Monday, November 29, 2010

Video: Dan Phillips on creative houses from reclaimed stuff

Just found this video of Dan Phillips via TED. Here's a previous post about the Bone House. He has a company that builds homes using recycled and found materials.

Wonder food made of algae used to fight malnutrition

A nutritious blue-green algae, known as spirulina, has been added to school meals in Jordan to combat chronic malnutrition and anemia among children.
Almost one in ten Jordanian children suffer from chronic malnutrition, or long-term protein or energy deficiency, while a third are anaemic, according to a survey by the Jordanian Department of Statistics (DOS) made public in March.

The Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina against Malnutrition (IIMSAM), which has observer status with the UN Economic and Social Council, says spirulina is rich in protein and vitamin B, and contains beta-carotene that can overcome eye problems caused by Vitamin A deficiency. A tablespoon a day can eliminate iron anaemia, the most common mineral deficiency.

According to IIMSAM, a pilot feeding programme in two Kenyan schools from April 2009 to April 2010 helped cure 1,350 pupils suffering from malnutrition. The World Food Programme estimates that 22 per cent  of children under the age of five in Kenya are malnourished, significantly higher than the 15 per cent level which the World Health Organization uses as a threshold to describe an emergency situation.
Naseer S. Homoud, director of IIMSAM's Middle East Office, said spirulina has a role in fighting malnourishment, especially in children, and referred to "its low cost of farming as it can be grown even on infertile land and without a large water supply."

"Climatic changes are affecting our traditional ways of producing food — we had to find unconventional sources of nutrition," Jordan's minister of agriculture Mazen Khasawneh said. But he would not comment on the spirulina trial. "It is still too early to know if it is a successful experiment or not," he said.

First indications are that children at the early stages of primary education don't take to school meals with added spirulina. Pupil Khaled Sarhan said that, at first, he did not like the taste of school biscuits containing spirulina, but "after my teacher told me how useful it is, I got used to the taste after two or three days."
"Spirulina's bitter taste will be the main problem in spreading its use among children," Ahmed Khorshed, professor of food industries at Egypt's Agricultural Research Centre said, "but adding it to other food, like biscuits, could solve the taste problem partially."

The project will report to the minister of agriculture by June 2011. If successful, spirulina meals will be expanded and could be rolled out elsewhere in the Middle East.
"Egypt will be our next stop," IIMSAM director-general, Remigio Maradona, said.

- Hazem Badr
[Source SciDev]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Earth Berm (Hobbit) House

This post was written by contributing writer Noel. Visit his home on the web at

Simon Dale believes in the concept of living in tandem with nature and the environment at large. So much so in fact, that he, his wife and a few mates that he recruited for heavy lifting from time to time, went ahead and built what is being called the Hobbit House; their unique version of an Earth Berm house.

'The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.' (from the site)

The tools used were a chainsaw, a hammer and a one inch chisel, as well as good old muscle and human ingenuity. He claims to have little experience with building in general, holding out that anyone can construct this kind of structure. 

Examples of the features of the house are:
 - Solar panels for all their energy needs
 - An air cooled fridge
 - Fixtures and fittings from reclaimed materials
 - Running water from a nearby spring and powered by gravity. 
 - Straw filled walls, covered in lime plaster for ease of building and insulation
 - All the comforts of modern living as well as being close to nature
Below are pictures of Simon and his wife and his two children, as well as a video of him explaining his reasons for choosing to live in this manner.