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Interview with Mike Reynolds: Founder of the Earthship movement

Passive schools and Nature classrooms explored

Issue 1 April 2019

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Architecture can save lives and it can save the planet. It can inspire kids to learn and cherish the outdoors and it can make us happier and healthier. It shouldn’t cost the earth physically or metaphorically. Alt.Accom celebrates the possibilities of beautiful and useful structures to change the world. Read on and be inspired.



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earthships addressing the six points


that will save the planet


Tim Rees, Managing Director of Quality Unearthed, travelled to New Mexico to interview Mike Reynolds, founder of the Earthship Biotecture. Reynolds, long considered to be a radical progressive of the world of architecture, now calls himself a ‘Biotect’ and has garnered a massive following due to his Earthships and his views on sustainable living. Tim has spent many years living in a yurt and is an expert in unusual accommodation, having built a business renting out a curated collection of quirky and magical places to stay.

Tim Rees: Tell us a little about where we are at the moment. Mike Reynolds: We are in our latest wide greenhouse, global model Earthship, which is a product we are trying to introduce into the real world that exemplifies all of our concepts, but we have to present those concepts in a palatable way. Tim Rees: I understand that the definition of an Earthship has evolved over time. How would you define an Earthship now?

Tim Rees

Mike Reynolds: Well, the definition is just that it’s a vessel to live in on this planet that addresses six major needs that people need for survival. And those six issues are comfortable shelter that doesn't use fossil fuel, water or electricity, treating your own sewage, dealing with your own garbage, and having your own food. those are things that nobody can really have a life without addressing, so we want this vessel to address those six things, and we call that an Earthship.

Mike Reynolds

Tim Rees: Earthships are renowned for using tyres, bricks, cans and things of that kind, which give a beautiful effect. Would you say that those are surplus to requirement compared with the six points, or are they integral to an Earthship? Mike Reynolds: Well, both - they're integral, tyres and cans and bottles used as a building material are the way that the Earthship addresses garbage. We use it, reuse it.


So that's the way an Earthship does it. If a person is just addressing those issues in their life, and in their building, we don't care how they do it. We think it's more important that they address those issues. Because there are many people more intelligent than me on this planet and I think those issues could be addressed a lot better. We are just trying to make people address it.


Tim Rees: Why is there a need for Earthships on planet Earth? Mike Reynolds: Well, there is a need for those six points to be addressed in building, which translates into the need for Earthships as we know them. But the real need is that the people of the planet are ruining the planet’s ability to take care of them, and to make a home for them on this earth. So that's being done in so many ways from s**t running into bays and rivers, to electricity being made by polluting nuclear and coal-fired power plants. These are almost endless crimes, and we’re trying to get the sustenance of people to be an asset to the planet, not a detriment to the planet, and that's kind of the reason Earthships are needed.

architecture as a profession is just not getting radical enough to press the issues of the time, issues of the time are changing fast.

Tim Rees: Agreed. So, you were a qualified architect, but now you go by the definition of a biotect, is that right? Earthship biotecture. Why biotecture, and not architecture? Mike Reynolds: Well, the basic reason is that architecture as a profession is just not getting radical enough to press the issues of the time, issues of the time, which are changing fast. They say global warming is now happening much faster than everybody thought, whereas, five or six years ago, people were arguing about whether it was even a factor.


So, architecture is, because of its own little dogma, its own little credentials, rather superior. As a profession, it's not capable of stepping up and acting on what needs to be acted on. So I just invented a new profession and I called it biotecture, and its acting on these six points, it doesn't really care about the tradition and culture and dogma of architecture.


Tim Rees: I have heard similar views on architects, essentially saying they weren't putting people front and centre. You're going beyond that to integrate the people and the planet into the structure.

Mike Reynolds: Because you can't separate people and planet, that's the thing. Our dogma has us separated from the planet. The way we live is separate from the planet, we have got to be the same as the planet and address both together. Tim Rees: Got you. At the moment I’m staying in one of the pit houses over by the Castle, one of your original canstructure buildings, and you've also built a pyramid. So, what’s your vision of structure when it comes to biotecture? Mike Reynolds: Well, the pyramid is a different story on form, but I don't care about form, and I don't necessarily care about design. I care about what the phenomena of this planet tell me to do, to address these six points. And I liken it to a boat. In other words, you're the designer of a boat, if you’re an idiot you're going to make the boat all pretty and have all these different things that happen, but you’re going to put it out on the sea and it's going to sink. My first objective is that the boat must float. I don't care what it looks like, I want it to float the best way it can and be as safe a vessel on the sea as it can possibly be. A complete holistic vessel on the sea, that's what I want first. When it does that, then I’ll decorate it! So that's form, form is whimsy and that's what architecture is - it’s whimsy. Architecture used to be form; to encounter phenomena, that's what a pyramid is. A pyramid is a form that encounters phenomenam - be it kinetic, magnetic, issues on this globe, and the various things out in the solar system and universe that the pyramid actually does address and introduce a connection to. So there's a situation that the architects of the pyramid didn't make a pyramid just because they thought it was beautiful, they made a pyramid because it was the thing that was needed. That’s what an Earthship is, and that's what a pyramid is.



Tim Rees: Where do you see Earthships going, in 20 years’ time. What's your vision for them? Mike Reynolds: I think, I’m starting to see, ever since the beginning of the concept, there's been a crescendo. In other words, in the beginning I was an idiot, I was a freak, I was a disgrace to the architectural community. I saw that slowly change, and I saw people become more aware of the condition of the planet, and I became the right guy in the right place at the right time, and I’m seeing it crescendo even more. People are wanting to go in this direction, so the crescendo is happening, and now that's encouraging. So, I have to meet the challenge, I mean people are looking at these concepts, and I have to keep trying to make it worthy of millions, if not billions of people looking at it.


So I see that it has the potential to evolve into how we live on this planet. Not necessarily Earthships,


our interpretation of this, but people recognising that the six points must be dealt with, as if they were utilities, or if they were what people need to live, not a doctrine, not a political thing, not a religion, but a logic. I see this logic coming to the people, and the planet, and I see it, I don't visualise it in any crystallised way, I just see it as a possibility for us to become to this planet what trees are. Tim Rees: Now you also rent out Earthships, is that right? When did you start renting and why? Mike Reynolds: Well, the renting of Earthships, of course everything we do has to somehow be seated in business to some extent, because we have to fund ourselves. We have to play that game. It's not the ultimate game, but it is the game, it's the tool. And so back in the early 80s, I was making these buildings, people were curious about them but they didn't want to buy them at all.

occupancy. Tim Rees: That's absolutely excellent. Aside from Earthships, what other types of structure are you personally drawn to? Mike Reynolds: None. Tim Rees: Fair point! All right, so in the UK there's a lot people at the moment really interested in self-build, you've got some great communities, like Lammas community in West Wales, doing various interesting things, and I feel that whole grass roots movement is filtering through a common awareness, and the fact we are seeing a lot of artisans building funky places to stay in the UK and beyond at the moment. What advice would you give to someone thinking of self-building? Mike Reynolds: Well, I would say address those six points any way you can, and I’m actually interested in any way of addressing those six points. You get off onto a lot of tangents that don’t address the six points, but they address one point quite well or something. I think you need to think in layers, six layers, to address those six points with every building. Like a straw bale building for instance, it’s great concept, because it’s a renewable method of building, but it doesn't have mass, and they're a lot of things about it that don’t do what we need to have done in the stability of a building. Straw bales are a great insulator, outside of mass, we’ve done it, we've wrapped an entire building in straw, its fine. But people think one aspect is enough; it's not. I mean, if you make a building out of renewable product like straw bales, you’re still not addressing the six points, it's just as bogus as anything else. I think the advice I would have, is to understand those six points, and determine if you can live without one

of them. If you can live without water, ok, fine, but if you can’t; your building needs to harvest water. Your building, no matter what direction it takes, must address all of those six points. Every building that’s built must address them. It's just as important to me as making sure a roof doesn’t leak. What good is a building if it’s not a good shelter for you? Ok? Then everybody agrees that a building needs a good roof, so it doesn't leak rain on you. Well, I’m adding five other points to that, I’m saying there is no such thing in this day and age as a good building that doesn't address those six points. Tim Rees: Ok, and finally, if people want to find out a little bit more information about Earthships, where should they go to look?

everybody is now aware of dwindling resources, and they see the buildings addressing that, and it blows their minds.

