[Strawbale] Bales for Haiti

contact at lamaisonenpaille... contact at lamaisonenpaille...
Fri Feb 19 15:11:27 CET 2010

Hello everybody,

The only way (I think) to find out whether the use of bales will in 
Haïti are a good idea is first to get more information by visiting the 
place (and in the second place by trying).
In India (Tamil Nadu) where Coralie and I built a small SB cabin (with 
manually made bales) the climate is hot with 2 rain seasons (heavy 
tropical rain). I talked with farmers who keep the rice straw in a stack 
out in the field (no shelter) and they said that the straw keeps well 
that way (the rice straw acts like a thatch roof). Lacking any 
sientifical data/experience I therefore  figured that if the straw can 
be stored out in the open it can be stored in a wall. My point is : 'hot 
and humid' does not say a whole lot about the Haïtian climate. How much 
rain really comes down? for how long? In what periods? Basicly : does 
the wall have enough chance to dry out?
I have nothing againgst cob either, but when both the day AND the nights 
are hot, then insulation might be a better option than only mass. Most 
important is probably that people are going over there and try out 
different methods. Max is right pointing out how difficult it is to come 
in and do the right thing, yet it seems worse to me to not do anything 
or to loose ones energy in discussing about wich method is best. I'm in 
favour of  'testing' multiple ideas and leaving it up to time and the 
Haïtians to see what will come from it.

Good travels to all that go!


