The house the earth built

Alice Kaiwai and Eastern Institute of Technology tutor Grant Steven with the earth house trial build they have been working on as part of the Ruatoria Learning Centre’s sustainability courses. The earth house is made entirely from locally-sourced natural and upcycled materials, including bamboo, pampas grass, raupo, manuka brush, wood shavings, river sand and clay. The aim is to build similar houses for less than $2000, excluding labour costs, and offer sustainable and affordable living options on the Coast. Picture by Kayla Dalrymple

AN “EARTH HOUSE” prototype built in Ruatoria from locally-sourced natural and recycled materials offers a glimpse into the future of sustainable and affordable living options on the Coast.

EIT’s Ruatoria Regional Learning Centre’s light earth building courses are creating a way for people to explore alternative house construction methods using local and natural resources.

A trial earth house has been constructed from materials sourced from the East Coast and local Maori freehold land.

The framing material was sourced from trees around Ruatoria, and other materials included bamboo, pampas grass, raupo, manuka brush, wood shavings, river sand and clay.

The walls were finished with a white lime wash to help waterproof the walls, and the windows were repurposed from local homes.

The aim was to be able to build earth houses for less than $2000, excluding labour costs.

“Home ownership is out of reach for many of our whanau,” said EIT learning facilitator Alice Kaiwai.

“The earth building courses have given us hope that we can build affordable accommodation for ourselves by utilising plentiful natural resources from the Coast.”

Advocate for project

Ms Kaiwai has completed the courses and is a passionate advocate for the project. She now supports other community members to develop skills in local sustainable practices.

A potential outcome was the creation of a local industry based around the concept of whanau (family) gaining skills to provide healthy, affordable and accessible housing solutions.

The prototype earth house would be used to perfect sustainable building techniques.

Leading architects from around New Zealand are providing support to develop construction methods and building science.

“We are so fortunate to have EIT facilitating this course,” Ms Kaiwai said.

“It has given our local people aims and goals. We come from a low socioeconomic area and the earth buildings are affordable and sustainable for our whanau and hapu.”

EIT Ruatoria Regional Learning Centre tutor Panapa Ehau, who oversaw the sustainability courses, said part of the industry development included training students to teach earth building techniques to those in the wider region and elsewhere in New Zealand.

“It is about developing capacity in the community to use local natural resources for employment and accessible housing solutions. These courses are all about the health of the people, which increases educational and societal wellbeing.”

Significant payback

Research by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, a leading researcher in Maori health, showed that every dollar spent on healthy housing had a significant payback to the community.

“For example, a child not having to stay home from school because they are ill means the parents don’t have to stay home from work, and there is not the cost of a doctor’s visit or medication,” Mr Ehau said.

Community health initiatives were included in other regional learning centre courses, such as the Mahinga Kai course that focuses on homegrown organic food and apiculture courses teaching people how to keep bees and sell honey to a booming global market.

“If you can feed your people, house your people and provide jobs for your people, then you are going to have a massive increase in wellbeing,” Mr Ehau said.

AN “EARTH HOUSE” prototype built in Ruatoria from locally-sourced natural and recycled materials offers a glimpse into the future of sustainable and affordable living options on the Coast.

EIT’s Ruatoria Regional Learning Centre’s light earth building courses are creating a way for people to explore alternative house construction methods using local and natural resources.

A trial earth house has been constructed from materials sourced from the East Coast and local Maori freehold land.

The framing material was sourced from trees around Ruatoria, and other materials included bamboo, pampas grass, raupo, manuka brush, wood shavings, river sand and clay.

The walls were finished with a white lime wash to help waterproof the walls, and the windows were repurposed from local homes.

The aim was to be able to build earth houses for less than $2000, excluding labour costs.

“Home ownership is out of reach for many of our whanau,” said EIT learning facilitator Alice Kaiwai.

“The earth building courses have given us hope that we can build affordable accommodation for ourselves by utilising plentiful natural resources from the Coast.”

Advocate for project

Ms Kaiwai has completed the courses and is a passionate advocate for the project. She now supports other community members to develop skills in local sustainable practices.

A potential outcome was the creation of a local industry based around the concept of whanau (family) gaining skills to provide healthy, affordable and accessible housing solutions.

The prototype earth house would be used to perfect sustainable building techniques.

Leading architects from around New Zealand are providing support to develop construction methods and building science.

“We are so fortunate to have EIT facilitating this course,” Ms Kaiwai said.

“It has given our local people aims and goals. We come from a low socioeconomic area and the earth buildings are affordable and sustainable for our whanau and hapu.”

EIT Ruatoria Regional Learning Centre tutor Panapa Ehau, who oversaw the sustainability courses, said part of the industry development included training students to teach earth building techniques to those in the wider region and elsewhere in New Zealand.

“It is about developing capacity in the community to use local natural resources for employment and accessible housing solutions. These courses are all about the health of the people, which increases educational and societal wellbeing.”

Significant payback

Research by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, a leading researcher in Maori health, showed that every dollar spent on healthy housing had a significant payback to the community.

“For example, a child not having to stay home from school because they are ill means the parents don’t have to stay home from work, and there is not the cost of a doctor’s visit or medication,” Mr Ehau said.

Community health initiatives were included in other regional learning centre courses, such as the Mahinga Kai course that focuses on homegrown organic food and apiculture courses teaching people how to keep bees and sell honey to a booming global market.

“If you can feed your people, house your people and provide jobs for your people, then you are going to have a massive increase in wellbeing,” Mr Ehau said.

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Katrina - 11 days ago
If it's contained, why is Whataupoko hill covered as well? Open your eyes GDC.

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