Forget clay bricks and mortar,biomass houses are the new cool thing
ISN’T it amazing – and frankly speaking, crazy – that we live in a time when you can wake up to your wheat-porridge breakfast inside your sorghum-based house?
The New Times ran a story last Thursday about plans by an American firm – Global Marketing Partners (GMP) – to initiate an eco-housing project on Rwandan soil based on waste biomass technology. Essentially, the primary building materials would be biomass amassed from agricultural waste (wheat, sorghum) and thereby most materials and labor sourced locally.
Eco-houses are basically homes designed to reduce their carbon footprint, and lower energy needs. So the materials and technology used to construct the house are resource-efficient; once the house is standing, efforts are made to lower energy consumption; and at during/the end of its lifetime, maintenance/demolition are meant to be low-impact to the environment. GMP’s project is ahead of its time in Africa, but given the full scope of ‘eco-housing’, there’s ample room for ambition.
I am not aware of all the plans in place between GMP and the government, so I will run with the ball. For example, in addition to structures constructed using eco-materials, what if water-efficient technologies are strongly encouraged in these eco-homes?
With individual rainwater harvesting systems incorporated with water-use monitors – or even good performance products such as low-flow toilets – water conservation can become a reality. Water monitors help tenants track and manage water usage and the rainwater reuse system means decreased reliance on fickle municipal water supply – and, therefore, decreased EWSA bills.
Boldened with ambition: why not shoot for gold and push the limits of sustainable housing by promoting energy efficiency? I am envisioning houses with solar paneled roofs that reduce reliance on EWSA-sourced power (energy independence) and, therefore, save money. Also, these homes could possibly feed power into the national grid. Just some thoughts…
Reverie aside, I wonder: How is the government planning on promoting eco-housing? I imagine there is a policy to look beyond the work of GMP and expand the sustainable housing niche; policy support for promotion of sustainable practices for large housing schemes in growth areas is probably one avenue.
The question is how to spark mainstream interest in sustainability? Also, green living comes encapsulated in a concept of ‘independence’. I will take the risk and call it a form of activism. So, what are the chances that architecture schools will provide bases for students to develop, experiment and initiate their sustainable housing ideas? Because frankly speaking, if only a few hundred homes in Rwanda are green-stars, then what would be the point of this project?
All being said, I am impressed and excited by the giant strides we are taking in the right direction. This article was written inside a light-frame wooden house (USA). So 20th-century!
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