Shanty Kutty – The Peace Hut
Building Peace out of Waste
I’m not just a home, I’m an homage to freedom, a hope for peace, a manifestation of awareness of the consequences of our extravagant living, a desperate attempt to find an alternative to a sick world, to a corrupt system that puts profit before the welfare of the planet and its people. Most of all I’m a challenge overcome and a dream come true. It’s a big dream… Peaceful coexistence with all beings and harmony amongst the people. A time when humanity will rise up to the challenge of managing the Global Ecosystem, restoring the damage already done, preventing future mistakes and actually improving Nature through our understanding and ability to enhance its processes. There is a time when a dream becomes a vision, followed by an impulse to embody it into our lives, making it a reality.
We live amidst incredible hypocrisy and accepted it as normal. Those pointing out the problems and trying to find solutions are deemed utopian dreamers whilst those in power promote a nightmare they can profit from. We swap Morals for money and Peace for power. The agonizing irony is people starve as we waste tones of food, people go cold as we throw away our clothes because they went out of fashion, people are homeless as we waste all sorts of building materials, tools, furniture and household appliances. Eco systems die or become unbalanced as we exploit them to satisfy an ever increasing demand for resources. We’re told there isn’t enough for everybody, that if we clothed, fed and housed everybody society would break down, but what are we breaking really? Aren’t we in the middle of a crisis already? We’re poisoning the planet and destroying ourselves! Isn’t the management of resources and the welfare of people and ecosystems, the whole point of having a system? If there is such shortage of resources why is waste one of our biggest problems? Most of our “precious resources” end up in land fills and incinerators. The first step to a better world is the belief that it’s possible. So I decided to take on the seemingly impossible task of building a whole house by myself, out of reclaimed materials and live in it; to show how it’s possible to re-use, recycle and up-cycle materials whilst providing a creative living alternative. It’s the impossible made possible, a dream turned real and what I’d call a real Home! I’m not experienced nor specially gifted, I’m a tiny girl and my only strength is my determination. If I can do it, you can too!
Step 1 – Marking the perimeters/digging top soil
The first step was also the first mistake! I dug the top soil trying to reach the clay that is just beneath. I thought a natural clay floor would be perfect! What I should have done is dig a trench along the outside of the marked perimeter, then raised and levelled the floor to prevent flooding. Oh well, live and learn…
Step 2 – Gathering materials/ Erecting the first pole
I was quite fortunate in searching for materials, so fortunate that I started toying with the idea of “manifesting” what I needed. In the morning I’d take a moment to think about the materials I wanted for that day’s work and then set out to look in skips and bins. I always found exactly what I was looking for! Just goes to show how much abundance there is in our waste… So I found 2 much needed tarpaulin sheets to cover my mistake, And set out to find fallen trees in the forest to use as frame poles, I made a point of not cutting any trees to build my house. This, added to the fact the poles had to be very long, straight and Y shaped, made it quite a hard task, but if you seek you find! Even harder was carrying such weighty tree trunks up the hill, how I did it is still beyond me. I think mindfulness, a little help from the Universe and in the end, sheer stubbornness did the job
Erecting the first pole is quite an important step, it marks the beginning of the building. For the same reason in Sri Lanka when a house is being built they sing a blessing when the first brick is laid. I didn’t sing but I truly felt blessed when I came back the next morning and the sun was “kissing” that first pole. I captured the beauty of the moment in this photo…
Step 3 – Building the Frame/ Gathering more materials
Building the frame took quite a few days’ work and some friendly help. First I erected another 8 poles, burying them 2 feet into the ground. Then put 3 beams across and another 6 as the support for my mezzanine. Meanwhile I started gathering more materials, mainly for the walls; pallets, wood beams, windows, wooden off cuts and more tarps!
Step 4 – Building the Roof Frame
I decided to build a round roof based on a type of Eco Construction commonly called a bender. As implied by the name, it’s done using freshly cut hazel that is bent into a curved shape and tied together, as the wood dries out the structure becomes stronger and sets into place. I realized to support the roof I would also need 2 lateral beams going across the sides. Those long beams support the first row of hazel arches which in turn support the next row going across it, making a cross frame which looks very pretty!!
Step 5 – Building the Walls and Mezzanine
I was very fortunate to find a warehouse chucking out the perfect type of pallets for my walls (those that have no gaps between the boards) and they were barely damaged! I used wooden beams I had found in a building skip as a foundation for the walls. Since I had dug down now I had to raise the walls to protect them from damp… I also came across some long and thick wooden boards leftover from a loft conversion, they were perfect floor boards for the Mezzanine!!
