Saturday, February 27, 2010

Global Location of Wonder Grass

Wonder Grass would like to let our readers see exactly where we do most of our work:
21° 7'57.53"N 78°52'5.43"E

Up To Date Projects

We have several projects currently going in their final stages as well as almost complete. Firstly we have the bamboo paneling done on the residence in the Bangalore urban center. That was completed with our urban team here in Bangalore. The parts were made in our Nagpur building site and then transported and assembled in Bangalore at our job site. The is increasing our ability to do pre-fabrication. We will expand on our capacities to do pre-fab as our infrastructure increases it's ability to manage the operations and resources. We learn as we go here, and our strength as a cooperative is to continually expand our comfort zone to take on more projects.

We are happy to report that the bamboo waterless toilet has gotten it's
wall up and is now standing up on its own. All that we need now, is the mud on the walls or cement, we are still deciding, and then we can put up the roof. We are going to be putting a cement slab on the top of the waterless toilet so mimic the roofs we have seen in the rural villages. There people can store wood, food for drying, and several other materials. This can also be used to go on top of and have a nice place to look out onto. We might even test the ability to have a green roof, full of vegetation that will absorb the rich nutrients of the human waste. There will be some trial and error in this process. We shall see how well this works.

As we can see in the pictures, the framing and infill is pretty much complete except with some final touches on the frame connections.
The open web trusses on the top of the structure will have inserted smaller trusses that will be able to hold the cement slab up. The extentions of the truss expand down onto the wall and hold it right on the line with the structural system. As we can see in the photo that the metal connections at the bottom secure the structure to the cement foundation.

And with the Belgaum node we are happy to have a nice shipment of bamboo being taken to our Nagpur site to start working on our other projects that have large spanning arches and need to be tested over and over again. We have noted in the past blog entries that our collaboration with Geo Tech Industries will bring fruitful results that keep our progress on track.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Update on Weekend Retreat in Nagarvalli

The wonder grass team recently visited an older project that was complete in April of 2009. The weekend retreat in Nagarvalli, some 30klms from Bangalore, India. This house was built for a weekend retreat as well as a guesthouse for the owners. It was made for Wonder Grass to understand the needs and programmatic responses to small living structures that might have different users occupying it, but still remain the same size. This will be a good precedent for the upcoming prototype for a bamboo housing that will accommodate
a growing family. This project needs extensive research on site
experimentation, and to have this weekend retreat as a starting is
very useful. Some of the things that need to be solved are the simple
connections that come between gable ends, truss wall connections,
etc. The flexibility of a bamboo house is a new scheme as far as we know. A bamboo building or house has to accommodate a changing family. If it does not, then there is a conflict between the dwelling and it's residents. We can see that now with housing for the majority of low-income families throughout the world. The relationship between the user and his/her house should be where there is a constant stream of dialogue between the user's needs. Out bamboo house will be roughly 200 sq ft in it's first stage, and in it's finally stage will be over 600sqft. These stage will be documented and studied as well as published on our blog.
Wonder Grass has fortunately has the ability to make it's own research projects such as the weekend retreat shown here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Trips to North India

The Wonder Grass team just got back from a venture up north to the upper regions of India, and the Himalayas. We were very happy to see the use of bamboo to be quite extensive there, and our eye brows were raised when seeing the size of the bamboo that was being used. Up north by Sikkim and the Bhutan/Nepal border the bamboo can grow well over 6 inches in diameter, however the wall thickness gets to be quite thin and weak. Although useful, this bamboo has different uses in terms of housing. Wall paneling, flooring, temporary fencing, and many other suitable uses for thin wall bamboo can be found in the current housing examples in that region. From the train headed to the north we were witnessing the spirit of bamboo as building material alive and fresh from countless examples of bamboo villages where, concrete block, and mortar were not to be seen. This is quite a nice break from the mass housing that consists of brick and mortar. In the last 80 years brick and mortar has become the primary building material for the most part of the sub-continent, as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and several other countries of that region. So why does the average family in one of these countries prefer concrete? Simply put, it gives the impression that a home built with concrete last forever, but what it does not tell you is that it will not last through a natural disaster, it will require large amounts of energy to produce and transport, as well as being uncomfortable in high temperatures.

Now building with bamboo does tell you the answers to those questions,
it will last through a natural disaster, and if not, it will bio-degrade back to the earth, and you have the ability to construct another. It is cheap to transport since there are many bamboo forests all over India, and couples with other materials such as mud, bamboo housing is incredibly comfortable in hot days. Of coarse all of these characteristics have been tested and lived in before the advent of concrete, but we would never know it with the zeal towards modern building methods.

Bamboo does not last forever, but neither do we or the life styles we live
from generation to generation. How many ways has the life our parents
lived changed from ours? And in the changing world, how will our
grand children's lives differ from ours? Should we build structures
that are unsafe in earthquakes, store heat in the summer, and are
incredibly energy intensive to make for our children? Or instead
build them houses that show them, living responsibly means thinking ahead with a smarter intention for the natural environment. The Iroquois of the great lake regions in North America believe in the 7 generation approach. Build, construct, and use materials as well as daily choices that will eventually influence the next seven generations. Seven generations from now what will children say when growing up in the schools about the mass amounts of people who decided to live in concrete blocks for their entire lives, instead of making housing that can be grown in 5 - 8 years, provide income to farmers, decrease atmospheric carbon content, as well provide attractive housing?

Please see our Work Profile for an Up To Date Progress of the Work Wonder Grass is doing:
Wonder Grass Profile