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PAKSBAB (Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building) is an organization that works in Northern Pakistan to help provide homes that are cheap enough for families there, and will not kill them by crumbling in the event of an earthquake.

With load-bearing straw bale walls, and a concrete floor, these homes emit about 4195 lbs of CO2 annually.

These pictures (from PAKSBAB’s website) are of a family PAKSBAB built a house for. After the 2005 Kashmir earthquake they lived in the tent for 4 years, before having a house.

Gulzar's family in tent
Gulzar’s family in tent

Gulzar’s family in tent

Gulzar's family in new house
Gulzar’s family in new house

Gulzar’s family in new house

One of PAKSBAB’s struggles is scalability–building more, and multi-story homes. Poor people are reluctant to accept new building methods because they are afraid of losing what little they have if they invest it in a new technology. This is a similar challenge to what Ben Werner is facing. Both Darcey and Ben say that have met with little resistance from authorities–the main resistance for sustainable building and living comes from people who are afraid of losing something if they invest in a less well-understood technology.

Therefore, demonstrating the reliability of straw bale construction would benefit both the West and Pakistan. One of the ways to do this is to continue the already extensive testing done on single story buildings, and expand it to two stories. This requires shake table testing of a full-scale design, which is expensive! We want to work to raise awareness for this cause, and also raise funds to help with the testing process.

Shelby talked with Darcey about several things. See here for notes from that conversation. One of Darcey’s main points her opinion that the West could offset carbon production by supporting construction in areas where concrete and brick are widely used, rather than focusing at home where wood is widely used. This is because the processing to make bricks and concrete is energy and carbon-intensive, while the overall growing and processing of wood is a much smaller concern. That said, because we already made a connection with Ben, we are trying to keep lines of communication open with both organizations. Darcey is more focused on sustainable survival, while Ben is striving to achieve a permaculture community. Both of these goals require changing current building methods and expectations.

Notes for Appropriate Tech Design

While Pakistan has many uses for the straw that is harvested, it may be useful to look into other forms of cellulosic biomass that could be compressed and used in lieu of strawbale. Pakistan grows several other crops that could potentially have useful residue:

Pakistan Crops.JPG