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Ukraine: 'Green' Maharishi Vedic Architecture building - Low-cost eco-luxury, with sandbag insulation
by Global Good News staff writer
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23 January 2009
Sandbags can counter the flood of home construction costs, says Joachim Claes, a successful Belgian architect who specializes in environmentally-sound building practices. Having completed several sandbag homes, he says it is an inexpensive and easy approach to 'green' building that anyone can do.
While serving as director of a 50,000 hectare organic agriculture operation in Ukraine, Mr Claes needed to build facilities quickly, including homes for employees. The buildings were designed according to the principles of Maharishi Vedic Architecture, or Vastu—architecture in accord with Natural Law. Considering construction methods, he was introduced to the sandbag system which was invented in South Africa about 10 years ago.
Eighteen months ago, Mr Claes asked the inventor to come to Ukraine to assist with the prototype. 'At first everyone was very skeptical, especially those with building experience,' he said. However, the results of the prototype, a two-family home, convinced them of the benefits, and five dwellings have now been constructed.
The framework is similar to post and beam construction, but the walls are filled with sand in small, breathable plastic bags. In response to a question about the use of plastic in an eco-building, Mr Claes said he was looking into durable, natural materials, but that it 'doesn't feel like a plastic house'.
On 19 January, Mr Claes, Stefan Kracht, and a panel of master builders and experts in Maharishi Vedic Architecture in MERU, Holland, discussed the method and its potential to fulfil the growing demand for Vastu buildings around the world.
Describing the Ukraine project, Mr Kracht said installation of the sandbags was very easy. Sand is a superior thermal insulator—more efficient than earthen walls and conventional materials—which reduces the cost of maintaining a comfortable temperature year-round. Sand also makes an excellent sound barrier. Electrical wiring, and radiant floor and wall heat were also simple to instal. The interior walls were covered with clay, which naturally regulates humidity. From the outside the buildings look like conventional homes, and can be finished with wood, marble, and other beautiful materials.
Fast, easy construction (and therefore reduced labour) keeps expenses to a minimum. Mr Kracht estimated the building costs of a single dwelling to be approximately 30 percent less than with conventional methods. He projected a series of homes could be produced at half the market rate and still produce a profit for the builder.
Their next focus is on marketing—giving people enough knowledge to understand that the sandbag system really is an ideal option for fast, luxurious, 'green' building in accord with Natural Law.
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