Environmentally Sustainable Construction: A Kids Workshop

Written by Andrew Morrison

Child Planting a TreeAntony Brown, the Director of the Ecosa Institute in Prescott, Arizona recently held a free workshop in order to introduce kids to environmentally sustainable construction. The workshop was aimed at high school kids with an interest in architecture.

Far too often, kids decide they want to explore the world of architecture and then find out much later about the field of sustainable architecture. This workshop reached kids from age 14 to 17 and exposed them to the details of sustainable architecture and construction. The kids designed their “dream homes” and were asked to use a different angle on design: one that works with nature rather than without it. Many of the students spoke of their interest in Straw Bale Construction and incorporated it into their designs.

Other workshops around the country, and World for that matter, expose children to building with natural materials. What could be more fun for a child than to build a house with straw and then cover it with clay plaster. They get to dig their hands into mud and wipe it on the walls. What a joy! I try to inspire kids towards natural construction whenever I get the chance. If we can reach the kids early on, we may be able to open their eyes to the wonders of natural building before they are stolen away by the McMansion mentality of today’s “super developments.”

The Ecosa Institute has been inspiring architects into the world of natural design since the year 2000. Although founded in 1996 and receiving its non-profit status in 1998, the first Fall Semester was offered in the year 2000. Since then, the Ecosa Institute has developed an evolving set of college-level programs in ecological design. College credit is available for each course; however, you do not have to be a college student to attend. Four programs are currently offered each year, not including the free workshop mentioned above.

The first is a total immersion semester offered in the spring and again in the fall. It gives students from a range of backgrounds an intense experience in inter-disciplinary design and sustainability. Also offered are two four week summer workshops which offer more hands-on experience, one focusing on materials and methods of alternative construction, the other dry lands, permaculture and water systems. For more information on Antony Brown or the Ecosa Institute, click the following link http://www.ecosainstitute.org.

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3 Responses

  1. At 6:06 PM, Dawn King said…

    I think your doing a great thing. It makes much more sense to teach at an earlier age and to encourage something other than mass producted construction. I am attempting the same in Canada. The biggest interferences are building codes that discourage alternative construction and force very expensive and higher than neccisary standards, and a terrible small information base. If you have any suggestions, I am looking for info/resources on in-ground construction.

  2. At 6:33 PM, Dawn said…

    Great site. I agree that the teaching needs to start younger so it becomes the norm rather than the current status of “alternative”. Also agree with not always seeing the typical super-quick, uniform, cheap materials with high expense and short lived construction that is currently the norm.
    I am developming systems in Canada that are sustainable in every way possible yet affordable (the hardest part). Biggest barriers: government rules against anything that isn’t typical, is different, is affordable, doesnt conform to highest/most expensive standards (even LAWS against using clothes line!), and lack of info/resources local.
    If you know of any good resources here, especially on in-ground construction, could you please let me know. Web searches useless here without actual site names.
    Any help or comments appreciated.

  3. At 6:04 PM, Andrew Morrison said…

    I know what you mean about it being an uphill battle sometimes. The key is to stick to what you believe and know that there are only two options in the long run. You will either succeed or you won’t. Neither one can have any affect on your efforts today so you may as well passionately do what you do. As far as sites that might help you, I am currently drawing a blank. I hope that some of our other readers may have some information for you. If I think of something I will post it here.

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