Mike Reynolds: We have,, we have Facebook sites about Earthships, and we are just beginning with our app – which will be the thing. It is availalble at the Appstore, and right now it has sets of construction drawings that are simple survival Earthships and very simple Earthships. It has the concept book of the philosophy of thinking behind the Earthship, called Wizards, in it as well.

Basically, I tell people I'm dumping the entire contents of my mind into that app, and once you have it, it offers you the new stuff that gets put in every few weeks for free. So, once you have it, you have an access to everything me and Earthship biotecture are going to do in the next 20 years.

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So, nobody wanted to buy them, but they were curious, so I started letting people stay in them for a night, and then that grew into what we call the rental Earthships, we rent them, and we don’t have to sell them that way. And we do sell them but we rent them until we sell them, and so the rental thing happened as a way of trying to make the building pay for itself, because nobody wanted to buy it, and so, now people do want to buy them, and they want to rent them. And so, it’s now a demonstration situation, it’s like, most people on the planet don’t know what we are talking about still, and when they come here in the winter, in February, they are staying in this room, and it’s warm. They’re standing here in a T-shirt, bare feet, they've got electricity, they've got high speed internet, they've got hot water, they've got water, they’re containing their own sewage and growing food from down the greenhouse, it blows their mind. So, these buildings are a demonstration of what can be done, and that has become more important than the actual financial nightly rental aspect. In other words, I don't want to sell these buildings all at once, because I need them to be here and available, to demonstrate this kind of living, and so the nightly rental, the rental of our ships just came about as a business economic way of supporting their evolution.

just keep making them better and better, and now the reviews are all really good, and the reason is because everybody is aware of the problems with the planet and global warming, climate change and all that. Everybody is now aware of dwindling resources, and they see the buildings addressing that, and it amazes them. So, we have got to the point where the boat floats, so to speak, and we decorate them up and play with them that way. And people love that. I mean they love the way they look, they love the way they feel, they are not plankety-plank when you walk across the floor of a frame house, they're quiet, they are strong, they're massive structures that are like a womb that take care of you. to people recognise the looks and aesthetics that we've built into them, and are starting to understand the fact that they will take care of them. They think it is the way of the future.

People think one aspect is enough; it's not. I mean, if you make a building out of renewable product like straw bales, you’re still not addressing the six points, it's just as bogus as anything else

Tim Rees: What would you say, it is about an Earthship that people love? Because am I right in saying you've got quite a lot of guests?

Tim Rees: Agreed. That womb-like concept I can definitely relate to, having spent many years living in a yurt. It can be raining outside and you're supercomfortable inside, and it feels to me like Earthships have just gone numerous steps beyond that, to facilitate that proximity to mother nature, whilst being extremely comfortable. What kind of occupancy rate would you say you're getting on the Earthships?

Mike Reynolds: They are popular, they're very popular actually. There's nothing but 5* and great reviews usually. It used to be different, it used to be people would say well this is ok, and that's ok, but we responded to that. We

Mike Reynolds: We have the first historic Earthship in town, which is called the Hobbit House. It’s rented 28 days a month and I think the other ones, here in the community or further out of town, are probably 80%-85%



The Conker is spherical in shape, with a diameter of 3.9 metres and a floor area of 10 square metres. The foundation of each Conker comes in the form of four anchor points, making it perfect for uneven ground or more difficult terrains. Adding to the versatility of The Conker is the fact that multiple units can be joined together to form larger customisable designs. Talking about what he wanted to achieve whilst designing the Conker, Jag said, “In the back of my mind, there was always the traditional architect who would design something and pass it on to the builder. The builder would interpret the designs and build it as he saw fit. If you were to get three quotations from three different builders, they would all do the job completely differently. My background in automotive and aerospace engineering was also very important. For me, the big question was: why can’t we design and build structures for living in, like we do for the automotive industry?” The idea of the Conker being truly modular was important to Jag. Modular accommodation shouldn’t just be a building that is constructed by specialists in a larger building, and then shipped to a destination. Jag explained that, “I wanted to create a modular system that allowed you to make a building without the need for the multiple trades that are out there, such as electricians, carpenters, or plasterers. In the automotive industry, everything is pre-made into a module and then connected together to another module.”


Explaining the modular approach further, Jag said, “That’s why the shape doesn’t matter but the approach does. It’s all about designing something, creating tools for it, manufacturing those tools and then producing the parts. The parts are designed in such a way that they fit together every time in exactly the same way. There is no differentiation in quality from one Conker to the next.”


With an installation time of a single day, it appears that Jag has succeeded in making the construction and delivery process more efficient. Not stopping

the conker there, he wanted to make it easier as well, explaining, “The Conker takes into account transport and assembly, in that every panel is designed in such a way that it fits through a normal size doorway, which is perfect for landlocked gardens or other difficult to access areas.” The Conker is also perfect for more remote locations. While each Conker can be hooked up to a mains electric grid, they can also operate completely off the grid via solar panels or fitted rechargeable batteries. The heat recovery system means that they’re great in cold climates and perfect for year-round use due to them being 100% weatherproof, with no need for guttering. The Conkers are made from recycled aluminium and upcycled plastic, all of which is sourced locally from the UK making it incredibly eco-friendly. Looking to tackle the waste issues that are common in the construction industry, Jag added, “The Conker is designed in such a way that it has a very small carbon footprint, from the point of view that there is no wastage in any of the materials that we use.” To find out more about the Conker, head to their website.

The Conker was designed by automotive and aerospace engineer Jag Virdie. Starting his career working for automotive companies such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Jag has also gained experience working with aerospace clients too.

anthropods & co ltd Anthropods are temporary dwellings that are luxurious enough for the finest of glamping sites whilst also being adaptable enough to serve almost any purpose.

Asked about the drive behind the creation of their pods, Anthropods said, “After two years of researching the glamping marketplace two key factors emerged. The first was that the market was growing very fast, not only in the UK but also in Europe, Australasia, the US and Canada. And the second was that there appeared to be little product innovation or design integrity in the majority of products on offer at the time. The market was ripe for daring design that utilised modern production processes.” Anthropod’s CEO, Rik Currie, is a qualified industrial designer and trained at Coventry University in transport design. He subsequently worked for the Dutch railways, where he designed their signature double-decker trains and the TGV Thalys high-speed train. He is also an aeronautical aficionado, having trained in his youth as a jet pilot. Both of these influences have been brought to the fore in the Anthropod’s fuselage shape and use of interior space.

number of customised versions available for order such as the Daddy Long Legs model, which is a Bleriot 72 standing 5 metres off the ground with a spiral staircase and a wide viewing and sitting platform on the porch. The unique leg configurations of Anthropods means that they can be placed on uneven ground, up to 5 metres high and are easily relocatable. Talking about the leg design, Anthropods said, “One key design element is the Anthropod’s flexible leg configuration. The product can sit on uneven ground and be located in areas that could be subject to flooding. There is minimal ground work as each leg sits on 600mm square hardcore pads, thus removing the requirement for large areas of concrete hard standing. The Daddy Long Legs model stands five metres high under the tree canopy and is reached by a spiral staircase – this version is proving to be very popular both at home and in Europe.”

