Salagou Innovation Center
The Salagou Innovation Center, France, Lac du Salagou, will be a ‘Center of Excellence’ where tourists, students and the construction industry work in parallel to learn about the practice, research and development of building from natural materials. The philosophy of the brief is to re-establish the historic roots of natural materials once surrounding the site such as hemp and straw, as well as the existing sources like water reed. The concept is to reduce transportation costs by creating low-embodied energy materials via prefabrication systems and innovative methodologies to aid an efficient construction process. It will also focus on traditional vernacular techniques, all through a modern perspective, looking at the simplest and purest environmental strategies. These materials have been of much controversy and are often overlooked as material alternatives due to their negative connotations; straw – a high fire risk and inadequate longevity; hemp – the cousin plant of marijuana. Despite the misunderstanding and the fact that hemp and straw are perfectly safe to use, it has been significantly disregarded worldwide. The aim is to create a curriculum that communicates the benefits of natural material use in trade by thinking globally and acting locally.
The tourists will be accommodated for a given time period in live-work/housing units on site and work alongside the students and staff. The result will be that the tourists go back to their own towns and villages to share these new skills. Ultimately, it will help them to be more employable, create a sustainable array of communities within the region and act as a catalyst for the growth of cellulose materials in construction.
The center will enroll around 60 students from 16 years + along with teaching staff, catering staff and administrative staff. It will host a studio for theoretical discussion and practical activities, research laboratories for future use of materials and a warehouse for the use of industrial workers. It will involve the holistic process, from inception to completion: they will learn how to harvest, store, prepare and construct materials for use in buildings. Furthermore, they will develop a methodology in prefabrication and composite/hybrid materials.
The innovation center will reflect the use of these materials by acting as a showcase for what can be possible; the hybrid system comprising of hemp insulation and straw-thatch rain-screen for example, evokes innovation in materiality relationship and inspire new challenges.
Project name: Salagou Innovation Centre
Name: Martyn James Webb
School: University of Portsmouth
Supervisor: Nick Timms
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