CAN THE GLOBAL HOUSING PROBLEM BE SOLVED?
Consider some technical challenges posed by the Nicaraguan example:
● In Nicaragua we used a number of specific construction methods, materials and processes. Can you think of ways to improve any of them?
● Clay roof tile. Can you figure out ways to produce roofing tiles using less energy (most important) or less labor (next in importance) or get higher quality while still operating with local resources? An example of this kind of solution is the Lorena stove used by the Peace Corp. This stove was built for cooking with wood. It is made from earth. It increases the efficiency of cooking many fold, reducing the consumption of firewood with the beneficial results of less pressure on the wood resource and less labor to cut and carry wood for fuel, less pollution and greater control of the burnt gases, thereby improving health conditions.
Glazing tile might be useful. This is an area Corning scientists should understand.
● Roofing. Can you think of other roofing systems that would use less energy or labor and/or be more waterproof than the tile, using local resources?
● Adobe/earth materials. Can you figure out ways to improve the strength, durability or water proof qualities of adobe?
● Glass. Can you produce glass under village or regional conditions? What about other useful ceramics?
● Toilets and sinks require surfaces comparable to what we are accustomed to, vitreous china, stainless steel. Can you figure out ways to produce these products under the conditions we have described?
● Cana castilla. Fast growing material, grows in the region (might grow many other places). Could it be put together to make beams, posts?
● Wood. Can it be protected from insects and rot? Can risk of fire be reduced?
While I have emphasized the local nature of solutions with many idiosyncracies of what is available in a particular region, what kinds of traditions exist and what kind of knowledge, a number of these problems represent generic issues that are applicable in many places. For example:
● Roofing systems, waterproofing systems.
● Earth materials enhancement, stabilization, strengthening, water resistance, etc.
● Easily cleanable or sanitized surfaces for toilets, sinks, counters, etc.
An area I haven’t mentioned much, but that is of major importance is infrastructure:
● Providing clean water.
● Sewage & waste management.
● Dana Bookbinder posed an interesting challenge. Can you produce a “cement” without the high energy input required in the production of portland cement? A solution to this problem would have a huge impact globally.
● Small tools. Small tools are useful because:
○ They make very large increases in productivity
○ They are inexpensive
○ They are portable, easily moved, easily stored, easily protected
○ They are easy to repair
○ replacement parts are available.
In our case these were amongst the few imported products that we felt is was worth purchasing.
● Growable building materials. These are interesting because, when properly done, they are renewable, use solar energy, can be produced locally, with local labor and resources. Note, that much “modern” agriculture violates these premises by being energy intensive and depleting local resources.
○ There are many technical challenges in growable materials:
- what plants to grow?
- How to enhance qualities of rot or insect resistance, fire resistance
- How to combine into other forms. e.g. making caña castilla.into larger structural members.
● Education, information, communication. Perhaps the most cost effective input to the world’s poor communities is education. It is cheap, energizes local resources (lots of local brain power), transport/transmission is cheap and fast,
○ Can Corning make money selling it’s expertise?
○ Can Corning sell processes?
● Can technologies (& information) be customized to many different specific conditions and locations?