The base models can be further customised by choosing interior layout and siting options. There are also a

If you’d like to find out more about Anthropods, head over to their website.


There are two base models to choose from when considering an Anthropod, the Bleriot 53 and the Bleriot 72. Both have a width of 2.8 metres and an interior height of 2.2 metres, but the Bleriot 53 has a length of 5.3 metres and weighs 1.9 tons whereas the Bleriot 72 is 7.2 metres long and weighs 2.5 tons.

Asked about the materials chosen to create each pod, Anthropods said, “From the outset Anthropods’s mission was to be as green and sustainable as possible. The exterior Red Western Cedar contains its own oils and requires no maintenance and over time fades to an attractive silver colour. The insulation uses over 90% recycled plastic and the interior is finished throughout in timber.”


iglucraft The Nordic design and construction techniques of the Igluhut are immediately apparent and really lend to the uniqueness of this structure. Using centuries-old shingle technology with natural materials alongside modern knowledge and craftwork, the exterior of every handcrafted Iglucraft cabin is covered with spruce shingles, with aspen being used for the interior.


The cabins come in various sizes with four cabin models and a family pod size. The Cabin Model 1 is the smallest option available and features a kitchen and dining room along with a bedroom. The Model 2 adds an extra bedroom with a double bed, the Model 3 comes equipped with a single bedroom with a kitchen/dining room and adds a bathroom. The Model 4 comes with the same configuration as the Model 3 but with an extra room. The family Pod is the largest of the lot and features a smart dining room that can be converted into a bedroom.


All of the cabins come equipped with 220V electric with multiple power points, hot and cold running water, lighting, fully functioning kitchen, electric heating and a TV cable. The larger cabin sizes come with more facilities, however all are configurable during the buying and construction process.

While the Igluhuts are perfect for use as accommodation, the shape and design of the structure mean that it is also very adaptable. The ability to configure the cabins during the buying process means that you can customise the finished product to achieve almost any goal that you have in mind. Installation couldn’t be easier as each cabin leaves the Iglucraft factory in one piece, ready to be installed. All cabins are delivered on a standard articulated lorry and can be moved into position with a forklift or craned directly into place. If you’d like to find out more about the Iglucraft Igluhuts, head over to their website.

The Fuselage is the newest creation from Tree Tents. Using modern aerospace design principles, Tree Tents have created a lightweight and portable accommodation type that is equally at home mounted on stilts as it is suspended from trees. The Fuselage frame is made from 80% recycled aluminium, meaning that it’s lightweight and easily transported to wherever you need it to be. The entire structure measures 2.9 metres wide, 2.8 metres high and 5.3 metres long. The modular design of the Fuselage means that base unit extensions can be added to increase the space and capacity of the unit. The extensions are available in increments of 1.5 metres, but if you are looking to suspend the Fuselage from trees it may be best to stick with the original unit size. The outer shell of the Fuselage is made of aluminium thermal skin panels that wrap around the structure to ensure weather and corrosion resistance. There are a number of finishes and cladding available for the outer shell of the Fuselage that can be customised to the user’s liking.

The windows of the unit are constructed with sustainable hardwood framing and clear acrylic panels to take in the views. The hinged and lockable door of the Fuselage leads out onto a connecting entrance deck. It is also possible to extend the entrance deck to link it to an extra unit, providing a separate area for bedrooms or facilities. The unit comes with fitted twin bunk beds and a convertible double bed offering sleeping space to four people. However, the bunk beds can be easily removed to offer a more spacious two person unit. The double bed, which features storage room underneath, can convert into table and seating for the daylight hours. On top of all this, there are a large number of upgrades that can be added to the Fuselage at extra cost. These include a custom paint finish, low-voltage radiant heating panels, off-grid solar panels and battery storage, airconditioning and LED lighting kits. The Fuselage features a triple-layer insulated skin system which keeps it completely weatherproof. Along with the wood stove and low-voltage radiant heating options, the Fuselage can be easily customised to offer yearround accommodation. One of the biggest advantages of the Fuselage over other types of accommodation is that it is able to utilise land that would otherwise be unavailable. The ability to suspend the Fuselage from the trees is not just great at creating an unforgettable atmosphere for guests, but also in freeing up as much ground space as possible. It also means that it’s perfect for heavily wooded or particularly uneven sites. If you’d like to find out more about the Fuselage, head over to the Tree Tents website.




courtesy of Tiny House UK


think small


In our times of rampant materialism and conspicuous consumption, it’s good see a movement embracing the notion that small and modest can be beautiful too. Since the global financial crisis of 2007-08 and subsequent housing meltdown, people all over the world have been reassessing the meaning of “home”, looking at alternative, less cumbrous and more eco-friendly ways of living to alleviate debt and champion personal freedom and flexibility.

courtesy of Tiny House UK

The size of your house has long been the status symbol by which your personal success is measured, but less is becoming more. One of the reactions against the “big is best” philosophy has been the Tiny House movement, in which householders are embracing minimalist living by downsizing and making a conscious effort to simplify their lives. The trend gained momentum in the relentlessly consumerist US after at least 7m Americans lost their properties and many began reassessing what they really want and need in a home.

Long before Japanese salarymen began laying their weary heads in capsule hotels in the late 1970s or David Cameron retired to his Shepherd’s hut to write his memoirs in 2017, mankind has been looking for ways to rationalise the domestic environment. Early devotees included the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau, whose influential 1854 book Walden was a reflection on simple living amid natural surroundings. The countermovement for smaller houses kicked off in earnest in 1997 with Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big House. This was followed by Shay Salomon’s Little House on a Small Planet in 2006, which offered guidelines for effective and thoughtful small-scale living, and Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned from Living in 140 Square Feet by Gregory Johnson — along with Salomon one of the co-founders of the Small House Society, which now boasts more than 20,000 members. Proponents of Tiny proclaim it’s all about the freedom that comes from


In the States, steadily increasing material wealth saw the average size of new single-family homes leap from 1,780 sq ft in 1978 to 2,662 sq ft in 2013. The Small House movement advocated a return to ecologically friendly structures of less than 1,000 sq ft; but the distinction is now extended between small (400-1,000 sq ft) and tiny houses (less than 400 sq ft). Despite these more modest dwellings accounting for only about 1% of property transactions, architects and designers have responded to this new ethos of habitation by creating tiny houses in all shapes and sizes, some

transportable or fabricated on wheels, with a focus on efficient and ecofriendly design.


living with less. Once you realise the space you actually need and dispense with the rest, life crystallises and you start appreciating it all the more. Resisting the modern urge to buy as big a house as possible, with all its attendant requirements – maintenance, heating, cleaning, furniture, a more daunting mortgage – and living in a modest home instead, benefits your bank account, your soul and the environment. Although finding the right land can be problematic, micro-houses are usually cheap to buy or build. Mark Burton, who runs Tiny House UK, offers custom-built homes from about £15,000 (3m x4.5m - depending on location) and kits from £8,000. The Tiny Houses on wheels start at £25,000 (16ft chassis). They require little energy to heat and power, so are also affordable to run. “The Tiny House movement is gradually catching on in the UK,” Burton says. “More and more people in Great Britain are looking to their gardens to create a bit more living space or temporary accommodation, whether it’s for a teenager, a spare bedroom for family or friends or a bit of extra B&B space. These insulated cabins are built like a house that will last a lifetime — any size, any shape, any colour.”

