- Written by Jack Soifer
For eight weeks I have been visiting projects in the Amazon jungle, interviewing indigenous groups and their leaders for FAS – Fundação Amazonas Sustentavel. In coming articles I’ll give you a summary of the achievements and trends in Sustainable Development.
Construction techniques and materials almost everywhere are the same, with little regard to the specific construction site, nor to the best or most available materials in the area.
Also real estate tycoons, sometimes called developers, try to build very quickly, sometimes afraid of the reactions from neighbours who may question the lack of transparency regarding the project’s approval.
In most cities in the world the same materials are used as have been for centuries, but with new machines which brings down the construction time. In my handbook ENTREPRENEURING SUSTAINABLE TOURISM I list some of the materials and methods best suitable for different regions. In Africa and parts of South America, some time ago it was inexpensive and sustainable to use adobe for walls and hay to cover simple homes. Some 20 years ago research in Sweden brought simple equipment for better quality adobe. But hay roves have to be changed regularly, depending on insect and weather damage.
Architect Sergio Santos is using a new kind of roof-tile on an iron structure as termites often eat the centre of the wooden frames which later collapses under heavy rain. A new type of primer protects the iron frame for decades, longer than wooden frames which become infested.
Best practices show that for each region, depending on the weather and insects, different materials and techniques are used. This implies that the financing of construction would best suit a sustainable approach if it is to be flexible.
Another example: for sustainable certification, most of the NGOs value the storage and use of rain-water. But in some sites by the left margins of the Rio Amazonas rivers, where the water is clean and the homes are close to the rivers and lakes, collecting water seldom is big effort. As it rains almost daily for most of the year, expensive storage is not a must – while in dry regions it would be.
Another example is the use of sawn planks in housing. While some NGOs and governments require thin, perfectly sawn planks for walls which only are available from distant sawmills, thicker planks made by locals with fine chainsaws could provide local jobs and save a lot of fuel and cost in by not transporting stock to the sawmill and then bringing back planks often by canoe.