Step 6 – Fitting the windows
The windows were up-cycled from a window shop in Egham. They leave windows they can’t sell at the back of the shop, all I had to do is let them know when I was taking them. I was very lucky to find double glazed windows, some even had frame, railing and handles! Fitting them was a bit tricky specially the ones with railings. The house isn’t perfectly straight and the support beams are tree trunks so making straight frames and supports for the railings was challenging. For some reason I didn’t use a level and decided to just “eye it out”, nevertheless 4 out of 5 windows open properly, I think that’s pretty good!
Step 7 – Insulating the Roof
Insulating the roof happened quite spontaneously one afternoon. I had the idea of buying some emergency blankets which retain heat really well and cost about 80p per 2m2. I was lucky that a friend had spare duvets that had been thrown away by the local university. I made the first insulation layer with the duvets, placed the emergency blankets over them and finalized with a heavy duty tarpaulin to hold them all down and provide further protection from the elements. What seemed a daunting task turned out to be quite easy to do!
Step 8 – Moving in!
After the roof and walls were finished I built a make shift door and moved in! It was Summer and I could enjoy living in this skeleton of a house quite comfortably, so the work slowed down… Soon after I went on holiday and left the house to be used as a guest house by the community. When I got back two lovely people had covered all the gaps in the walls with cob – a mixture of sand, clay and water that makes a great natural cement. I got inspired by this and got working again, this time with a sense of urgency since Autumn was just around the corner.
Step 9 – Winter proofing and interior design.
The first step in winter proofing the house is heating! I set out to make a brick and cob fireplace with a flu and hot plate someone left on site. I can cook on the hot plate or directly on the fire and the flu goes through the mezzanine, heating up the sleeping area. I made a fire door from a metal sheet. I flattened it, cut it and got some rails on cob to slide it into place. It faces the front door of the house so I can get the best air flow.
I was fortunate that a building site nearby was stripping down the insulation from their walls. They kindly agreed to give me the slightly damaged insulation slabs. I placed the slabs the inside of the walls, boarded them with wood and decorated them with throws, providing further insulation. Luck struck again as I was given a 20m2 damp proof membrane! Just as the first showers hit the forest… I used it as an extra layer of insulation on the roof and to damp proof the floor. I finished the floor with wood and carpet. I installed an up cycled kitchen sink, supported by 2 pallets which doubled as a shelving unit.
I built a shower cubicle out of pallets, lined it with the damp proof membrane and used the left over for a shower curtain. I found some cupboard doors and built the rest of the cupboard with a shelve inside.
I built 2 sofas out of pallets, a table out of tree stumps and the interior was finally finished! With autumn approaching I was working around the clock and unfortunately didn’t take any photos of the interior building process but I have some lovely photos of the final result to make up for it
Step 10 – Outdoor porch and awning.
The final touch was a massive dark green tarp to camouflage the roof (I didn’t want it to be an eye sore). I use some clear plastic to build an awning and a porch so I can sit outside even when it rains! Last but not least, I built a wood storage with a felt cover. It’s attached to the side of the house for convenience of access.
Completing this project marks the end of a journey and the beginning of another; that of embodying the change I want to see. To try and better myself so I have grounds to say it’s possible to better the world. To do away with hypocrisy in my own life, as much as it is possible without completely removing my self from society. To find viable alternatives for the policies I don’t agree with and don’t wish to be part of, because pointing out problems is easy but finding solutions is far more demanding. To sacrifice something of my own for the greater good and show that the hardship doesn’t outweigh the reward. Ultimately I wish to make my voice heard. Not because it’s my own voice but because so many of us have been silenced, ridiculed, even ostracized for thinking differently, feeling differently and ultimately behaving differently from what society expects. Sensitivity and “excessive” empathy is seen as a weakness but our struggle shows the opposite. It takes some resilience to make a stand against the norm, to speak on behalf of those who don’t have a voice or are too afraid to use it, to have our dreams constantly shattered and our feelings trampled on by those blinded to the sickness of the world, whilst still trying to empathize with them. To not despair in the face of evil and not allow our own morals to be corrupted by it, is the greatest challenge yet. The times are changing, we all have a unique opportunity to change with it and make our voices heard. It might well be our last chance to rise up to the challenge of saving our beloved planet and create a wholesome society, I plead for us to put our differences aside and work together towards a brighter future…