Author(s): Lola Ben-Alon
Natural building materials offer a minimally processed, non-toxic, and community self-sufficient alternative to conventional building materials. Constructing with these materials maximizes the potentials of freely available resources, while engaging local communities, regardless of skills, including families and children. In this paper, a design-build methodology that fosters academic and community connections for building with earth is presented. Specifically, the presented teaching structure equips interdisciplinary teams of engineering and architecture students with both theoretical knowledge and hands-on building experience of a range of natural materials for different climates. While making a sensitive choice of materials, technical details, and participatory processes, students collaborate with local communities to foster circular economy, create know-how to improve living conditions in the local context, and support a bottom-up form of capacity development. Hands-on workshops provide students with insights from field and give the opportunity to gain expertise of alternative building modes. The presented methodology resonates with current research on natural building materials that aims to enhance the performance, perception, and policy of these materials. The long-term implications these endeavors hope to achieve are the catalysis of low-carbon construction in community development and mainstream projects, as well as the development of a complete, safe, and user-friendly building guidelines and material standardization.
Jonathan A. Scelsa & Jørgen Johan Tandberg