Blog /

June 30, 2007

Sarvodaya Hosts Learning and Experience-Sharing Workshop on Eco-Village Design


Sarvodaya recently hosted a Workshop to share the experience on Eco-village Design and the workshop was held at the Damniyangama Eco-Village constructed by Sarvodaya for 55 Tsunami affected families.

This one day workshop which was sponsored by United National Environment Programme (UNEP).

Proceedings of the Day:

The Workshop opened with an introduction of the participants and speakers, who represented a multi-disciplinary background of both academics and practitioners.  The Opening Ceremony included traditional customs of the lighting of oil lamps, as well as a welcoming address and overview of the scheduled activities for the day.

Village Tour
Participants and presenters were taken on a tour of the Eco-Village, which was considered by many to be a key highlight of the Workshop.  The tour allowed residents to share their experiences with professionals, and also allowed those involved in the designing of the Village to see their ideas implemented on a grassroots level.  Participants were able to see composting, rain harvesting, and solar-power schemes work on a household basis, and discuss difficulties with any of these Eco-tools directly with the families who were making use of them.

A key goal of the Workshop was to create the opportunity for the diverse group of specialists associated with the creation of the Eco-Village to discuss their fields of expertise with other participants.

Presentation topics included:
•    Eco-Housing Guidelines
•    The Design and Concept of Eco-Housing
•    Soil Bricks (CSEBs) used in Eco-Housing Constructions
•    Environmental Policies and the Views of the CEA on Eco-Housing Concepts
•    Sub Terra System on Waste Water Recycling, Solid Waste Management and Community Portable Water
•    Rain Water Harvesting Tanks in Eco-Housing Schemes
•    Renewable Energy – Usage of Solar Power in Eco-Housing

Overlapping themes within the presentations included how to create sustainable communities, the importance of eco-friendly design strategies, and the need for eco-housing guidelines to be created and implemented in a replicable and effective manner.

Each discussion was followed up by a 5-10 minute question period, at which time the presenter answered questions pertaining to his or her topic, and offered personal perspectives on the Sarvodaya Eco-Village Design Concept.  These post-presentation discussions offered interesting insights on both the challenges and successes that the Eco-Village has faced.  These chats invariably carried on into dialogues over lunch and throughout the day.

Concluding Discussions

To end the day, organizers of the Workshop asked participants and presenters to offer their own perspectives on the Eco-Village project, and the Workshop itself.  The feedback of the day was positive, with students of architecture saying they were inspired to learn more about Eco-design, professionals interested in developing technologies and sharing lessons learned amongst new multi-disciplinary colleagues, and participants feeling that they had learned not only about the design of the Eco-Village itself, but also of the philosophy behind it.

An informal motion was put forward from the floor to spend more time discussing the Village needs and experiences with the community member themselves, now that the infrastructure of the settlement had been laid and is being put to use.  It was noted that information from these discussions be used to supplement further publications on the success of the Village.  It is hoped that by sharing the experience of creating and implementing the Sarvodaya Eco-Design Concept, both the design concepts and the entire philosophy of the village can be replicated and built upon elsewhere.  In particular, presenters stressed the need to share the lessons learned from the Village with other planners, architects and development organizations.  Private sector involvement was mentioned as possibly something to be investigated in relation to the promotion of Lagoswatta and Eco-Design techniques in other communities across Sri Lanka.

Comments from participants included the need for expansion guidelines for the Village.  A need for a post-occupancy evaluation and benchmarking for progress of community development was also voiced.  Complaints from residents have already included issues of leakages from the roof during heavy rains – these concerns need to be dealt with in an immediate manner, and could be highlighted in post-occupancy evaluation exercises.  Current Village projects including the rain-water harvesting scheme need to be examined to ensure that the quality of water provided is sufficient.

Soil testing should be conducted to create an understanding of which crops will effectively grow in the region.  This testing should coincide with gardening technique seminars so that residents are properly informed of how gardens should be planted and maintained.  It is clear, however, from the ample gardens around Lagoswatta, that residents are already interested and skilled in gardening.  This awareness and talent should be built upon.

Lagoswatta could offer insightful information on the cost-benefits of using alternative energies.  A study of the efficiency of solar panels and electrical use at the Village level would yield useful information for other Eco-Design Concepts.  Further investigating the possible use of other alternative energies, including wind power, at Lagoswatta, would also be a useful study in understanding both the capacities and limitations of these innovations.

Key Outcomes:
•    The partaking of a multi-disciplinary group of academics and practitioners (from the levels of student to professional) in hands-on learning and knowledge sharing activities on Eco-Design concepts

•    Participatory, informal dialogues with community members on the experience of creating and implementing the Eco-Village

•    The fostering of opportunities for future interest and involvement in Eco-Design concepts and the Sarvodaya approach, including the desire to use the Village as an example for other projects

•    The creation and strengthening of professional and personal networks with the purpose of strengthening knowledge and the effective use of both the Sarvodaya approach and Eco-Design concepts

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.