By By Mario Alvarez Urueña *
The concept of this type of house is based on a spirit of recycling combined with the use of renewable energies, with which it is intended, in addition to making them very economical, giving it a help to decontaminate and reduce the impact on the environment and allow its low-polluting integration the same.
In a recent London newspaper I find the news that England - Brighton and Fife, Scotland - becomes the first country in the European Union to officially accept the construction of ecological houses made from waste materials (Garbage) known as Earthships (in English: "land ship", "land ship" or simply: eco-houses) made entirely with recycled material: bottles, aluminum cans and car tires, among others. The concept of this type of house is based on a spirit of recycling combined with the use of renewable energies, with which it is intended, in addition to making them very economical, giving it a help to decontaminate and reduce the impact on the environment and allow its low-polluting integration the same.
The "Earthship" is an architectural model of autonomous housing developed for more than thirty years from the original works of the American architect Michael Reynolds, based mainly on four elements:
1.- The orientation of the house towards the south - valid for the northern hemisphere and where there are seasons - in a design that allows an optimal capture of light and solar heat. This passive energy is achieved with the construction of walls on the North, East and West faces, and a South face totally open to the outside by means of crystals.
2.- Use of used tires, placed horizontally, as if they were large bricks, filled with compacted earth, for the load-bearing walls of the house, resulting in an incredibly stable wall, with the benefits of the 'thermal mass' that allows a constant average temperature of between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius to be maintained inside the home. This is the principle by which heat moves from warm to cool areas so that they are cool during the day and warm at night. Cans and bottles are used for the interior partition walls.
3.- Use of low-polluting energies, such as solar and wind for domestic consumption, which in addition to being cheap and "clean" make possible the construction of the "earthship" anywhere due to its independence from the usual supply networks.
4.- Installation of water collection and storage systems, as well as reusable wastewater treatment thanks to a system of filters and drains, which minimizes and improves consumption.
A very important aspect is that this type of construction uses around 10% of the energy normally required to build a home, if we take into account the energy used in each of the construction materials transformation processes (example: cement , ceramics, plastics ...) and that corresponding to heating, cooling and lighting of a home. It is worth remembering that in the world, 50 percent of the gases that heat the atmosphere are produced by the construction industry rather than by airplanes or automobiles.
The foregoing leads me to think of the "advantage" that developing countries bring to the old continent in this sense; In our case, recycled homes are the "daily bread", for many years and without a license they have been built daily in our cities, shaping slums and invasion, where sticks, cans and cardboard, among others, have a new opportunity to to become a home - not worthy - for so many poor and homeless families, a situation aggravated by problems such as "forced displacement" very frequent in recent years in Colombia as a result of the armed conflict. To have an order of magnitude, it is worth remembering that in the case of Ibagué, with a population of around 400 thousand inhabitants, in the last 3 years nearly 3,000 displaced families have arrived - 15,000 people - dispossessed of their plots in the countryside, running to safeguard their lives and in search of a new life project, a safe roof and work in a city where unemployment is around 25%.
Finally, it is worth remembering that we have at hand a natural, abundant, inexpensive, renewable resource such as guadua - our bamboo - with which very beautiful and inexpensive homes can be made.
On the use of guadua in construction, the architect Mario Alvarez Urueña will give a lecture at the "Dario Echandía" library of the Banco de la República on Wednesday September 25 at 6:30 P.M. Free entrance.
Ibagué. September 7, 2002
* Arch .: Mario Alvarez Urueña