Students Build a School from Waste Products in the Dominican Republic
For the last few years, students from Humboldt State University in northern California have been heading to the Dominican Republic, as part of the school's summer immersion in appropriate technology and Spanish. There, they work with students from the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) to build schools, install solar and wind power mechanisms, and build rainwater collection systems. All of which means that by appropriate technology, they mean sustainable technology.
In the summer of 2011, the groups worked together to build an addition to a school in the La Yuca barrio of Santo Domingo, from eco-ladrillo, a material made of plastic bottles filled with waste. (The roof is made of tin.) They used parts from bikes and a newspaper press to build a wind turbine, and installed solar power and rain catchment systems.
The Humboldt and UNIBE students didn't stop there, however. They are back in Santo Domingo this summer, improving on the wind power system to make it hurricane-proof and more efficient, and to work on the rain catchment system to ensure that the water is potable.
The students are also working in Las Malvinas, another low-income barrio, building a similar schoolroom to the one they constructed in La Yuca in 2011.
What's impressive about this project is that it uses locally available materials and knowledge to design buildings and power systems that will stand up to the challenges of the Dominican environment, rather than imposing a foreign, set architecture on the island. (Not that waste-filled water bottles are an especially "Dominican" resource, you could make similar buildings in the United States.)
Hopefully the Humboldt/IBERE program, which collaborates with Dominican architecture group RevArk and reports on all its work on the wiki Appropedia, will continue to play a role in bringing resilient, reasonable building projects to people in need for years to come.