Friday, 4 March 2016

The start of something...

Building earth foundations at Njewa

I live in a country where people make more money buying and selling money on the streets then working a full day in construction as a skilled builder! Where G4S security sell cheap (black-market) petrol to tuck tucks down the non-tarmac slip off road around the back of my house. There are so many alternative ways to make money for clever people with initiative (looking at the needs) that their main job is often a better life because of their many other money sources around it. Anyone coming to Malawi must remind themselves about human rights in their home countries and ensure people they will get paid over the minimum wage as the minimum wage does not even cover costs. People are often seen as lazy in their main jobs as people don’t understand the amount of other tasks being done to satisfy their daily wage.

I’m in a country where whats app takes 45 minutes to download after 15 times of failure. Western ideas and technology is not always an appropriate solution.

I live in a place where termites live in more developed better homes (climate responsive) than people as people believe their status is much higher if they have iron sheets or burned bricks for builds. From living here for 2 and a half years I know money and efficient architectural design definitely does not go hand in hand.

A hot house
It is so important to understand the environment, to understand the people and activities. What people are paid gives people the urge to be self-sufficient…85% of Malawi's population live in the rural areas (, UNDP Malawi statistics) and manage agriculture practice to obtain subsitence food all year round. The culture of the main crop maize is present everywhere, so it is important to research to find knowledge of best crop practice and best co existing plants to improve the dietary requirements within the maize crop.  

Co habitation
Some people believe money is everything: the people that have the money! The people that look up to the people with money humiliate themselves but these are the people that know how to live with the land. These people are efficient in their movements and understand the importance for things to move in a circle. I promote a life with money as an object and always explain if you have a good head then you can design a life with beautiful local technologies and materials. These are sometimes cheaper options although things have surprised me living here. The more research and knowledge about the materials and methods of builds, the better I can design appropriate durable housing solutions.

Weaved palm leaves roofing
In the UK a main topic at master’s level was studying about water collection, storage, filtration and usage but the reality in Malawi is large water storage holders are expensive to build and cannot provide a family with the amount of water they need for the 9 months of hot dry climate. 

Water borehole
The inexpensive solution would be for the land to be designed and managed in a way that it can naturally collect water and channel the water back into the ground within that location only so the water table for that location can rise and provide life to the land. This is not well known within the rural areas.
The focus on water reuse is something people know about especially in the rural areas. Water filtration is more culturally sensitive as the lack of education brings people into disbelief.

Women at work
What is the reason for the huge divide from rural to urban? What is the reason for the low confidence and initiative in the rural regions that accumulates poverty: Education.
Once a teacher has graduated they often don’t want to live in rural school with no electricity or facilities for the students. I know of schools with 1000 students to 7 teachers it’s no wonder people drop out then thrive for learning and education in the real world. 82% of people are pining to learn skills and need them. 
The natural building sector is the target that can be intertwined with confidence and education. For this an education center is vital in which an environmental café will be the hub. This is in my future 10 year plan in Malawi.

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The Landirani Trust are my passion and community approach of whom I work for as the architect of a best practice eco training village designing and constructing rammed earth and adobe builds. 

Landirani team building Sam's Village: environmental eco village
As for now, I have partnered with a construction firm and have a branch for eco design called Grassroots eco-build. 

Grassroots is a word meaning popular, looking at the masses of people and how they have developed using local materials and found solutions to shelter from the local climate. The test of time of natural building still remains after billions of years QUOTE.  Grassroots can also mean from the bottom explaining how people with specific knowledge of the environment (in which they have learned to live resourcefully) are the people in the rural regions. These can provide the foundations to then improve buildings and systems from our knowledge and education to create better lives.  

Ecology is a word translated as environmental science. It is the understanding of how the climate and holistic natural system works and any factors within this system. Only with this information can people begin to obtain critical thinking and results for efficient design and build projects.

Zomba plateau
Build I am here after studying architecture up to a master’s degree in the UK and having researched about social architecture and natural building I moved to Malawi. This country needs energy and strength for people to be proud of their rural expertise and create knowledge and best practice for people to improve their design and built environment using natural materials. Everyone needs good quality builds shelter and knowledge.

Rammed earth corner

The Malawi team work efficiently. There is no reason why natural building methods and training communities about low tech solutions cannot be a systematic building process well known and used throughout all of Malawi. 
How many of the millenium development goals can natural building help to achieve directly or indirectly:

  • promote gender equality and empower women
  • reduce child mortality 
  • combat malaria disease
  • ensure environmental sustainability
  • global partnership for development

Designing and building is for everyone, let's do it...

Grassroots Eco-build with Neverending food

Community rammed earth build

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