Using ecological materials and developing sustainable ways of building low-tech are important goals for many of the Nordic teams. Some of the teams also extend beyond the conventional role of architects by constructing the projects themselves.  

The self-build method enhances a collective approach to work, where students as well as local builders and civic society are involved. Carried out right, both architects and local communities can be strengthened.

However, this work also raises questions of architectural and cultural prejudice. Ideas of desirability and modernity sometimes differ between a local community and a foreign architect. While construction of natural materials can be both beautiful, cheap and energy-efficient, it might require more maintenance on the part of the users. Finding suitable solutions requires strong local involvement and focus to project-specific circumstances. Collaborative building with gradual experimentation is one possible way of getting there.


Think bioclimatics on several levels

Turning a technical aspect into a central piece of the architectural aesthetics

“The aim of the project is to reduce the center’s dependency on private donations and eventually reach a self sufficient standing. As a strategic part of this objective, the new center must be sustainable and to a large extent maintenance free. Natural ventilation is integrated in the design and the center will produce its own electricity through solar panels.

The construction site is located on a remote area suffering from periodical drought. We have focused on studying the most suitable rainwater harvesting system to guarantee an adequate water supply. Inspired by the African Baobab tree, we made a point of designing the ferrocement water tanks as an integral part of the building’s aesthetical expression. The system is currently under evaluation and will probably be adapted for the next construction phase to meet the needs of the new Children’s Center. “

Asante Architecture & Design + Lönnqvist Vanamo Architects

Benefit from local resources

Getting construction materials locally donated for the women’s center in Senegal

“Originally we wanted to use rammed earth for the building but it turned out that the local clay was not suitable for construction. Concrete was not our first choice because of its environmental impact. At the same time it came to be the most local and ecological solution since the largest cement factory in Western Africa was situated in Rufisque. We got the cement as a donation from the factory that was located only 1 km away from the site. The reinforcing bars that were also donated from a local factory were of recycled metal which added on the plus side. The window and door frames were welded in a workshop 50 m from the site. It ́s a challenge to optimize all parts of a project, and compromises always have to be made.”

Hollmén Reuter Sandman Architects

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Adding earthbags and reused bottles to locally known building techniques

“In Situ cast concrete beams is standard for building loadbearing structures in this area, but using sandbags as fill-in was alien to the community. We knew it was a risk to suggest this, but felt we needed an alternative material with better thermal qualities than the concrete blocks that were normally used. The bags where bought cheap in the village centre, and sand was found next to the site.

Reusing bottle-bricks was a technique some of us had picked up in a previous course and wanted to try out. With no glass-cutter we had to split the bottles in two by using a thread dipped in gasoline, tying it on the middle of the bottle, lighting it on fire, and quickly putting it in a cold bucket of water. This caused the bottles to crack in two, so that they could be used in the walls for lightning.“

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