First "Building with Earth" Workshop

Seminario de Tierra

At the II International EcoMaterials Conference in 2001, participants formulated the task of preparing and realizing an academic event on construction with earth. Toward this end, a workshop was held November 11-12, at CECAT (Center of Studies for Construction and Tropical Architecture) at the CUJAE (Polytechnical University) inf Havana. Four workspaces where created around the themes of adobe, rammed earth and other technologies, compressed earth blocks, and norms for constructions with earth. The participants were asked to associate their reflections with the Millenium Agenda, which meant focusing upon "sustainable development" and the "fight against poverty".

Antecedents

At the II international EcoMaterials conference in 2001, participants formulated the task of preparing and realizing an academic event on construction with earth. Toward this end, a workshop was held November 11-12, at CECAT (Center of Studies for Construction and Tropical Architecture) at the CUJAE (Polytechnical University) in Havana.

The workshop was conceived as a space for shared reflections about the contribution and limitations of the use of earth as aconstruction material, from the perspective of technological processes, the developed products and the practical experiences in the application of this material. Four workspaces where created around the themes: Adobe, rammed earth and other technologies, compressed earth blocks, and norms for constructions with earth. These workshops where opened by presentations of case studies previously selected by the scientific committee. Afterwards plenary debates gathered contributions for the principal theme: the technical norms for earth as a construction material. The participants were asked to associate their reflections with the Millenium Agenda, which meant focusing upon "sustainable development" and the "fight against poverty".

The discussions-reflections

One of the first focuses was to recognize that "earth" has been one of the building materials most used by the human species and the need to recuperate the "ancient wisdom" of years gone by and unite it with "scientific knowledge", with the intention to enrich our knowledge.

Another aspect of the reflections was to think of "earth" not just as a product with technological processes for its extraction, but to know it as "construction material" upon which technological processes depend to obtain products, as well as design and construction of buildings with earth.


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A third aspect was that of "earth" as a sustainable construction material: environment (the urgent and essential need to cease upsetting ecosystems, but instead contribute to their conservation); economical (from the cost-beneficiary perspective and the possibilities of commercialization); cultural (in adaptation of a cosmic view of culturally differentiated groups); political (the possibility of being able to do); social (what contribute to raise the quality of life). These two latter aspects, the political and social sustainability, were treated in a wider manner. The political aspects of sustainability have to do with framework that permits and regulates the use of earth in the construction of buildings and that as well can compete with "modern" materials as concrete and cement. The social aspects of sustainability imply the need to explain the role of people as users of the buildings, for which it is necessary to work on the "integral wellbeing of human beings", for and with the people, from the availability of and access to resources, from and to the contexts and needs in which people´s lives develop, in consideration of their socio-cultural aspects. From this perspective, sustainability implicates "good practice constructions".


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The agreements

About ancient wisdom versus scientific knowledge: an encounter between "practical knowing" and "scientific knowledge" is necessary, recognizing that these two are complementary and dependent upon each other, ands why we have to recognize the need for complementary work between "scientists" and "ancestral knowers".

About the use of earth as a construction material: there is an immediate need for a series of parameters on themes like: the materials (properties and technical possibilities of application), design characteristics: (socio-cultural acceptance, social necessities, environmental conditions), construction processes (technological adaptation, verification of laboratory studies, new investigations). In this sense it is important to develop guidelines that allow amplification and strengthening the use of earth as a construction material, norms that should be dynamic and adaptable to the environmental and cultural diversities.

The development of earth construction and its spread requires development of a process of scientific-technological investigation that currently is advancing in some countries and regions, and for we have to make efforts for its divulgation. Another important consideration is to work out an aggressive system to capacitate people at all levels: higher education, technicians and local population, which implies the direct participation of all those involved in the use of "earth" as a construction material.

The experience of participants from different countries and regions alerts us about the false view of considering "earth" as synonymous with "poor". Our practical experiences and reflections on the issue revealed that: "earth" implies "wealth": we find it throughout the planet, probably one of the elements to which the majority of the population has access, in the end we "are" the "earth": "life for life".

The commitments

The participating group agrees:

  • The voluntary and open constitution of the "group working with earth".
  • EcoSur provides the "group working with earth" its webpage as a platform and coordination tool. 
  • The people and institutions commit themselves to contribute articles on advances inf investigations and successful experiences, that will be communicated through the website 
  • EcoSur will create the "Virtual Campus of EcoMaterials" to develop events and programs for the formal and non formal capacitation.
  • EcoSur will impulse the elaboration of norms for the use of "earth", coordinated with a program underway in the U.S.A.
You are here: Home Past editions Edition #18, January 2006 First "Building with Earth" Workshop

Consultants

Marcos MacancheMarcos Macanche
Nicaraguan
Architect
Spanish, some english
Architectural design, project implementation and management, EcoMaterials production

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