Monday, October 18, 2010

Sustainable Tropical Housing : Papua New Guinea

Selongko Build Video
Check out what 20 Master of Architecture, Landscape, and Forestry students from the University of Melbourne and the University of Technology at Lae did in one and a half days alongside locals at the Selongko Village near Finchaffen, Papua New Guinea.

Bumbu Build Video
Check out what 20 Master of Architecture, Landscape, and Forestry students from the University of Melbourne and the University of Technology at Lae did in two days alongside locals at the Bumbu Settlement in Lae, Papua New Guinea.


Project Background and Statement

  Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s few countries where the vast majority of the population survives almost exclusively on subsistence farming. Most people have little exposure to the cash economy and live remotely with little or no contact with urban areas. Life is tough and life expectancy low. However traditional culture remains vibrant and is fascinating. The village houses are as environmentally sustainable as houses can ever be and only require a few nails to supplement the bush materials.

  Inevitably the people will want to expand their horizons and I can imagine a future where they will want to watch TV. History suggests they will also go on to want a ‘stronger’ house and safer water supplies. These desires will require money and people already find it tempting to migrate to cities and earn cash. Many workers now live in the shantytowns surrounding the second biggest city, Lae. Life is hard and the housing is built from a patchwork of scavenged materials built on swampy land frequently flooded by the ocean. 

  This ‘consult/design/build’ studio continues on from those run in Thailand and Northern Australia where students work alongside community groups and residents to build full-scale buildings with the community and test ideas about sustainability and development. This time we will build a pavilion in the remote village (Serongko Village) and another in the shantytown (Bumbu). The rural villagers will provide the cut timber (prefabricated to our instructions) and the city shops will provide the industrialised materials (nails, corrugated steel roof, gutters and water tank). In both locations a similar pavilion will be built so we can test the capacities of our partners to prefabricate, the ways the pavilion can be used to test ideas about future housing types and also about the building’s capacity to capture and collect fresh rainwater and its use. Students will then use this experience to design some simple prefabricated houses that are suitable for remote and shantytown locations using both bush and industrialised materials.
  So in this project we wanted to test if the rural people could harvest timber and prepare it to specific specifications. So we sent a set of drawings and a kit of parts for them to prepare the pieces for a simple timber pavilion. Before we arrived the kit of parts were prepared ­ the posts, floor and roof beams, flooring..... Then the uni students (from Melbourne Uni architecture and the University of Technology, Lae ­ both architecture and forestry) worked with the local people to assemble the pavilion in a day and a half. We then constructed a similar pavilion in the shanty town beside Lae. Again the students from both universities worked to do the building.
  In both locations the people are truly disadvantaged (economically but not culturally). The houses in the first community (in the hills) are very basic with thatched roofs. In the shanty town they are built from salvaged scrap. The people have access to poor water quality which makes many of them ill and a lot of time is spent trying to keep dry in the houses and they require a lot of maintenance. The people in the hills drink water from a polluted stream. This leads onto the second aim of the project which was to provide better shelter and at the same time to improve the drinking water supplies. So to the timber pavilions we added corrugated iron roofs, gutters and a water tank. So the pavilion then has a role aside from a shelter and a test of local capacities.
  We also want to do a longer term study to see how many square metres of corrugated iron roof will provide sufficient drinking water for how many people. Finally, I am interested in the cultural angle. How will people appropriate these pavilions to suit their needs? What will this teach us about their future housing needs and their aspirations for the future?

-Dr. David O'Brien (University of Melbourne)