If we survey the archeological remains of cities from past millennium, we see their solid footprints clearly. The use of natural materials, particularly stone and earth were the historic norm and these materials did not degrade and had a structural longevity that endured centuries and even millennium. This is contrary to our modern day construction techniques and materials that would disintegrate within 100 years.
My past professional life in Vancouver, renovating 100 year-old houses, taught me to think about building techniques and materials that would withstand the test of time. * In the temperate rain forest we experienced the “leaky condo crisis”, caused by ridiculous cost saving designs that in turn cost the home-owners millions of dollars in repairs. Even after the retrofit repairs, these condos will not last another 50 years.
I now live in Guatemala where there are many footprints of the past Mayan civilizations with marvelous buildings designed to last. Some of the architecture dates back to 2000 BC. It is dramatic and beautiful in design and resilient in structure. Nature’s vegetation had reclaimed the majority of the abandoned ancient sites, but archeologists, mystified by such a complex and advanced civilization, have reclaimed some.
Although no human-made structure could withstand a cataclysmic earthquake, it is quite possible to design and construct structures that have a resistance to earthquakes and still have an ascetic beauty and functionality. I believe we overestimate our triangular steel reinforcements, often retrofitted on older buildings and have a false sense of security in “modern” buildings. An 8 point something earthquake that has a duration of more than a minute will bring most recent constructions down.
Considering all of the above it is only logical that we use construction techniques and materials that will stand the test of time. Putting natural geological catastrophes aside, it would assist those who design and engineer our buildings and homes to consider their longevity when deciding how to construct them. Are the materials going to endure at least 100 years? Will the design withstand the normal elemental factors in a given location?
We are building Project Somos Children’s Village with several factors in mind:
The design will be ascetically beautiful to harmonize with its incredible natural setting.
The construction technique and materials are intentionally chosen to last at least 100 years. (earthbag/superadobe construction – see FB for lots of photos)
It will functionally serve the families who live there.
It is a simple and economical method that can be replicated locally.
Stayed tuned for the progress on the first two houses. We anticipate completion of both of them at the close of 2011.
All the Best,
*Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use