thousands at each event.” The couple first considered downsizing from an average American-sized home of about 2,500 sq ft when they completed a road trip together and were hungry to keep travelling. Parsons introduced the notion not just of downsizing, but going super-small, he told The Independent. “I was completely fascinated,” Stephens says. “I have always loved small spaces like cabins. Cue a giant research binge on the Tiny House movement. I found it deeply resonated with me, as I was in a transitional period of my life and was looking for ways to simplify and take more control of my financial future.” Like many couples struggling to deal with a lack of affordable housing, it was a lifestyle that made sense in the economic climate — “The fact is the American housing market is working against the majority of the American people.” But Stephens and Parsons were equally galvanised by the enthusiasm and inventiveness of the grassroots movement that was trying to reassess the waste and excess of the average American lifestyle, both for individuals but also on a community level. Since they were film-makers, the couple decided to capture the go-small movement across the US, and the Tiny House Expedition documentary was born. “We have now travelled over 25,000 miles across the USA with our tiny home on wheels, Stephens says. “The movement is centred on the concept of selfempowerment, of taking direct control of your life by reprioritising what’s most important to you and crafting a home around that. A tiny house is a tool to help you achieve your lifestyle and financial goals — it is not a status symbol.”

There is an allure to simple living and beautifully designed small spaces that appeals to millions


While Europeans still tentatively weigh up the pros and cons of micro-living, as ever, the revolution Stateside is in full swing. “Americans from all walks of life are ditching the traditional script of keeping up with the Joneses for life in a simple, quality-built space,” says Alexis Stephens, co-founder of the Tiny House Expedition. “The alluring lifestyle approach is quite contagious. Fewer things and more experiences equate to a higher quality of life.” Stephens and her partner, Christian Parsons, have taken domestic minimalism to the next stage and gone full-on nomad. The thirtysomething couple from Long Island — both documentary film-makers — met in North Carolina and took to the road in 2015 having built their 130 sq ft home on wheels. They then embarked on their expedition, a three-year road trip to produce a documentary and develop a community-education programme about the Tiny Home Movement. 


“In this short time, we have seen it grow from obscure to a hot trend,” Stephens says. “There is an allure to simple living and beautifully designed small spaces that appeals to millions and this interest can be seen at Tiny House festivals, which are attracting tens of

Beginning in the autumn of 2014, it took the couple nine months to build their mobile home — or what they have dubbed their “tiny house on wheels”. But that was also the moment the romance of the project began to dwindle and the gravity of what they were committing to became clear. “Construction was long and slow but very rewarding,” Stephens recalls. “In our build, we used many salvaged and reclaimed materials — from an old farmhouse and trees fallen in a tornado. Processing these materials was labourintensive and time-consuming, but in the end, we saved quite a bit of money and added much charm and character to our house. Everything in our home has a story behind it.” Creating such a small living space meant the couple had to be creative. “The style of our tiny home is

eclectic and rustic. Just about everything is multifunctional and every inch is maximised. Like every house, we have a kitchen, a bathroom and living room, and there are two sleeping lofts. The ‘master suite’ has a queen bed, and my son’s loft has a folding foam bed, a fold-down desk, a toy box and a special basket on a pulley system — perfect for bringing toys up and down.” Living within close confines has its niggles, of course, but mainly because the infrastructure for this lifestyle can never be perfect. “Christian typically gets up about 10 minutes before me and will go to the bathroom and get dressed. By the time I come downstairs, he’s done and out of the way. We also bump into each other from time to time, but it’s not a big deal. As a couple, open communication is incredibly important, more so in a tiny house. It’s best to talk through disagreements right away and move on. If we really need space from each other, one of us can go outside or into the loft — it really does feel like a separate, private space, out of sight and mostly out of earshot. “The main challenge for tiny houses, especially those on wheels,” she adds, “is legal placement or parking, especially on land outside RV parks or campsites. This is a zoning challenge. A few US cities are creating Tiny House-specific zoning, which allows for legal parking in backyards or the creation of Tiny House communities. Progress is slow and happens in one city at a time.” Rather than giving up her old home, perhaps the hardest moment was actually setting off on the road for the first time. “Christian and I poured our hearts into the building of our house, and it contains all our belongings. The first time we took it on the road my heart was pounding, but the more we’ve done it, the less stressful it’s become.”

courtesy of Tiny House Scotland

Despite rocky moments in their mobile, spatially diminished life, Stephens and Parsons are happy with their radical decision. “Our tiny home is a lovely reflection of our personalities and tailored specifically to our needs. For us, living minimally does not mean depriving ourselves. We are surrounded by the things we most love or need. The beauty of minimal living is getting down to the essence of who you are.” Meanwhile, north of the border in the UK, a growing number of Scottish city dwellers are also forgoing larger homes for a simpler way of existence. Downsizing from an urban flat to a location where square footage is kept to a bare minimum requires a steely determination and a focus on the benefits. As well as reduced mortgage repayments, greater attention is given to the function and form of every detail — a minuscule kitchen, for example, encourages strict management and organisation — and, crucially, the opportunity to use the financial savings for lifestyle gain. Tiny House Scotland, now in its fifth year, specialises in small-scale moveable architecture. The company has produced the NestHouse™ a moveable modular micro house system and the NestPod™ a road-legal towable mobile version.


To those who are considering downsizing, Stephens suggests there will always be reasons not to take the plunge, but fears can easily be assuaged by investigation into the movement and being honest about your specific needs. “There is absolutely no time like the present to prioritise your wellbeing and embrace a freer way of

life,” she says. “Start saving and start researching. How tiny is right for you? Is building your own feasible? Access to available land, tools and a support group are crucial to the success of DIY builds. There are many great online resources and all sorts of workshops.”


courtesy of Tiny House Scotland

courtesy of Tiny House UK

The designer and craftsman Jonathan Avery completed its prototype after two years research and now has a twoyear waiting list for private commissions. The NestHouse™ and NestPod™ are individually custom built from around £40,000 to £60,000. Two prominent trends in the Tiny House movement this side of the pond are the chance to build your own property, with purchasers taking on modest restoration projects with the aim of crafting the space to suit their needs, and bijou cottages on large estates. A lifeline to other properties or a main estate residence underpins confidence when making such a radical downsize.


Small homes provide an opportunity for creative thinking, as well as the ability to use what’s at hand. And in remote locations it is far easier to arrange, source and deliver smaller quantities of local materials such as larch, stone and slate. With reduced pressure on natural resources, traditional labour-intensive techniques can also be used. In a tworoom bothy, for example, sheep’s wool as a form of wall insulation becomes a comforting natural option.


