba Skills College, which is in Montic just outside of Johannesburg. The College caters for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and teaches them “English and Natural Sciences, but also practical basic skills like bricklaying, carpentry, sewing or electrical fitting during a five-year training”. (Faculty of Architecture RWTH Aachen University 2014)

leon krige 3

The light steel frame of the Science Centre was erected first and it was then filled in with a straw/clay mixture, creating a highly insulated monolithic wall according to traditional German practices. The mixture was placed into formwork which was moved upward as the work progressed. The building has large roof overhangs to protect and shade the walls and the roof structure is separated from the walls to let hot air out. (Designboom 2013)

leon krige 4

The Departments of Building Typologies and of Structures and Structural Design of The Faculty of Architecture supervised the project as part of their design-build program. A full construction booklet is available as well as a short video of the construction.

Students thoroughly enjoy hands-on, design-build work and work with more enthusiasm than on traditional studio bound projects. (Sara 2006) Where this practical work has meaning in both environmental and social contexts, the learning becomes incredibly relevant.  The more this type of work is integrated within the architectural curriculum, the bigger influence education will have on future practices within the architectural and building industry.

References

Delport-Voulgarelis, H and Perold, R. (2012). Creating a New Curriculum. ARCH SA Journal of the South African Institute of Architects. Issue 58. (Nov/Des 2012). p. 50-51.

Designboom. (2013). s2arch and RWTH aachen university build a new school in south africa. [Online]. July 2013. Available from http://www.designboom.com/architecture/s2arch-and-rwth-aachen-university-build-a-new-school-in-south-africa/. [Accessed 24 Feb 2014].

Faculty of Architecture RWTH Aachen University. (2014). Student-constructured-projects Ithuba Science Centre. [Online]. August 2012. Available from http://arch.rwth-aachen.de/cms/Architektur/Wirtschaft/Projekte/~nvv/Selbstbauprojekte/lidx/1/ . [Accessed 24 Feb 2014].

Sara, R., 2006. Live Project Good Practice : A Guide for Live Projects, Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/cebe/documents/resources/briefingguides/BriefingGuide_08.pdf.

All photographs by Leon Krige who granted permission for the use thereof.

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