Max Vittrup Jensen a écrit :
> Dear all,
> I'm seriously concerned about the idea of using S.B. in Haiti.
> Lets start with an advice from the real world:
> --------------------------
> This is my final report on the expedition to Haiti, from 23 Jan to
> 4 Feb. I travelled as a medical relief worker...[abridged]...My primary concerns about Haiti from here on out are not medical, but
> relate instead to the idea of rebuilding, and the development issues
> that go along with it. With the US military ceding food distribution to
> civilian agencies, the relief effort has begun to take seriously the
> question of what happens next for Haiti, and what model, economic and
> physical, should guide Port Au Prince into the future. I have even
> begun to overhear, on the internet and through word-of-mouth, of
> specific efforts to send engineers to help construct permanent housing
> for the displaced poor. *These rumours range from the established civil
> engineering model to wilder "permaculture" plans to build straw-bale
> houses (in a wet, tropical country without grain agriculture, no less!)*
> to more practical determinations to assist poor people in reassembling
> the informal and improvised houses they occupied before the tend cities.
> With respect, I can't imagine a worse use of informal resources or donated
> money...[continues here, going in depth about the repeat ignoring of the Haitian poplulation:
> http://tagonist.livejournal.com/201318.html?style=mine#cutid1]
> -------------------------
> Yes, Rob Tom, Haiti likely have rice straw, however due to extreme 
> logging the topsoil is screaming of carbon depletion, and are in badly 
> need for any bit of straw which exists.
> What I'm seeing in this approach of a straw bale 'cure all' is in 
> contradiction with one of the basic issues I teach about Natural 
> Building: "Don't build and Igloo in a Desert" E.g.; One solution 
> doesn't necessarily fit everywhere.
> Sara; I have deep respect for Paksbab's SB aid work in Pakistan (where 
> it get pretty cold), however fact is that the amount of SB houses 
> built through Paksbab in Pakistan is a fraction compared to the 2-3000 
> cob cabins which got initiated by Caroline Meyer White at same time, 
> same place. (Unfortunately a rather cold construction technique).
> Haitians are reputedly not likely to easily accept significant new 
> designs to housing. Historically/culturally they have had too much 
> pushed onto them from outside, so it doesn't seem sustainable to 
> import concepts like domes, yurts, earth-ships etc. To quote the book 
> 'Building Without Borders': I'd like to quote part of chapter 6; 
> 'Sustainable Settlements: Rethinking Encampments for Refugees and 
> Displaced Populations' by Cameroon M.  Burns in the book 'Building 
> Without Borders';
> /"There are endless stories from refugee camps where well-meaning aid 
> organisations have provided advanced technological devices, the best 
> food stuffs, and other new expensive materials that simply do not 
> match the economic, educational, cultural and geographic realities of 
> the situation. Dr. Rasmussen feels strongly that such situations call 
> for an overlapping integratoin of players from diverse backgrounds. He 
> thinks the sustainability community's approach of understanding an 
> entire system before attempting a solution might be the appropriate 
> approach in refugee settlements."/
> .. in same chapter, on page 181, a central point is made in regards to 
> site planning and socio-cultural sustainability: "The point to 
> remember here is that the refugees themselves are the experts' 
> (Following this is a 50-question survey to the refugees about site 
> planning.
> ...and I might add that it's on page 168, where a photo title states: 
> /"Abandoned geodesic domes in Gubai. Most relief efforts are useless 
> at best and destructive at worst. These structures [for 225 families] 
> donated by an aid agency, do not reflect the traditional patterns of 
> the local people and thus have been rejected by them"
> /
> Haiti needs housing. Lots of housing. Fast. About the only readily 
> materials are earth and concrete rubble.
> Some bamboo exists, as does a special type of long grass which likely 
> could substitute straw in cob.
> >From listening to a month of ideas, facts and input on 
> http://lists.permaculturehaiti.org/mailman/listinfo/pcrelief , I tried 
> to the best of my knowledge (and I've never been to Haiti, or actively 
> done relief work!) to analyze which materials, designs and techniques 
> seemed most appropriate. My result for small family shelters the 
> building of 1000's of simple rectangular shelters out of bamboo 
> re-enforced (in hexagon grids!) cob, with light weight roof structures 
> with fair overhang and significantly 2 doors: That way an initial 
> small shelter can easily become simply a room in a larger house in due 
> time. And I need to emphasize: with the help of this simple low-tech 
> earth mixing machine 
> <http://permalot.org/files/u2/Czech_cob_mixing_machine.pdf>, (which 
> can be made for electricity or diesel), it would be a very fast 
> process of building such shelters for the urban/rural areas. Such 
> buildings could be constructed in a speed of one per day for each cob 
> machine and a 10+ person team. Much slower than the OSB-shelters at 
> Hurricane Catherina, however these are close to free, healthy, 
> regulates climate and the inclusive process teach the inhabitants how 
> to expand them once the time is better."
> I still haven't heard from BWB what is wrong with this reasoning and 
> suggestion, apart from the fact that it's not as interesting from a 
> creative artistic minded foreigners view point? ;o). By the way, 
> here's a link to the quake tests:  
> http://www.stanleyparkecology.ca/programs/cob/journal/journal.htm . It 
> notes that embedding bamboo would likely be sufficient to make it last 
> past a scale 9 quake!
> One our board members of NBN is about to go to Haiti to do a recon, 
> (unfortunately predominantly to consider SB building!). Several cob 
> builders and community designers have offered to get involved, and I'm 
> in process of making a funding proposal for such solution. Anyone 
> interested to help are welcome to contact me directly, or simply by 
> registering here: http://nbnetwork.org/nb/rebuild We also have an 
> offer of help setting up micro-business with light-weight concrete 
> roof tiles.
> None-the-least I personally can't grasp the idea of using straw due to 
> the hot/wet tropical climate; I still have to find time to try to 
> persuade Derek that earthen buildings are best suited for heat 
> regulation in tropic climate; I've never been too hot inside a thick 
> earthen wall! (If any of you have the data readily available, then 
> please forward it to me).
> All in all; In general I'm very much in favor of building with straw 
> bales, but I simply can not see that it is a good solution for Haiti.
> Cheers,
> Max Vittrup Jensen
> Director,  PermaLot Centre of Natural Building www.permalot.org
> Director, Events and Marketing, Natural Building Network, 
> www.nbnetwork.org
> PS: I haven't received Derek's initial post; perhaps it's only on the 
> international list, and I only subscribe to the euro list?
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