“Very small homes are a sexy subject,” Avery told The Times. His diminutive properties promote mindfulness about the way residents live, in line with the philosophy of the Tiny House movement. “I have a steady stream of people who are interested in the idea of simplifying and living a better lifestyle. It’s partly driven from an ethical

courtesy of Tiny House UK

standpoint, but the money side does not always match up with the ideals. Finding land can be difficult.” Recently, Avery designed a twobedroom version of the NestHouse™ for the SocialBite Village in Granton, Edinburgh where eleven NestHouses are used in a a project that combines an innovative housing model, using vacant council-owned land, along with a supported community environment. The project is entirely geared at breaking the cycle of homelessness and giving residents pathways into employment and permanent housing. He also points to the reforesting campaign A Thousand Huts, whose sustained pressure on the Scottish government brought about a legislative change granting the structures lighter regulatory restrictions. He believes that building regulations should now be relaxed on Tiny Homes to encourage more homeowners to commission them. “I would love to see the same kind of common sense that is applied to the 30 sq metre [320 sq ft] low-impact building extend to, for example, a Highland or island village, allowing Tiny starter homes for young people,” he says. “When well designed, these are spaces you do not want to leave. You are not compromised in any way except in terms of space. But if you are the kind of person who is tidy and you do not want lots of material objects, it can be a great lifestyle.” courtesy of Tiny House Scotland

focus on container living with Alternative Living Spaces Inc. Tony Lopez – the owner of Alternative Living Spaces – started working with containers 3 years ago, out of his base in Las Vegas before partnering with his friend Chris Buonaiuto of Container Guys International to turn conversions into a business. “We began with 20ft containers, mostly for studios, since then we have taken on projects for any sized containers and we turn them into all kinds of different spaces, offices, homes, gyms. We are also getting more enquiries for retail and food vending/hospitality outlets.” The most unusual project that Tony has undertaken thus far is a massive 45ft container which is mounted on a trailer. It weighs a whopping 30,000lbs and has a retractable rooftop deck. Projects usually take around 8-10 weeks to complete. The first two weeks are spent finalising the design with the client. The next two weeks are for ordering the materials (this can take longer for specialist items). Then the build out takes roughly 4-5 weeks to complete.

n Do your research thoroughly before you buy a container and before you start work n If possible, get someone to help you who has done container conversions before – it will save you time and money. n Make sure you have the correct insulation. In a hot climate, you do not want to overheat in a metal box. In a cold climate, the walls could sweat and this can cause mould. n If you are installing a bathroom, think about elevating it slightly so that the water can flow out. ‘Building a container living space will not necessarily be the cheapest option but that’s not the point,” concludes Tony. “The benefits are the aesthetic and the durability of the structures. If there is a hurricane – a container will withstand it. In addition, they are portable, which is a fantastic benefit, if you want to move, you can take it with you.”


“Container living is definitely becoming more popular in the US,” says Tony. “Containers are so flexible, they can be made to look any way you want. Mostly clients want them to look like shipping containers, but they can be clad to fit in with other buildings – you can do almost anything with them. We now have projects all over the country.”

For those thinking of embarking on their own container project, Tony has the following advice:

Tony Lopez is the owner of Alternative Living Spaces (alternativeliving he partners on builds with Chris Buonaiuto of Container Guys International www.containerguys


sproutbox: From Licking Churches to Honeycomb Homes


Barbara Griffin and Kate Plumb look at the world in a different way. It may be that they are the world’s only supplier of Thinking Hats. Or, that they are frustrated by the fact that houses are still built the same old way. So, they ask, why shouldn’t we use fungus, or dog poop in our projects and why don’t we understand that nature has all the best ideas?


HOW DID YOU MEET AND CONNECT? Kate: “Barbara was presenting a talk called “Licking Churches” for Nerd Nite, Lincoln. The talk was actually about appreciating architecture in new ways and encouraging people to engage and be curious about the built environment. I ran the evening, which involved talks, live music, art and always a little bit of mischief.” Barbara: “We came together and called ourselves Nuclear Confusion and brought large-scale interactive science experiments to the general public. These included a homemade giant smoke canon, constructed from a shower curtain and dustbin, which shot cups off the heads of the participating audience.”

HOW DID SPROUTBOX COME ABOUT? Barbara: “It was born of frustration! Kate and I decided to stop complaining about the state of the planet and start doing something about it. We wanted to make a difference to the environment, while designing amazing spaces for people to live in and enjoy. This sustainable approach in everything that SPROUTBOX does is fundamental to our ethos.”

SO WHY THE FRUSTRATION? Kate: “It comes from wondering why are we doing things the same way? Why has there been so little innovation in the provision of people’s homes? We often take road trips across the UK to look at buildings and think about these questions.” Barbara: “We have had an ongoing conversation over the past 7 years about housing and the crisis that the country faces in relation to affordable homes. This is what led us to take the mission into our own hands. To build sustainable homes and communities, considerate and innovative in every approach each project, site and environment needs to be sensitively considered.


“Looking at local infrastructure, industry, skills and materials, as well as working closely with community makes for a more locally focused project from feasibility stage. At the foundation of this move to make a difference is a client who believes in doing something different. Recently, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England, stated that “Planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside unless one or more of the


following circumstances apply; For example where the design is of exceptional quality and is truly outstanding or innovative, reflecting the highest standards in architecture, and would help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas”. This is great news for SPROUTBOX and our clients because innovation in architecture is what we do!”

WE’VE ALL HEARD WORDS LIKE SUSTAINABLE LIVING, OR ECO-HOMES, BUT WHAT TRULY MAKES A DEVELOPMENT SUSTAINABLE? Kate: “We need to think about buildings in a new way, using sustainable building materials, such as wood, recycled plastics, recycled steel, mycelium (fungus) miscanthus (Elephant Grass), locally sourced where possible. We also need to be using the latest energy and water saving technologies and look at existing infrastructures and see how we can enhance them.


“Sustainability involves strengthening local economies to create to local jobs. Then we can encourage people to walk or cycle to work. Time spent in nature has been shown to improve mental and physical health, the inclusion of trees, plants and well-planned landscaping is of utmost importance. We are also looking to maximise the quality of people's lives, their happiness and subjective wellbeing by creating positive environments. When it comes to design at SPROUTBOX the devil really is in the detail, looking at all new innovations big and small, we’ve looked at water-efficient aerating shower heads through to methane gas street lighting, powered by dog poop.”


WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT PROJECTS? Kate: “SPROUTBOX has developed the ‘Honeyhome’ pod to provide exciting

escapes for the eco tourist in everyone. We have designed it using considered materials and with nature as the inspiration. The ‘Honeyhome’ is a cocoon to nestle up in and observe the natural world. In addition, we have also designed a children’s play den called the Bumble, which is also inspired by bees. Barbara: “In architecture, the connection between inside and outside is fundamental to wellbeing. Our relationship with our environment promotes happiness and calm; making us feel less stressed. More emphasis must be put on this in all design. We would say that wellbeing is core to successful and sustainable design. These ideas can also be used when designing communities where people live, work and play. Promoting healthy living, community and an active lifestyle through its design is one of the core design principles.” Kate: “Our interest resides in the idea of bio-mimicry, whereby sustainable solutions are found to human problems by emulating nature's strategies. So, we turned and looked at bees, for them there really is no place like home. The bee uses the hexagon for its honeycomb as it has the smallest total perimeter and therefore it needs less labour and wax to be built. Barbara: “The hexagon is the most efficient, least wasteful shape found in nature, the compressive characteristics of the shape allow it to be one of the strongest structures in the world. So, we are taking our thinking hats off to the humble honeybee. When looking at honeybees we noted that they grow in a connected way, with supporting infrastructures also developing in sync. We wanted to create a system that is future-proofed, able to grow as more space was needed, the honeycomb approach is the most efficient way of achieving this, with beautiful lateral and vertical growth possibilities.” Kate: “As technologies have expanded and our reliance upon them have become increased, we have become

less attuned to our surroundings. We have been looking at how we can reconnect with nature, as all organisms thrive in context, ourselves included. We acknowledge the need for designing homes that cater for the current demographic, but there is a greater need for housing to be able to expand spatially or indeed contract as the homeowners’ circumstances change, factors include, having children, separations, caring of parents, cohabiting. If homes are able to be responsive to these changing needs, then housing can become less transient.”

