Appropriate green building technologies as a catalyst for social change in creating climate change resilient communities

The Lebone project objective is to teach green building and social entrepreneurial skills to the youths and selected individuals from marginalised communities.

The Lebone Village project in the Mangaung Metro Municipality

Lebone Village, established in May 2000, provides a safe haven for orphaned and vulnerable children, and children affected by AIDS and HIV. In addition, Lebone Village also provides services to the poor and marginalised communities in the Mangaung Metro Municipality. Lebone Village is situated on the outskirts of the city of Bloemfontein, in an area called Bloemspruit. In a bid to secure the future of the Lebone youths through skills development, Lebone Village is pioneering a green building project in collaboration with the Centre for Development Support based at the University of the Free State. Lebone Village, through social entrepreneurial activities, is dedicated to bringing hope, dignity and support by providing holistic care to all their beneficiaries. The University of the Free State received grant funding from the Government of Flanders to operationalise the Lebone Village green building project. The grant funding is administrated through the Office of the Accountant General (OAG) in the National Treasury, and forms part of a 5 year programme called Technical and Management Support (TMS). The Lebone Village project is one of several projects in response to the TMS Programme’s Key Result Area 1: Laying the Groundwork for Future Project Design and Implementation.

It is envisaged that this project will be the first stepping stone to actualise the initial vision of Lebone Village to create a mini-village where children can learn to be self-sustainable and live in self-created “family units”. The project objective is to teach green building and social entrepreneurial skills to the Lebone youths and selected individuals from marginalised communities. A three week building internship will be hosted by Los Técnicos from 24 November to 12 December 2014. Los Técnicos are leading pioneers in green building technologies in Guatemala and Latin America. Los Técnicos will be assisted by building apprentices affiliated to a local non-profit company Start Living Green.  During the three week workshop, 15 trainers and more than 50 interns will build a climate-resilient arts, crafts and cultural hub that can be utilised for a variety of entrepreneurial activities. Natural Building Collective is providing additional natural building support for the Lebone Village project. The intention of this project is to set the stage for a policy dialogue on pro-poor green building implementation in developing countries. The arts, crafts and cultural hub is designed in such a way that it can serve as inter-continental global flagship project on how green building practices can lead to less reliance on government intervention, while creating an environment conducive to self-sustainability and cultural preservation while opening up opportunities for green social entrepreneurial activities. All documentation, filming, manuals and building plans will be open source and made available for use to anyone interested in replicating the hub. For more information on the building project contact Anri Holder (anri@lebonevillage.com)

 

Lebone affiliates

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Lebone Village launch

Imagine being outside on a chilly Free State winter morning with the sun just coming out and starting to gently warm your body. Now imagine being told to take off your shoes in order to trudge in icy cold mud. I glanced at my fellow volunteers and I saw a collective dissent quietly dawn on our group – this is not what we signed up for!

Mandela day

It was the morning of 18 July, Mandela Day, and we were all gathered at Lebone Village on the outskirts of Bloemfontein to volunteer our 67 minutes for the orphans. We were standing in a circle around Peter McIntosh, who was valiantly demonstrating to us the endeavor of making adobe bricks.

Peter McIntosh demonstrating how to make cob

Peter McIntosh demonstrating how to make cob

The mix using ingredients easily available for the project was chosen after rigorous testing. According to Peter, the mix will differ in every situation, depending on the composition of the ingredients used. The chosen mix for the adobe bricks at Lebone Village was as follows: collect two parts red earth, 2 parts sand with rubble, one part fine sand and two parts water in the centre of large piece of 25” thick canvas material.

Now mix it all into clay with your feet by walking back and forth through the cold, wet mixture. When the cob mixture starts to flatten out, pull the canvas up-and-in towards you from the corners to bring the clay mixture back into the centre of the canvas and into a manageable heap. Now start stepping onto it again. The clay is the right consistency when you can make a ball with your hands and pull it apart into two separate pieces without it crumbling. Adding straw to the mud mixture assures bricks that are well insulated against cold and heat, the more straw you add, the better insulated your bricks.

