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

From the ground up ~ approaches to building a foundation for your natural building

Foundations for conventional building have, to a large extent, a one size fits all approach regardless of the type of ground you are building on i.e. a concrete and steel foundation that works equally well on all types of earth and varies only slightly in its design. It requires little thought and has been proven to be effective. The cement in concrete provides the compressive strength, and the steel tensile strength to resist cracking. It does however come at a cost to both your pocket and the environment.

When building with earth your foundation needs to be well considered as the integrity of your building rests here. Decisions you make about your foundation depend on the materials you have available, the type of ground you have to build on and what carbon footprint you want to leave. The goal should be to create foundations that are hard enough, move uniformly and resist cracking for the walls above it. Foundations will always have a higher Mpa value than the walls, however it does not need to be excessive. A 4 Mpa foundation is sufficient for a 1.6 Mpa mud-brick wall, which most types of foundations are suitable for. Furthermore, if after levelling the site the undisturbed earth is hard enough, foundations may well be unnecessary.

There are several strategies for foundations depending on the type of ground that you are building on. In this blog post, I discuss the four types of ground, (1) uniformly hard, (2) uniformly soft, (3) hard and soft, and (4) clay, their challenges and several strategies you may incorporate into your design. The discussion is quite technical in some areas so I recommend that you read my three-part series on understanding earth first. Continue reading

AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation 2015/2016

Online entries for the 2015/2016 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation are now open and feature two new award categories. Alongside the two mainstays, Sustainable Architecture and Research in Sustainability, there are now two additional categories for Sustainable Products and Technology and Sustainable Social Programmes – making the Award South Africa’s premier platform for recognising excellence in sustainable practice and innovation.

Increasingly climate and social challenges are necessitating new solutions to persistent developmental challenges. The world needs visionaries that can imagine new answers and design new systems. This bi-annual Award recognises contributions that bring sustainable innovation to human living environments through an integrated approach to communities, planning, design, architecture, building practice, natural systems and technology.

Go to their webpage to find more detailed information on each of the categories, as well as the judging panel and closing dates, and to view past submissions and awarded projects. They have also created a seamless and accessible online entry platform should you have your own project, or be involved in one, that you believe qualifies for entry.

If you have any queries about the 2015/2016 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture + Innovation, please email: briefing@sustainabledesign.co.za