IS TACKLING TRANSIENCE AN IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR YOU BOTH? Kate: “We are passionate about ending the throwaway society. This is what we stand for, it’s what we are standing upon. If we don’t act now we will destroy all that we have known for future generations.” Barbara: “SPROUTBOX also has a shop where we sell everything made from recycled, reclaimed and genuinely sustainably sourced materials, wherever possible. Whether you are interested in pencils made from castoff wood, or a house built to preserve

the environment, we have what you are looking for. SPROUTBOX gives vintage items a new life and purpose and we truly believe that nothing should be thrown away. Everything can and must be used again.” Kate: “Everything we sell tells a story, because with a story comes attachment and sentimentality; and people are far less likely to throw it away. Whether it's the vintage ophthalmic set unearthed in an attic, quirky upcycled items become a centre of conversation.” Barbara: “We are also the only supplier of Thinking Hats in the UK – if not the world. Many good ideas start beneath a hat! SPROUTBOX is about bringing a sense of fun back into our built and natural environment and putting a smile on your face. We have also brought out a range of bespoke wallpaper designs, using natural motifs, which are proving to be very popular. In architecture, the sense of fun can involve optional extras, such as slides alongside stairs, or stretching netting across unused stairwell space. Who doesn’t like to play? It’s one of the most cross-cultural, intergenerational activities in the world, and no one should not forget how to have fun!”

Barbara Griffin(left) is an architect and contractor, furniture designer and innovator with twenty years’ experience in the construction industry. Barbara has extensive experience across Europe working on diverse projects from large scale urban design to bespoke domestic design. Kate Plumb has run successful businesses since 1999 in both Germany and the UK. Since 2015, she has been engaged in the property business, and has gained a vast experience in materials, with a strong emphasis on research, working with contractors, and delivering projects on time and within budget. Kate is involved in all projects at both strategic and delivery stages.


SPROUTBOX provides bespoke innovative design for sustainable projects, from inception to completion working closely with land owners to support them in diversifying land use and making more from their land. Sustainability is a fundamental aspect of all their buildings. Their projects integrate and showcase innovation to enhance the environment within which we all live. SPROUTBOX is interested in all aspects of sustainable living, with close attention to local and national economies as a means to boost sustainability.  Read about the Sproutbox Planting strategy here


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Nestling in the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Donington On Bain is small village with a typical Victorian-built primary school. However, when Jason Dean of The Countryside and Garden Company was approached by headteacher Louise Anyan to design an outdoor classroom to compliment the existing outdoor provisions, it soon became clear that this is no typical primary school with its approach to outdoor learning!

take it outside “Education is about the environment you create and the experiences you provide. Outdoor learning engages all children, no matter what their ability and makes learning real and relevant. A key priority for the school is also pupil and staff well-being. Being outside throughout the seasons and in all weather conditions, builds resilience, positivity and connects people to their locality and environment. Since 2015, led by our amazing TA, Mrs Smith, we have created our own outdoor learning provision on the school site. This is a wonderful space but we wanted a focal point for all of this work” – Louise Anyan, Head teacher. “The school were keen to use a local company and so approached myself, due to my experience and expertise in building products in both the

educational and glamping sectors,” says Jason. “The build site in the corner of the school field, in amongst a small copse of trees, provided the inspiration to create a truely individual building. Our impact as humans on the natural environment and the sustainability of resources and materials are important lessons being taught in the school and so became key in the design and construction of the building.” From the ground up, the philosophy of the design became one of the efficient use of natural resources of a sustainable nature with an eye to the longevity of the building but also to provide an atttractive addition to the school grounds which would sit comfortably in its ennvironment. Minimal ground disturbance was

simple playbark surface to the interior and exterior is a by product of the UK timber industry, has a low environmental impact, is sustainable, biodegradable and can be easily replenished. “The outdoor classroom forms part of our school ethos and determination to place outdoor education at the heart of everything we do and has provided us with a base from which this learning can take place. The outdoor classroom is not there for the children to be taught in, but it is an addition to what we already have. The children are taught how to care for their environment and also how to use its resources in a safe and sustainable way. The outdoor classroom has helped to bring all of this together and places outdoor learning at the heart of everything we do,” adds Louise Anyan, Head teacher. The building will mellow with age, the timber exterior surfaces silvering over time to blend in with its environment and provide many years of focused outdoor learning and fun.


important in the construction process to minimise the damage to tree root systems. Low impact foundations formed the base of the building with a charred and oiled UK grown Larch timber ring beam installed to support the walls. The walls are clad in waney edged Larch sourced and milled within 25 miles of the build site. Larch is a durable timber high in naturally occuring tannins giving it a high resistance to decay without the need for chemical treatments. The choice of the final roof covering was equally important with Cedar shingles being chosen. Although imported - the environmental credentials of Cedar shingles deemed them be to an excellent choice for this building. They are renewable from sustainable certified sources and are 100% reusable, recyclable, biodegradable. A

Jason Dean from The Countryside and Garden Company specialises in creating interesting and engaging bespoke timber products for the educational and glamping sectors uisng natural and sustainable materials.


passive schools

Passive Schools has been selected to design and build a 6-classroom well-being building in Essex.

Passive Schools complete turnkey service provides a simplified solution for creating much needed school places quickly while retaining architectural flair. This attractive classroom building will be delivered with Passive Schools own offsite manufactured building system to ensure that the full benefits of speed, cost and sustainability are achieved. Passive Schools enhanced learning environments include the features that are proven to boost academic performance: n high levels of ventilation n combination of natural and LED lighting n innovative underfloor heating system n acoustics for schools n access to nature Gavin Wilkes, Managing Director of Passive Schools said: "We are naturally pleased to be part of the strategic vision to improve the education and skills of the local people.  Our flexible approach, in-house offsite manufacturing facility and turnkey service are continuing to provide simplified solutions to the problem of creating new school places quickly". Passive Schools believe that new education buildings should be highly conducive to learning with the lowest possible environmental impact.  The Cambridgeshire based offsite construction company focus on creating educational buildings that are sustainable with the highest levels of comfort and well-being.




The eco-bunkbox offers fun and exible group residential bunk accommodation for young people on Sports and Outdoor Recreational Trips and Holidays. They are easily adaptable to cater for the family or luxury glamping market too. With quick installation times, they are built to last and have highquality speciďŹ cations.

The eco-bunkboxbox is quick to build and can be fully installed within 6 weeks - once any planning needed is secured. Each bunkbox sleeps up to 14 - with a separate adult bunk room incorporated for teachers and leaders. The eco bunk box is an innovative and affordable option for sports clubs and outdoor adventure holidays. Also ideal for farm diversification projects, independent hostels, glamping and camping sites. They are architect-designed structures with high-end specifications and a range of warranties, robust and durable structures filled with natural light. Featuring LED lighting throughout , individual USB ports and bedside lighting, electric heaters, durable flooring, W/C provision, and a seating area. Internal layouts can easily be adapted to meet specific requirements, so a luxury lodge layout or family room layout with a small kitchenette area, could be integrated into plans. Suitable for both permanent and temporary planning.

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Directly below the landslide scar area, which is currently being replanted. Credit: Ivan Bruce

Debris and clay washed into the sea Credit: World Bank

a preventable disaster: Landslides and Flooding disaster of August 2017 Freetown, Sierra Leone


Evidence is clear that climate change is changing weather patterns, increasing the frequencies and intensities of extreme weather events. Unfortunately, those in the poorest communities are disproportionately affected.


Damaged housing close to the river bank Credit: World Bank

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security planting a tree on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio. Credit: Asad Naveed

On August 14, 2017 a devastating landslide and flooding disaster ripped through Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown. This caused millions of dollars of destruction and damage to buildings, infrastructure and a reported loss of more than a thousand lives. In response, the Government of Sierra Leone requested financial and disaster risk management support from the World Bank should such an event reoccur.

housing development and deforestation - soil integrity was weakened and the ability to absorb rain during high rainfall and increased the risk of disaster.

