In our urban landscapes, we see the consistent use of inappropriate materials and designs that create an imbalance within all the surrounding systems. In our cities, institutional environments and housing developments we see and feel the dominating presence of these spaces. Built spaces are designed to influence our thoughts, emotions, behavior and our movement.

The current, dominant selection of building materials also leads us back into a consumer loop because we believe that we can only use industrial materials to provide for structural needs. In this training component we go back to looking at locally available resources and using them to build things that can improve our quality of life whilst providing practical resources like hot water and baked goods. We look at using past building practices combined with appropriate technology to achieve a balance between our urban and natural environments.

wk7

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During week 7 of the internship, students were given the chance to work with natural and recycled materials in order to construct a built environment and useful household technology. In this process we constructed a cob oven and a donkey boiler with the assistance of Neil Smith, an earth builder from Berg en Dal- a Permaculture training farm in the Klein Karoo.

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We have attached an outdoor kitchen area to the outdoor classroom in the garden at Rocklands. Within this space we have constructed a cob oven that will be used for culinary, nutritional and natural building demonstrations. The cob oven will also enable some of our interns that are avid bakers to produce GMO free breads and baked goods for the surrounding community as part of the small catering businesses they wish to start up. It is also an exciting possibility to revive the practice of small local bakeries which could add to building greater social interactions around a key food.

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AT SEED’s Post-carbon homestead, we have begun constructing a donkey boiler that will provide an alternative hot water source for the homestead. We have created the donkey boiler from an up-cycled gas cylinder contained within a cob shell. The gas cylinder contains water that is heated by a wood fueled fire under the cylinder. This water then feeds into the sanitary plumbing system on very cloudy days as back up.  The donkey boiler can also run on prunings and coppiced wood from the plant systems in the gardens.

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With these new skills in using alternative appropriate materials and designs, we are reshaping our urban landscapes responsibly.

Written by Calvin Dias and Alex Kruger: Lead facilitators of the Accredited Permaculture Training and Internship Programme.

Photographs  by Joana Marques.