During the initial phase of the project, people who will be joining us will live at the Guest House while a comprehensive study of the land is undertaken and the integral design for the EcoVillage is drafted. Of course there will also be people who wish to stay on the land to immerse themselves in the environment and who will play an important part in the observation and study of the land which is needed for the EcoVillage design. A campsite and some temporary structures may be set up to that effect.
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 constructed 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 challenge facing humans is to restore soil & natural habitats – rather than take up yet more space for our own homes.
The reality is that in most ‘developed’ countries there are already more houses than people who need houses. In addition, given the tropical climate we’re located in, shelter is not as big of a priority as it may be in northern countries. Traditional houses here are quite small as people tend 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 design that we can experiment with. These would be small dwellings made with up to 95% recycled materials that people can build for themselves.
However, Domes aren’t the only option for houses, there are tons of ideas that can be tried out for people who want to practice the ideal of down-sizing, “living simply so that others may simply live” and who understand that experimenting with recycled materials for construction can lead to useful innovations.
Using cob – 8thLife La Palma
Our friends at 8thLife La Palma shared an important insight into the use of cob in the design of ecohousing:
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 have come to the conclusion that this isn’t really the best option and here are a few of the reasons why:
A) Permaculture design has two important very basic design guidelines to help us make sustainable choices:
1) the third ethic is “reduce consumption”, try to avoid the use of ‘natural materials’ in order to leave as many ecosystems as possible intact. The only way to ensure that we truly “share resources” with other species is to limit the use of resources to strict necessities. “Strict necessity” are the direct words used in the manual & something many permaculture teachers would rather ignore.
2) the hierarchy of resources, another very under-used tool from the basic permaculture design, tells us that when in need of materials to always look first at using resources that would otherwise result in more pollution; which 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 of activists.