Prior to the landslide, Freetown experienced three successive days of intense and heavy rainfall which caused part of Sugar Loaf mountain - the highest peak in the North Western Area Peninsula - to collapse.

Presented with the analysis of the landslide disaster, the newly elected president of Sierra Leone declared that the landslide area is to be redesignated as a protected forest area a memorial park to those that lost their lives during the disaster. The first locally sourced saplings were planted to mark World Environment Day with a total of 30,000 trees making up the memorial park in the hopes that this symbolic memorial park would deter settlements being built.

With bodies being washed up on the beaches, and bridges connecting communities and water distributions networks completely destroyed, response efforts spanning several sectors required millions of dollars to address the direct losses from the disaster. However, this still left the citizens of Freetown extremely exposed and vulnerable to future disasters.

The inherent difficulty of responding to disasters caused by natural hazards is that there is no “silver bullet” solution. However, trends are indicating that disasters and extreme weather events are becoming a frequent norm, that for every $1 spent upfront on prevention strategies and disaster risk management will save the $3 required for rebuilding after an event.

A key consideration in post disaster planning is to ensure that build-back better principles are well considered and integrated, so that nobody is left behind during the reconstruction efforts. And engineers, architects, designers, are fundamental in ensuring that appropriate design measures are fully integrated and calculated using accurate data sets.

It is this need that architects, engineers, urban planners, decision makers, financiers and citizens need to ensure that our cities are not only equipped to manage disasters but that our infrastructure is resilient to withstand extreme weather events.

After the landslide, The World Bank and European Union commissioned analytical studies of the landslide and geology of surrounding areas. While there was no single cause for the landslide, there were many contributing factors.


A common threat to Freetown is the rapid rate of urbanization, coupled with the increased rate of deforestation. In fact, the area where the landslide occurred was within a protected forestry reserve. However, over time, development of large houses had occurred some illegally (without permits) some with permits (legally). And because of these two factors -

One such recent example was a recent “Resilient Homes Design Challenge” which challenged teams of architects, designers, engineers and students to design disaster-resilient and sustainable homes that can be constructed for under $10,000 (7,885 GBP) for people living in areas affected by or vulnerable to natural disasters. The winners were recently announced and are on the following pages and will be exhibited at the World Bank and at other related events. Whilst challenges such as this are excellent in raising awareness and generating innovative approaches to resilient housing, they must not be a one-off event but rather the beginning of community of engaged designers, architects and homeowners.

Ivan Bruce has been working for the World Bank Group for over five years based in Washington DC supporting projects in West Africa to strengthen multiple Governments ability to best respond to urbanization coupled with a changing climate.


built for life Natural disasters are on the rise. Since 1990, they have affected on average 217 million people every single year. Hundreds of floods, storms, heat waves and droughts have left about 606,000 people dead and 4.1 billion injured or homeless around the world since 1995. And it is often the poorest that suffer the most from these shocks. The World Bank, Build Academy, Airbnb, and GFDRR called upon architects around the world to develop designs for resilient, modular and affordable homes that cost under $10,000. “As architects and engineers, we can design resilient and sustainable houses that both reduce the risk of damage and enable rapid reconstruction following a disaster,” said Build Academy. The winning designs are featured here and could also eventually inform resilient housing or reconstruction work for World Bank-funded projects in places like the Caribbean, South and East Asia.

Scenario 1 Hazard Geography Climate Added Challenge Construction Cost Plot

Earthquakes and tropical storms with wind speeds in excess of 250Km/h. (Cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons) Island countries (example: the Caribbean including Haiti) Hot summers and mild winters Heavy cost of ferrying in construction material Material: $120/sqm, Labour: $50/sqm and transport: $80/sqm Assume a 20x20m plot size in a low lying area

Scenario 2 Hazard Geography Climate Added Challenge Construction Cost Plot

Earthquakes up to 7.0 on Richter’s scale also reulting in landslides Mountain and inland areas (example: Nepal, northern India, Peru etc) Harsh winters and mild summers Terrain difficulty in transporting heavy construction material Material: $120/sqm, Labour: $50/sqm and transport: $50/sqm Assume a 20x20m plot size in rocky terrain which is part sloping (gentle gradient)

Scenario 3 Hazard




Climate Construction Cost Plot

Tropical storms with wind speeds in excess of 250Km/h (cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons) also resulting in localised flooding (low lying areas) Coastal areas (example: Bangladesh, Philippines etc.) Hot summers with areas of heavy rainfall Material: $120/sqm, Labour: $50/sqm and transport: $30/sqm Assume a 20x20m plot size in a low lying area which is around 500m from the coastline

Team KZ Architecture (USA)

“The proposed dwelling is fabricated in its majority out of bamboo, a low cost, highly sustainable and renewable building material, widely available worldwide, lightweight, durable, flexible, easily cultivated and harvested. Its quick growth and easy handling make it an ideal material for beautiful low-cost housing.”

Team Baja Spatial Agency

Scenario 2: Nepal, Laprak Village, Alpine Climate “The critical reflection of what has been done and what could have been done, has been the point of departure. After the 2015 earthquake, the so-called model houses with rigid plans and modern materials are being constructed. This has not only disturbed the vernacular essence but also disregarded the ecological, cultural and economic aspects of rural Nepal.


Therefore, instead of new technology in the name of innovation, our design uses the situated construction knowledge in an efficient way. The proposed plans respond to local environment and allow the daily activities.  Also, the modular system helps for the rapid reconstruction of houses.”


Team Polito Scenario 3: Philipines – Sorsogon “The purpose of our project is to provide first and foremost a safe, sustainable refuge for disaster stricken regions of the world. More specifically to those facing tropical hurricanes and their outcomes. The result is a home that can float to avoid the rising waters from seasonal floods and can resist hurricane winds due to a compact design and a pitched roof.”


Team CSW Architecture


Scenario 1: Haiti (Hot summers and mild winters) “This house was built in 2013 in Haiti, in the framework of a rehabilitation programme. Conceived for a 4/5 person family house, it represents an effective model for post-disaster housing reconstruction and development projects. The CSW technology – Confined Stone Walls – is a smart, low tech and cost effective construction process for rural housing, inspired by vernacular stone wall architecture. The construction process is dry (no masonry required) and the wire mesh and cages can be manufactured on site, thus benefitting from local materials and limiting the need for imported materials (and their associated transport costs and environmental impact).”

Team TEN Scenario 2: Central Asia rural alpine regions (Thame Valley, Nepal) “The design transforms existing rural alpine construction techniques into a resilient, modular and flexible core home unit. It does this by reconfiguring common building materials into a novel structural lattice system to counter the six typical earthquake induced structural failures. The precise, yet adaptable system has been developed from local post-earthquake evolution, typology research and a constructed prototype in the Thame Valley, Nepal. The knowledge has been customised to an essential domestic spatial unit that meets the immediate spatial requirements of rural alpine populations while allowing for adaptability and incremental development.”

Team BAM-S


Scenario 3: Bangladesh (Ranigaon) Hot summers with areas with heavy rainfall “The BAM-S House is designed to be the new contermporary vernacular architecture to face the wide range of climate change effects that have hit Bangladesh increasingly. It‘s typology is based on the Stilt House adressing contemporary design and structural reinforcement. It allows a high quality of scalability, expandability and community aggregation. It’s easy to build and can be replicable in other rural or urban contests. Its construction phases are adapted to different uses and target people. The owner driven contruction approach make it economically feasible, it saved around 30% of total budget. Bamboo is the material that makes it possible to converge all needs into a single choice. The BAM-S House is much more than a resilient house, it’s smart. The energy efficiency of the building are present in all of it’s aspects and sustainaibility go beyond the building itself.”


