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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 23

Article 23 of Natural Building and Appropriate Tech Internship

Change of time this last weekend. What a change! Now it is dark when we have dinner. So we light up some candles and seet all around the same table to have some more body heat because it is soooooo cold.

Hopefully after a rainy weekend we have the sun again for this week. And with the sun, the motivation comes!

So three weeks left, we have work to do! Lots of project and we are all working like little ants everywhere. Hard to keep track of what has been achieved and at which stage everyone is.

As usual, firstly, the roof is going and going. All excited about to be under this awesome roof working on the next step of the sleep-out, the walls and the floor.


Simon on the roof

And tomorrow we have the plaster party! Organized really carefully by the plaster crew they will present us all their different mixes and share the knowledge with us. We will lay down the plaster on the walls of the seed room as a preparation for the sleep-out. Plaster? Where? On the walls for sure! So to set up the wall we need material. We already have the pines needles now we need the silty clay to mix them with. And for that we are going to take from the bottom of a dam. So we have to syphon it! What an epic moment trying to syphon a whole dam. First time for me and it may takes a few days. I had the chance to see biointensive Bob showing to me the way to do it.


The dam being emptied

Last week we had the chance to have two presentations. Sarah on the solar water heater and Enlighted Ben (previously Angry Ben but he cut his beard which bring a lot of light on his face) on the biosand filters. Thanks to both of them for their presentations. We learned a lot and give me confidence in future designs. The idea is also that after their presentations their two projects will be done. Sarah is already working on her solar water heater and I hope to begin soon on the biosand filters.


Sarah presenting the principles of a solar water heater

And myself I have spend the day working on something that passionate myself. FIRE! I have created a biochar maker cooker. So we can create our own biochar and cook at the same time! The idea is that people who use a rocket stove could create biochar instead, and still cook their food. And how surprised was I after seeing that it actually works greatly.


Biochar maker cooker unit!

And just for the beauty of the eyes, the seed team harvesting all the pumpkin’s and squash’s seeds.


What a pile!


 ~Oscar Morand, 8 April 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 22

Article 22 of Natural Building and Appropriate Tech Internship

One week without article? Sorry guys but finally after one week here are the updates.

In the last article I told how Angry Ben did an awesome job of listing all the projects to empower us to lead each one of them. So every morning after our little check-in we have the projects check-in. Where every leader of each project tells the other students at which stage they are and what are the next steps. This allow us to split ourselves more efficiently.

So let’s have an overview of what has been done in the different projects over this last week.

First big main project, the building! We are at the stage where the main focus is the roof. It is a slow and precise work. Only two to three persons can work on this and it is important that nobody is under them while they are working. We would not like a hammer or a saw to fall on someone’s head.

Our super structure is getting more and more complex. We now have three more poles at the back of the sleep-out to support the four rafters. And the rafters themselves are there to have the purlins on them. A few more purlins to go on the back and very soon the roof will be put into place.


The super structure.

More bracing is needed also to reinforce the tensile strength of the building to be more resistant to the earthquake. So a few more bracing here and there are being put into place. For the purlins we have been using a metal bracing system. As shown on the picture.


While all the work was in process in the air some more jobs have been done on the ground like filling in more material to raise the floor and also a big job was to paint the whole bond beam to protect it from the moisture. The bottoms of our studs have also been painted which is going to allow our super structure to stay as dry as possible.



Shelly painting the first layer on the bond beam.

So now let’s move on on the other projects.

The plaster crew. They did a nice job of creating different plaster and yesterday they used their special cow dung fermented plaster! It may sounds occurred at first sight and it does smell a little bit but the result looks really nice on the wall. I am definitely waiting for the little presentation that they are preparing about all their experiment and different recipes.


Laying on the wall their different mixes.

And since Monday a new project on the horizon, the human powered bicycle washing machine! This is exciting. We have been washing our clothes in a bucket these last weeks. Is it going to be more effective than our hands in a bucket? For how long are we going to pedal for our clothes to be considered “clean”? I am really looking forward to find the answers of these questions. It is also a challenge of physics. Where are our forces going? What are the good ratio between the gears to be effective? And so on… Lot’s of good stimulations for the brain.


The team discussing some possibility for the project to be.

Now time for my favourite project, the ram pump! The first design is working and we are really happy about that. Now how can we improve our design? Basically we are pumping water from a little muddy creek. We take water from this place because it as a sufficient height for the ram pumps to work. But this creek is joining a stream that has a higher quality and cleaner water. Ideally we would like to drink this water, not the muddy one! But the stream has not a sufficient height for the ram pump to be pumping.


Here is the challenge: how can we pump the clean water using the forces of the muddy water? It is tricky but possible. And here is our design.



The magic piece!

Basically we transfer the force of the water from the creek through a diaphragm which is going to pump the clean water of the stream. And guess what? It is working! This was pretty amazing. But now we face another challenge. Our concept is working but it is not efficient. The amount of water that we are able to pump is very small. This is the time where and engineer can become very useful by calculating the good material that we need for a diaphragm (we used a car tube) and the size of the chamber allowing water to be pushed forward. 

But we don’t have one. So we are checking different possibilities that we will discuss in a future article.

 That’s quiet a few projects running at the same time. And on top of that during the week-end we had the construction of a rocket mass heater and a mud floor in the tipi. It was great to do this all together and I am looking forward for next week-end to see how the final result will be.


The Rocket Mass Heater being built in the tipi.


 ~Oscar Morand, 2 April 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern

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Natural Building & appropriate technology’s blog 01

Article One of Natural Bldg and Appropriate Tech Internship

Here we begin, day one of the first Autumn Internship, or the Appropriate Technology and Natural Building Internship! Ten fresh students who are going to spend 15 weeks at the Koanga Institute – situated on the land of the Kotare Village – to learn more about regenerative ways of living, gathering new hands-on skills based on the concepts of Appropriate Technology. Appropriate Technology? Here is an article from Tim Barker posted on the Koanga Institute web site that explains what appropriate technology is. Anyway here is a small taste of what it is based on the first day of the course.


Appropriate Technology:

–       is human centered and human scaled

–       is easily replicable and understandable

–       focuses on locally available resources

–       tends to be labour intensive but energy efficient


And what is better to begin with than a very practical situation? Tom, one of the interns, came up with a challenge for the group: how can we lift up his car, which was stuck in a pit, without using fossil fuel? Our solution, human power! And there we are, ten persons lifting and sweating to finally free the car without any major damage.

Our two teachers, Tim Barker and Bob Corker, spent the whole day teaching us about what technology is. Energy concepts like the three laws of thermodynamics, and how heat transmits through conduction, convection and radiation. The afternoon was about solar thermal energy and understanding the principles and patterns of the passive solar heating of houses.

And tomorrow we are going to have a solar oven building competition. We have been split into four teams and we are really keen to practice our understanding of energy flow to try to create the most energy efficient solar oven! Wish me luck…

~Oscar Morand, 18 February 2013, Natural Building and Appropriate Technology Intern