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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Creating a Community of Practice

Sustainable design requires the local adaptation of designs and solutions.   

A house designed for a winter environment has very different thermal insulation specifications from a house designed for a tropical environment and vice-versa. Thermal specifications affect the type of materials used which in turn affects the cost of construction. 

The same is true for interoperability. The reason cupboards and electric sockets have proliferated is because they have a standard design and sizing specifications that enable a consistent use of materials and pricing. If manufacturers had to design a different size electric socket and cupboard for every house, there would be a lot of wasted material. This is why you pay extra for a custom design because you are reducing the efficiency of production and use of materials. 

Notwithstanding the need for efficiency and effectiveness, as humans, we prefer customization. We feel privileged when we have something that is uniquely our and that reflects our personal identity. This is why modularity is becoming popular. Modular design allows us to have the best of both worlds. An efficient standardized design that makes efficient use of resources and a versatile template we can adapt to our preferred use and palate choices. 

Open Source sharing is one mechanism via which modularity can proliferate. Designers get recognition for contributing both effective designs and effective adaptations. The community grows on the basis of people who are committed to doing the right thing in design and in business. Take a look at the various designs in the Open Structures database, AND, before you think about what you will use, what are you going to commit to contribute in return for what you used? Is it a design, an adaptation, promotion of the designer(s),....

To understand the power of this concept on a large scale, let us look at Open Architecture. The challenges of increasing flooding due to climate irregularities are no longer occasional events. Flash floods are affecting rich and poor alike in every country. To stay ahead of the problem we need to exponentially increase the design of housing that is safe during flooding. One solution is houses and cities that float.

Testing the idea requires local pilots and there too many impacted areas for any one architect or design firm to address alone. In recognition of this, one architect, Carl Turner, has made a public benefit contribution by creating an Open Source design for a house that will float in floodwater.

Think about how you can create a community of practice to not only pilot the idea but to release an Open Source design of the solution or alternative design that was effective in your community.  

As a global community, we have more than enough resources to solve the challenges we are faced with. The degree to which we succeed will depend on our ability to collaborate in support of each other instead of against each other. 

For more Open Source platforms you can engage with, feel free to download our presentation. 

You don't have to put off making a donation to society until you have money, you can show your wealth by sharing knowledge instead of money... (-;

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