Building affordable housing naturally
This summer O.U.R. Ecovillage has the pleasure of partnering with the founders of Habitat for Humanity: The Fuller Center for Housing to build OUR Affordable Housing Affiliate Project (9 houses altogether) of natural buildings. This Canadian showcase project is the first of its kind in the country – no other site has been permitted to do natural building, independent power system and waste management project of this nature!
As with all of the programmes at O.U.R. Ecovillage a great part of the affordable housing project is community education, which will be addressed in many ways but foremost in our minds by teaching how to use simple and affordable natural building techniques and by responding the social justice issue of inadequate, safe, healthy and affordable housing. O.U.R. Ecovillage is also dedicated to making affordable housing beautiful – take The Healing Sanctuary or The Art Studio for example …. they make you feel good just to cross the threshold.
The techniques used in the project will vary, but will be assuredly inexpensive and simple. So far we have Strawbale, Chip’n slip and Cob examples on our site and hybrids of these techniques will offer energy efficiency and beauty for our housing as well. Affordability also means homeowner participation in the building process. Here too, Natural Building offers better accessibility due to simple, low tech ways involving fewer tools but many hands.
The ability for the homeowner to participate leads to the issue of adequate, safe, healthy and affordable housing that is not being addressed in the current conventional building industry. The cheaper methods of building often use techniques that make use of materials that are created cheaply composed of noxious chemical glues, finishes, paints and material compounds. This way of manufacturing doesn’t consider the escalating incidences of asthma and chemical sensitivity that stems from exposure to ingredients in such compounds. Natural building techniques can be used to mitigate some of these cost cutting consequences in that houses built of clay, sand and aggregate, wood chips, straw and timber breathe with the environment, balancing humidity and overloads of negative ions. These materials can be harvested from the waste streams of many industries, making them affordable and environmentally sustainable.
To participate in this unique project we welcome you to apply to O.U.R. many Natural Building Programmes. Our main programme this year is the month long Natural Building Skillbuilder course where you will learn basic skills that you can take into your life and, if you happen to be a conventional tradesperson, back to your work to help create a niche market for yourself. We also have the Natural Building Continuing internship for those who are already skilled in the Natural Building world and wish to further their skills and develop their leadership abilities. We will also have open volunteer work camps with the Fuller Center which makes the project accessible for anyone who wishes to participate.
The idea of affordable healthy housing is becoming one of the focus issues for the Cowichan Valley, for which Social Planning Cowichan is creating a forum. This monumental partnership will include service and charity groups, government agencies, church groups, manufacturers, builders and other local business in the community modeling exactly what it takes to build community. So, if you can’t get on-site yourself, consider linking your business with O.U.R.: bring your company on site for a day, create a research team, a media documentation project – there are endless possibilities for participation! After all, This project is being piloted at O.U.R. Ecovillage but is meant to be shared throughout the region and live on to address affordable housing projects of many types and sizes – so spread the word! Contact us to get involved!
We look forward to working with you this summer!