Monday, November 2, 2009

NBCO 2009

I was very pleased to be able to attend the natural building colloquium held outside of Medford, Oregon this fall. A peer-only gathering, it was attended by working professionals in the field of natural building who congregated to share information and new developments in the field, as well as to give and get support to and from colleagues who have become old friends over the years.

Camp Latgawa hosted this gathering, having also been the site of several colloquiums in previous years and boasting the earthen building projects to show for it. Our hosts, Eva and Greg, welcomed us to the camp with open arms and delicious meals, and in return we were to do some new building and fix up some previous projects that required maintenance. However, outside of the three hours a day set aside for building, our main task was to talk to each other and most days were spent discussing, strategizing, laughing, conversating and even, occasionally, crying.

I'll talk about the highlights later, but meanwhile, here are descriptions of the various projects as pictured above.

SITE 1: Rumford fireplace
We were to create an outdoor fireplace and sitting area in a clearing near the river. This project was led by Ianto Evans, Linda Smiley and Leslie Jackson. After thoroughly examining all the possibilities for fireplace placement, we got to work on the fireplace, creating it out of old bricks, river rocks and cob. The fireplace will eventually have a removable cap over it to protect it between uses. Project status: completed, except for the cap.

SITE 2: Children's play area
The task here was to remove the children's sandbox (used only by cats), fix up the bench, repair the roof and re-do the pole shelter-thingy. Legions of people worked on this one, but I think the leads were Joshua Klyber, Massey Burke, Sukita Crimmel and Tony Novelli, among others (corrections welcome). Status: dragon bench removed, other bench repaired and replastered, roof fixed. Still to do: wattle infill on the pole shelter-thingy.

SITE 3: Rumford insert for dining hall fireplace
Kiko Denzer noted the inefficiency of the the deep and wide fireplace in the dining hall, and took on the task to create a proof-of-concept Rumford insert. Using forms, window screen, gypsum and earthen plaster, he created a fire-resistant form which he assembled inside the fireplace and then plastered. The value of his work became clear immediately as the fire crackled merrily in front of the new fireback, radiating substantial amounts of heat into the room for probably the first time ever.

SITE 4: Bamboo roof
Darrel De Boer headed up the creation of a bamboo roof intended to shelter the Rumford fireplace. In the end, the roof was, although beautiful, entirely too large for the purpose, so it will find a home at House Alive instead. Status: Deconstructed and on its way to its new home.

SITE 5: Traffic re-directing
Camp Latgawa is a car-free space, so visitors park their vehicles at the entrance and bring their stuff in using convenient little carts. Greg and Eva wanted this set up to be made even more apparent to people driving in, and wanted them to be clearly directed to the parking lot. The crew made changes to the road itself with a clever combination of big rocks and hempcrete, and added a big yellow arrow to direct traffic. It also shored a spot of crumbling road with a rock retaining wall. Status: Looks like it's done.

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