Jordan: sample terrain

19 Jul

Eco-effectiveness is about reconciling industry to nature. It’s about discovering processes that answer the question, “How can I nurture the natural world?” rather than, “How can I do the least harm?”

It’s about eliminating the concept of waste. Everything becomes something else.

And it’s about realizing that sustainability is wrapped up in the unique needs of local environments.

“When Bill traveled to Jordan with his professor in 1973 to work on a long-term plan for the future of the East Bank of the Jordan River Valley, the team’s design assignment was to identify strategies for building towns of the future in which the Bedouin could settle, now that political borders had put a stop to their traditional nomadic migrations.

A competing team proposed Soviet-style prefabricated housing blocks of a sort that became ubiquitous in the former Eastern Bloc and USSR, “anywhere” buildings that can be found from Siberia to the Caspian Desert.

Bill and his colleagues created a proposal to adapt and encourage adobe structures. Local people could build these with materials at hand—clay and straw; horse, camel, or goat hair; and (not least) abundant sun.

The materials were ancient, well understood, and uniquely suited to the hot, dry climate.

The team tracked down elder craftspeople in the region who could show them how to build the structures (especially the domes) and then train the Bedouin youths (who had grown up with tents) to build with and repair adobe in the future.

The question that helped guide the team’s work at every level was: What is the right thing for this place? Not prefabricated elements, or mastery of the landscape with a universal modern style, they concluded.

They hoped their plan would enhance that particular community in several ways: the homes were built from local materials that were biologically and technically reusable. Employing these materials and the services of nearby craftsmen would generate local economic activity and support as many residents as possible.

It would involve local people in building the community and keep them connected to the region’s cultural heritage, which the structures’ aesthetic distinctiveness itself helped to perpetuate.

Enlisting local craftsmen to train young people in the use of local materials and techniques would encourage an intergenerational connection.”


[Excerpt from Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart]

One Response to “Jordan: sample terrain”

  1. ClareMarie August 11, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    I just met a guy who is working at a Catholic Worker House in Chiapas Mexico. He was telling me that they implemented this same type of building construction for the people of their community, but instead of using straw or hay (not in good supply in their climate) they use shredded plastic. So far so good too. Bugs don’t try to eat the housing structures like they would if it used the traditional materials. Pretty Cool.

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