KEPF Natural Building Seminar in Tucson, Arizona in 2009

A Seminar on Natural Building with Ranjit Sinha

This 3-part seminar will explore the commonalities of low-cost, environmentally-friendly housing development in India (Bihar) and the United States (Tucson area), with a view to stimulating practical collaborative solutions which are outside the "arms length" economic motivation box...


October 15 Thursday 2 to 5 pm, at the Ada Pierce McCormick Building, University of Arizona 1052 N Highland Avenue  (off of East 1st Street near N Cherry Avenue):
Ranjit Sinha will describe his work in low-cost building and give an overview of the state of housing in Bihar.  David Kohlberg will describe the building being done on his organization's site in Bodhgaya, Bihar.  There will be a round of introductions and opportunity for each person to express his/her interest in natural building and his/her specific desires and goals in that regard.
October 16 Friday 10 am to 1 pm, at TerraSante Village near Tucson Arizona:
The second session will start with a tour of TerraSante and the earthbag houses already built there, and proceed with discussion and technical suggestions for future building in the neighborhood.  Currently two meditation retreat huts are being built at the KEPF site in Bodhgaya.  We will discuss the progress of this, and relate it to the possibility of building meditation huts on Harmony & Health retreat land by TerraSante Village.
October 16 Friday 7 to 9 pm, at the Ada Pierce McCormick Building:
The third session is intended to be a spiritually-oriented consolidation and wrap-up of the previous sessions.  Each session will be independent, and intended to provide an opportunity for follow-up communication and action according to shared inspiration.


We are holding a vision for the development of a natural-material alternative to the model of house that the Indian Government currently subsidizes for Below Poverty Level families, which is an approximately 200 square foot, two-room brick and concrete structure.
An earth-based structure would be far more comfortable, both in hot weather and cold, and such a design also could be adapted as an alternative to living in an RV or mobile home in rural areas around Tucson.
Can people from two widely different cultures collaborate to create a solution to a basic human need?  This would be the creation of comfortable, healthy and uplifting houses that are in keeping with the planetary ecosystem, and are not dependent on or stimulating to the financial excesses of the current mainstream culture.  This solution must be social as well as technical.
The Long Term purpose of this seminar is to begin establishing exchange opportunities between natural building initiatives in the Tucson area and in the State of Bihar in India.  We begin with the plan to develop a pair of similar buildings in each area, with learning about the process of building passed back and forth between each.
The process begins with interest on both sides, interest that is based as much in relational synergy as it is in formal agreement on objectives.  For this reason, much of the seminar will focus on "meet and greet" aspects, with participants expressing their interests and objectives and time for free flowing exchange.  The meeting and greeting will include an introduction of the Bihar situation and culture.  The Friday evening event will be spiritually oriented.
This Seminar is being built around Ranjit Sinha's visit here.  If there is substantial interest, then it is likely that he will return to Tucson in the future.
The specific outcome from this seminar that we are looking for is the agreement to build a small cob house in Tucson and a similar one in India.  We expect that the first building will be built in India and then we will use the experience gained to build a similar structure in the Tucson area.  We will ask for donations so that the building of the house in India may be subsidized.  (The family whose house it will be will contribute some of the labor and monetary inputs, the Indian NGO's involved will contribute expertise, organization and management and reports to the US.)

Ranjit Sinha

Ranjit Sinha and his wife are the directors of Tilothu Mahil Mandel (Tilothu - the name of the village, Women's Organization), an NGO formed by his mother to help the development of the people of her area, especially women.  It runs a school, women's development programs, and general poverty alleviation programs.  Ranjit has been the initiator of low-cost environmentally-sound building programs.  The organization has a facility to demonstrate low-cost building techniques and produce building materials such as compressed mud bricks, however most production is done on-site.  The organization has been the contractor for multi-hundred-unit urban housing projects where the government has been creating housing for the urban poor.  The organization's best on-site construction manager is a woman.
Ranjit has a strong interest in building with purely natural materials (rather than just minimizing environmentally and economically costly inputs).  However in India, as in the United States, most people who have the economic resources to build a designed house desire modern conventional materials, usually burnt brick, concrete and rebar.  Our intention is that, by this USA - India association, we can give such buildings more prestige, or I might say "sex appeal" in Bihar, as well as more interest and practicality for some in the US.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps the largest obstacle for those in the US who are interested in building a low-cost natural structure is the motivation to do the labor.  Many traditional communities built their structures communally.  "Barn raising parties" in which neighbors joined together to help a family build its house were common, or societies were organized into clans that supported their members in such ways.
A cob house can be built inexpensively and comfortably, but it requires labor.  Ideally, building a house is an act of joy, rather than of drudgery.  If one is inclined to think in terms of "subtle energies", then a house built with joy carries that energy.  One built with drudgery may likewise carry a corresponding energy.
For people in our culture, creating an efficient low-cost esthetically pleasing design is comparatively easy.  All one has to do is read a few books and think with a little imagination.  To build with joy is, by contrast, "an art rather than a science".

KEPF Building Philosophy