The earthen block walls are now up on SosteNica's "Sustainable Affordable" home in Nicaragua. The process of pressing the earth block and laying up the block went relatively quickly when compared to the time required to develop the design, draft and revise the blueprints and engineering documents, obtain approval from the various government ministries, then find the perfect family to inhabit the prototype house. The home has many unique features, not the least of which being the sleeping and storage lofts which allow a small footprint home to have multiple spaces and greater versatility. Also, the open areas make the home culturally appropriate and more pleasant for the residents during Nicaragua's hotest days.
January, 2015 will see the installation of the roof, doors and windows as well as the construction of the eco-technologies such as the composting toilet and the rain water capture which utilizes an innovative volcanic tile roof which uses local raw materials and which is ideal for rain water capture.
For more visual information about the design and construction process, visit our Google+ page devoted to capturing all of the stages of the project. If construction proceeds on track, the family should be living in the home by early to mid-February, 2015. Stay tuned!
Ada and Ramon Sepulveda have two children. They currently live in a small space borrowed from friends. Because they have worked hard and saved, they were able to purchase a small piece of land in the Carazo region of Nicaragua, near a rural community known as Las Flores (the Flowers). Like most low-income Nicaraguan families, they would never have enough money to build a new home.
Enter SosteNica. For nearly a year, we have been developing a response to the housing crisis in Nicaragua – really a global crisis – too few homes for too many people. Most homes currently under construction use materials that harm the environment, are unattractive and uncomfortable. Further, these homes have, either no supporting technologies, or they utilize costly services such as electrification, natural gas, public water and sewers, which drain precious financial resources month after month.
SosteNica and the Sulpevadas have gotten together, along with CEPRODEL and FUNDESONIC to offer an elegant and sophisticated solution to multiple problems – affordability, environmental responsibility, appropriate technologies, beauty and comfort. Ground breaking, set for early November, has been awaiting all of the paperwork to be recorded – no small task. SosteNica has raised the funds. Together with FUNDESONIC, we have designed an attractive home complete with loft using pressed block as the core building material. Earth walls will keep the home cool in the summer, and warm during the occasionally cool evenings in Nicaragua. We are in the final stages of a participatory design process to develop those eco-technologies that will allow the family to capture and use rainwater, to treat and reuse waste water, to separate and process for fertility human waste, as well as to grow their own energy through a wood lot. The only thing standing between us and ground breaking was the land title (legal ownership) which had to be registered with the government before they could take the big leap. Now that is behind them. The deed is official.
The earth blocks have already been made and are ready to be laid up. SosteNica will document the entire process from laying the first earth block to ribbon cutting. Stay tuned, and thanks for your support.
Nothing worth doing was ever easy or fast. That said, SosteNica continues making great progress on our affordable, sustainable housing project in Nicaragua, despite a recent and powerful (6.2) earthquake in Nagarote.
Our first step in the process was to design a home that meets the key sustainability criteria. We want the house to be flexible, knowing that families will, over time, choose to modify the space based on the size of their growing family. Second, we insist that the home use locally sourced, sustainable building materials. Third, the home should incorporate eco-technologies that would make the house both easy on the environment and affordable to operate over time. Next, we want the home, including the landscape, to be attractive, productive and healthy. The final requirement for the model home is that the owner family share our values of sustainability, be willing to put sweat equity (hard work) into the construction process and be receptive to interested individuals and groups interested in owning a similar home.
The design is now complete. (see our first project report) Next we set out to field test our eco-technologies for campesino use: fuel efficient stove; rain water collection; composting toilet and grey water treatment. Finally, our agro-ecology team: Vernonn, Leisman, Fanny and Becky have been promoting bio-intensive and food forest concepts with great success. This last piece will serve as the basis for an edible landscape.
Our latest triumph has been to partner with a family who are a perfect match for the project. Ramon and Ada Sepulveda, a young couple recently acquired a couple of acres of flat land near the town of El Crucero. They are eager to work with SosteNica, CEPRODEL and FUNDESONIC to embody the values of sustainable and affordable housing. They have made some requests about minor modifications of the design, and are now working with the municipality to get their land title registered so that we can break ground sometime this summer.
Even as SosteNica shifts away from the use of non-natural, unsustainable building materials towards something more attractive, native and sustainable, we stay true to the needs and desires of campesino families. Our unfolding house design reflects that commitment. The base building material (see photo) is a pressed earth block made from site soil. The roofing material currently under study is a thermal tile made from local volcanic rock, ground to a powder and pressed into roofing tiles.
The building layout begins with a simple secure single bedroom with an expandable footprint. The loft on the second floor provides lockable storage for seed and tools. Campesino families live outdoors. Their indoor space is used primarily for sleeping and for storage.
Notice the outside walls, which are constructed using earth blocks. The two interior walls are secure but removable wooden partitions. As the family grows, the house expands, one room at a time, filling in the footprint by increasing the living space 25% with each new set of two walls. Windows with wooden shutters provide air and light when appropriate, but are safe and dark when family members are sleeping or away from home.
Eco-technologies, including an open-air kitchen and composting toilet, grey water treatment and rain-water caption will be designed into the basic system. Many thanks to the generous donors who have guaranteed that this model house will soon become a reality.
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