During the initial phase, people who join us will live at the Guest House while a comprehensive study of the land is done and the integral design for the EcoVillage is proposed. Of course there will be people who want to stay on the land for a spell and that will be important for the observation and study of the land needed for the EcoVillage design. A campsite and some temporary structures can be set up to be used for this.
There’s a huge amount of recyclable and reusable materials in Panama that normally end up in the landfills (or alongside the roads). We propose that houses and other structures built at the EcoVillage be designed and built with the highest ‘garbage’ content possible. Plastic bottles, tires, glass bottles, metal roofing materials – all can be used in construction. Old shipping containers, which are abundant in Panama, can be converted into houses, workshops, storage areas, and even swimming pools. These materials can be complemented with natural products from the surroundings.
There seems to be a very strong interest (or fetish?) in making more & more “eco”buildings, among people looking to live in a more sustainable way. This is actually quite strange given that the biggest job we have now facing humans is to restore soil & habitats we have stolen from other species – rather than take up yet more space for our own homes.
The reality is that there are already more houses than people who need houses, in most ‘developed’ countries & also that the climate we’re in (humid tropics) means that shelter is really not the big priority it is in northern countries. Traditional houses here are small as people tended to spend a lot of time outside, all year round. What if we decided to live that way again ….
“Hobbit Dome” design
“Hobbit Domes” are one proposal that we can experiment with. These would be small dwellings made with up to 95% recycled materials that people can build for themselves.
Domes aren’t the only option for houses, however, there are tons of ideas that can be tried out for people who want to practice the ideal of down-sizing and “living simply so that others may simply live” and who also understand that experimenting with recycled materials for construction can lead to useful innovation.
An important lesson from our friends at 8thLife La Palma, who say:
We get asked the exact same question by almost everyone:
“have you thought of doing the domes in cob?”
And the short answer is “yes, of course we have”. But we’ve been thinking this through for many years now, & we rejected those option as really not the best idea, and here are a few of the reasons:
A) Permaculture design has two important very basic design guidelines to help us make sustainable choices:
1) the third ethic is “reduce consumption”, trying to avoid the use of ‘natural materials’, & so leave as many ecosystems in peace as possible.
The only way to ensure that we truly “share resources” with other species is to be very clear on the need to use a resource if, by strict necessity, we need to use it. “Strict necessity” are the direct words used in the manual, & something many permaculture teachers would rather not consider.
2) the hierarchy of resources, another very under-used tool from the basic permaculture design, also informs us about always looking first, when we need any materials, to use resources that pollute if not used. And that means human rubbish.
We are aware of the fact that there are many ecologists & permaculture designers that do consider their wishes & personal tastes as ‘strict necessities’ & don’t see it as their responsibility to use up resources that pollute if not used.
We prefer to live with the other kind.