Adding water

Adding water

Adding straw binds everything together and adds insulation value

Adding straw adds insulation value

Lots of people turned up

Lots of people turned up

 

While the majority of us were still apprehensively contemplating the prospect of braving the cold and mud with naked feet, one person rose to the occasion without hesitation. In the spirit of “first being a follower in order to be a leader”, Itumeleng Santo started pounding the mud into clay with some über cool dance moves. Itumeleng is an out-patient at the University of the Free State’s Dept of Occupational Therapy’s clinic at the MUCPP offices in Rocklands location. He is severely impaired due to a brain injury that he suffered during an assault. For Itumeling, taking part in the Mandela Day activities at Lebone Village was therefore also a day of getting therapy without being given therapy. The Dept of Occupational Therapy vision is to support and treat their disabled and impaired patients in such a way that they will be able to return to their families and communities and be able to fully participate in community activities again. The aim is for such patients to become fully functional individuals who can partake in economic activity and contribute towards their own livelihoods.

The MUCPP clinic of the Dept of Occupational Therapy is not only for patient care and therapy, but it also serves the wider community as a place where youth can hang around after school and in this way be kept off the streets. Heidi Morgan and Bronwyn Kemp, who run the clinic, aspire to teach these children skills that will help them to create their own employment upon completing their school careers. Learning how to make adobe bricks and tire pounding for alternative and natural building practices are two such skills.

This notion of self-empowerment of the impaired, disabled and destitute was the golden thread that ran through the activities at Lebone Village on the morning of Mandela Day. Stakeholders from support institutions to the disabled came from all over the Free State region to learn the new green building techniques of making adobe bricks and pounding tires. These are skills that they intend to take back to their home towns and villages, skills that they hope will enable them to become self-sufficient and self-employed, able to earn money and make a living for themselves, without being a burden to their families.

Getting our feet dirty

Getting our feet dirty

Peter McIntosh demonstrating putting cob into the brick mold

Peter McIntosh demonstrating putting cob into the brick mold

With the ice now literally and figuratively broken by Itumeleng, the rest of us started to get into the spirit of the day. The extra brave ones took of their shoes and started pounding cob with their bare feet. The more modest traded their shoes for gumboots to get the job done.

Some started working the cob with their hands. Anita put on some vibey music and soon the day was in full swing. Volunteers started forming little groups, each group working their cob on their own piece of canvas. Some people would collect the pounded cob and compact it into wooden molds set out by Peter for this purpose. These mudbricks would then be left to dry in the sun for several days, where after they will be ready to use for building.

Peter McIntosh demonstrating putting cob into the brick mold

Peter McIntosh demonstrating putting cob into the brick mold

The teaching of green building techniques to the greater Mangaung community also served as the launch of the Lebone Village Climate Resilient Arts, Crafts and Cultural Hub and was initiated by Qala Phelang Tala, a non-profit organization based in Bloemfontein and associated with the Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State. Qala Phelang Tala is Sesotho for “Start Living Green” and is the brain child of Anita Venter, a researcher at the Centre for Development Support. QPT strives to empower “change agents” through social entrepreneurship in order to create systems addressing housing, food security, water efficiency and energy independence that are resilient to climate change. Their slogan is “Learn by doing!” This means that they not only preach green building and sustainable, environmental friendly living, but they also practice, implement and teach these techniques. QPT head hunted and hosted Peter McIntosh from Natural Building Collective, who is one of only a handful of natural building experts in South Africa. His experience in sustainable living practices includes sustainable agriculture, off-grid energy systems and an array of natural building techniques, all of which is in fruition on Berg-en-Dal outside Ladismith in the Klein Karoo, a farm owned and managed by the community and educational non-profit the Klein Karoo Sustainable Drylands Permaculture Project, where he is a resident and member.

Some of the mudbricks that were made on the day drying in the sun

Some of the mudbricks that were made on the day drying in the sun

Contributed by Amanda de Gouveia on behalf of QPT. Photos courtesy of QPT. Please visit their Facebook page for more photos of the day.

Amanda de Gouveia

Amanda de Gouveia has been a research assistant at the Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State since 2010, where she has mostly been involved in research projects on social development and local economic development. This has refined a unique repertoire of research skills, both qualitative and quantitative. She has also Masters degree in Research Psychology.

 

 

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