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There seems to be a very strong interest (or fetish?) in making more & more "eco"buildings, amongst 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 (Spain is no exception) & also that in the climate we're in (Canary Islands: dry sub-tropical) means that shelter is really not the big priority it is in northern countries - for example houses here are small as we tend to spend a lot of time outside, all year round.     But of course we do need to live somewhere ...

"Hobbit Dome" design

Note this is all related to the PermaConstruction chapter 
in the Integral PermaCulture Designers Manual, 

The "Hobbit Domes" are a proposal for the site we already own, which we are experimenting with, of small rooms made out of 95% recycled materials which people can self-build.   The typical local ecobuildings are made with stone (plentyful here) and we have restored some ruins of these on the site - with others yet to restore - which make ideal communal buildings.    With the 'Hobbit Domes' we could house 6 more people in these small bedrooms, sharing the living-room/library, office, workshop, outdoor kitchen, shower & bathrooms.      

The surrounding farms do come with houses, which are empty due to de-population.  So there is an excess of buildings, in general, on the site, so we believe that the best 'bio-construction' (to support Life) is not to build one more thing.  At least not until we've reconditioned all existing structures or if by building anything new we're doing some net positive service for Life like getting rid of some of the heaps of waste polluting materials humans have produced and increasing fertility in the process (as these domos will).    The idea is that the domos will be completely covered in vegetation & invisible in the landscape, eventually.

The existing buildings are typical Canarian stone & brick houses with some modern extensions, which would be most suitable for small families.   The small stone houses can give room for one couple.   These altogether can house another 7 to 15 people (depending on how many are children).

So the domes are not the only housing option & ideal for people who wish to practice the "living simply so that others may simply live" ideal of down-shifting & also can understand what is innovative and useful about experimenting with recycled materials for construction, something we'd like to see be a lot more popular in the future.

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.  

Eco-Building Heroes

Here you can see the stories of two brilliant Integral Permaculture Pioneers who truly live the above guidelines, ethics & principles, and have  had the imagination & creativity to do very well out of it, as well as contribute something hugely valuable to the world.  Integrity does pay off, eventually.  Both had to pass through being dismissed, ridiculed & attacked, & sometimes still are. 

Richard Sowa, Spiral Island Genius

Richie is onto his second island: the new island is about 20 metres (66 ft) in diameter, and plants and mangroves are already growing on it. It contains about 100,000 bottles.  The new island has beaches, a house, two ponds, a solar-powered waterfall and river, and solar panels. Volunteers helped with the project. Sowa will continue to make improvements to the Island, so it will always be a work of art in progress.

Click on the pictures for links.

Another brilliant Integral Permaculture Designer is Garbage Worrior Hero & 'renegade architect' Michael Reynolds.

He felt the need to specify he believes in "radically sustainable living", very similar to our opting to invent the term "Integral Permaculture"! 'Radically' & 'Integral' should be redundant, if it weren't for the fact that the original & defined meanings of the words 'sustainable' & 'permaculture' have been diluted so much by the usual consumerist patterns, over so many years.

These truly innovative sustainability pioneers are some of the TOO FEW people busy finding a solution to this:

And one of the amazing properties of plastics is that they last forever - which is terrible for ecosystems, but in fact great for buildings.    

When we think 'rubbish', we find it very hard to think it could be transformed into the the most beautiful, inspiring things. We need lateral-thinking & a lot of creativity & imagination for this!    

It is so ironic & typical of our consumerist culture that we turn a blind eye to the horrors of the rubbish we are creating, and then so badly long to live in surroundings made of 'natural materials' even as our actions are destroying natural habitats that create and rely on those materials.

Applying the above 2 common-sense design rules + the permaculture principle of "The Problem is the Solution", we can arrive at the idea of turning this mess into great beauty & intelligent design. One thing that you observe if you live on a small island is that there is more packaging waste than ever, because so many things are imported. So we would like to contribute something creative & useful towards that problem.

We are sure more has yet to be invented, and we can invent it here, given a little imagination, creativity & by getting to the bottom of our deeply rooted emotional reactions to the garbage, which put many obstacles in the way of our thinking rationally on this subject.

The big problem with rubbish is that we've:

a) got too much of it (increases with human consumption),

b) don't know where to put it, and

c) it doesn't degrade.  

So where does it make most sense to stick rubbish? 

In our most permanent constructions! 

And if we don't "like" to do that ... whose health are we really talking about? Certainly not the oceans'.

On the other hand, the big problem with organic material(clay, straw, wood, wool, etc.) is that they:

a) are scarce (they decrease with human consumption),

b) they are all needed, as an urgent priority, to create carbon-sinks & get CO2 out of the atmosphere, which we'll never probably have 'too much of', 

c) and also that it rots or erodes! Because it's job IS to be food for microorganisms.

It is going against the nature of these materials to lock them in some structure that tries to prevent them decomposing, for our convenience. 

So where does it make most sense to stick organic materials?   

In the earth! And growing biomass with it. This is something you cannot do with plastic. Plastic gets in the way of this process, so we need putting it somewhere locked away safely and usefully too. This way, plastic is multifunctional.

Even 'ecologists' and 'permaculture designers' end up using organic materials to build our most permanent structures and leave our non-destructible rubbish into already stressed-out ecosystems, causing yet more destruction!  

Turning Rubbish into Dreams

Here is a short video we made in spanish about this (it's called Transforming Rubbish into Dreams & is presented as a crowd-funding project - which you are very welcome to use if you wish to fund your stay in a very original way)

More on the very first post on Stella's Posterous, 

may 2010: Turning Rubbish into Dreams

The domos could be something this, only smaller, super-insulated and not made mainly out of cement.

Vídeo de YouTube

Constructions pix here

The future library & patio

The first experimental domo, originally made for chickens - it's so cosy inside that it gave us the idea for human domos...

The original carpentry space, in one of the derelict buildings - now renovated

We are surrounded by small farms which already have good livable buildings, it's just a question of buying them.

Our 'Robinson Crusoe' outdoor kitchen - 

On Houses

by Kahlil Gibran

"Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.

For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
Your house is your larger body.

It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. 

Does not your house dream? and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top? 

Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.

Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. 

And that fear shall endure a little longer. 

A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields.

And tell me, people of OrphaIese, what have you in these houses? 

And what is it you guard with fastened doors?

Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?

Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?

Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?

Tell me, have you these in your houses? 

Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.

It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.

It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.

Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.

You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.

You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.

And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.

For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night".

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