Books/websites on construction and remedial building techniques for use in developing countries and disaster zones?
February 21, 2010 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Do you know any good books or websites on construction and remedial building techniques which might be considered 'achievable best practice' in developing countries and disaster zones, ideally using resources readily available in those areas?

These can be anything from a website on the practicalities of reinforcing adobe buildings against the threat of earthquake using bamboo and wire (e.g. Quakesafe Adobe) to a report identifying and prioritizing repairs/remedial work and social policy to improve Indigenous Australian housing and thus health (e.g. Health Habitat), or even something more general about achieving sustainable reconstruction/development and building up community services.

I recently attended a talk where the bamboo reinforcing technique was introduced, and it occurred to me that while studying architecture, I've come across several other incredibly simple and effective building techniques which could significantly raise the standard of living of people in developing regions if only the knowledge was more widespread. Basically what I would like to do is identify if there is a need for a widely translated illustrated handbook on these building techniques (does one exist already?), and if there is, where I could start my research to see if I could produce one.

What I'm imagining is something like this "Your Home Technical Manual" produced by the Australian government, but focused on building and repair methods achievable under harsher circumstances, suited to various developing world climates/geographies, and presented in the form of a book similar in format to a good first aid manual. The UN HABITAT website has a link to a bibliography on building materials and techniques which might have been just the starting point I needed, but it seems to be broken.
posted by carnival of animals to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try looking for "appropriate technology." That and "sustainability" are two of the key buzzwords for technology in the developing world, although I think both terms have fallen out of favor somewhat since the 1990s.

You might, for instance, get some mileage out of the short bibliography at the end of this announcement for a competition on "participatory design and appropriate technology for post-disaster reconstruction and disaster reduction."
posted by col_pogo at 1:28 AM on February 22, 2010

Materials vary widely by regions so it would be hard to put together a handbook that would work on Borneo or Greenland and Yemen at the same time. While bamboo has structural properties that may be useful for using it as a building material, another wood of a similar cross-section will not have the same structural qualities. Presumably, volunteers helping in the construction of buildings would have practical experience in various techniques so a more beneficial guide would be in the procuring of available materials and a network of support for given regions. Every region will have construction workers familiar with local materials and the availability of necessary tools. Having a handbook of those would be extremely useful.

A guide that inexperienced people would use to build a permanent structure from scratch would probably not be recommended unless it was a pre-manufactured and modular structure.
posted by JJ86 at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2010

I recall reading about an architect who noticed that the buildings left standing after an earthquake in Iran were brick foundries and who then came up with a way to glaze and fire a mud structure. Might be this guy.
posted by Killick at 10:41 AM on February 22, 2010

Response by poster: That link on the UN HABITAT website is now working (PDF). Unfortunately most of the reports listed in the bibliography are out of print and not online. But they write that they are working on it!
posted by carnival of animals at 3:52 AM on March 13, 2010

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