Team Compartment S4 Scenario 2: Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, India “The main challenge in this scenario is to design a house that is not only earthquake and landslide resilient but also takes into account the increasing remoteness and difficulty in transport as altitude rises. The house is designed with a heavy stone filled retaining wall at the bottom and a light wooden structure on the top. Materials and technologies that would be easily available in the local context and can be easily transported via small pickup van are used. A balance between local knowledge and modern construction techniques is incorporated in order to encourage community participation and ownership.  Earthquake resilient features are integrated into the traditional building practices with minor changes to the available skill set so that its construction does not require expert or non-local craftsmen.”


Team Antu


Scenario 1: Island countries in the Caribbean (particularly Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Virgin Islands among others) The Antu resilient home is a modular house capable of resisting the shocks of category-five hurricanes in the Caribbean. Resilience principles and a Built Back Better approach are integrated to safeguard people’s lives and to regenerate rehabilitation after the occurrence of a major event. A resilience network is envisioned to ease emergency operations and reduce life losses. The home is designed considering ground realities, local capacities and the challenges made evident by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Within the home, the open spaces foster expandability and a horizontal integration within the family members and shape a gender and age balanced home.

Scenario 3: Kelantan, a state located in the East Coast of Malaysia, experiences intense recurring monsoon season at the end of every year. “The design focuses on the flood-affected victims. How can we ease their flood survival efforts from inception to post-flood for years and years to come? Our solution simplifies the process down to just the palm of their hands – via mobile application.

Team Architects Avenue

Flood victims are able to purchase their resilient homes via mobile app based on their financial and physical capacities. Manufacturing the design in modules enables this intention to follow through and prolong its significance with high expandibility, scalability and sustainable nature. With the flood and storm resilient design it possesses, the resilient home is able to increase the chances of survival for the victims and their belongings through its ability to float. This amphibious feature is what carries its branding – the Apung House (Floating house). Part of the factor in resilient designs often neglected is Social Resilience. Handing in the power of choice to the flood victims to select their home is the very first important step towards resilient architecture because although built form executes the work, it all started from a healthy and worry-free mind.”

honourable mentions Scenario 2: Himalayan Mountain Range (Up To 10,000 Feet) ‘A shelter within a month and a home within a year’: a temporary shelter grows into an intermediate and then finally a permanent shelter. This idea of a temporal house stems from the fact that spatialrequirements need to be met immediately post-disaster, and the shelter then must incrementally grow towards permanence. This incrementalism necessitates the up-cycling of materials and the development of a flexible joinery system that can accept multiple vernacular and modern materials. This joinery allows for a modular system that enables the construction of one million houses in one go. The design has been informed by the cultural idiosyncrasies of the Himalayas, besides the desire to be safe, sustainable and rehabilitative.


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Scenario 3: Mekong Delta, Vietnam – Huge and incresing threat of flooding, storms, and climate change Maru Ichi is a sustainable and resilient community village model for lowincome inhabitants in flood zones of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Aside from its ability to withstand flood and storm, each house of Maru Ichi is a versatile cell that can also mobilize and connect with each other. Linked by open corridors, these cells aim to form a green and sustainable community village where residents can easily trade their goods & services, and share their daily lives with everyone in the community.

Team Maru

Maru Ichi uses low-cost and readily available local materials. Each house comes with a solar panel and water and sewage filter systems. It does not only provide flood zone inhabitants safe, highly-functional, inexpensive living space and green, sustainable communities; but also offers a practical solution to Mekong River pollution. It also creates great opportunities for eco-tourism, which will leverage the residents’ income as well as the dynamics of these community villages.

Guo Kunqi

Scenario 1: Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Humid, tropical climate The circle has centripetal and isotropic properties that enable dense contact and alignment between the circles, which density is not possible with other simple graphics. This high density creates the efficiency of circulation and communication.


Haiti has a generally hot and humid tropical climate. The north wind brings fog and drizzle, which interrupt Haiti’s dry season from November to January. But during February through May, the weather is very wet. Northeast trade winds bring rains during the wet season.Solid, concrete foundation, and light, flexible bamboo structure can resist strong winds and earthquakes. The main building materials in the project are earth and bamboo.


The project uses bamboo as a base structure, which takes advantage of the natural advantages of bamboo flexibility to effectively prevent damage caused by earthquakes. The building is a circular plane that resists strong hurricanes.


Cairo is currently facing a housing crisis with far too few homes to support the ever-growing number of people looking for residence. As of 2019, the capital has an estimated population of just over 20 million, a number that is bigger than previous years and is set to keep on growing.


The results of this can be felt all over the sprawling city of Cairo with unsafe and illegal homes being built, only to be torn down by the government and an increasing number of low income people and families living in the

cemeteries of the city. Small rooms that were originally built to serve as a place for grieving family members to pay their respects are now being rented out by cemetery owners as accommodation for Cairo’s poor. It is estimated that of


By William Rusbridge


Sheltainer is a project championed by UAE-based architects Mouaz Abouzaid,

Bassel Omara & Ahmed Hammad who are proposing the use of shipping containers as a solution to the cemetery housing phenomenon. In 2017, Sheltainer won the 2nd prize in Future House: MICRO HOUSE and


the roughly 20 million residents of Cairo, over 1.5 million of them are living in cemeteries.


followed that by being highly commended in the Middle East Architect Award Concept design & Sustainable project of the year 20172018. In 2018, they won the WAFx Ethics and Value category and were shortlisted in the WAF 18 world architecture festival “Competition Entry Category”. Having spent last year analysing the simple human needs that can solve the crises in third world countries, Sheltainer decided to begin considering the larger picture, using the information and experience they had gathered to tackle a large scale situation, the cemetery housing problem. For sheltainer, the issue can be split into two challenges, the micro challenge and the macro challenge.

THE MICRO CHALLENGE To address the micro challenge, Sheltainer started by looking at the needs of a single human to that of a neighbourhood. The design focussed on creating a single house unit that provided all the amenities and facilities necessary for a small family. Once this had been achieved, the goal was to combine these units into a small neighbourhood made up of 8 homes that surrounded a green courtyard.



The macro challenge is finding a place for the micro solution to fit in within the larger area of Cairo. Moving the graves from the heart of the capital would


provide new areas of usable space within one of the most expensive areas in Egypt. It would not only give Cairo a way to improve the housing crisis situation, but would also allow the establishment of a new road network that would help solve Cairo’s traffic problems. During their research, Sheltainer found that many of the city’s population who are living in cemeteries have gravitated toward the Cairo Necropolis, the city’s oldest burial site. The Islamic cemetery that dates back to the 7th century A.D. is home to thousands of people who have found shelter living amongst the city’s deceased. To the south of the graveyard is the permanent informal market “Souk AL Jumaa” which extends into the graveyard as far as 16th street. This market has emerged to serve the daily needs of the residents in the surrounding neighbourhood as well as the residents of the Cairo Necropolis. Considering this information, Sheltainer decided that the best destination to achieve their goal would be the market. Suggesting that the area be redesigned, Sheltainer are proposing a flexible solution that would increase and utilise the area whilst also maintaining its current activities. The idea is that the redesign of the area would ultimately provide new open spaces, new activities, new homes and above all new hope.

Alt.Accom Issue One  

Alternative accommodation has many uses outside of quirky camping and hospitality. Shipping containers, tents, earth ships and modular struc...

Alt.Accom Issue One  

Alternative accommodation has many uses outside of quirky camping and hospitality. Shipping containers, tents, earth ships and modular struc...