Uncommon Building for Uncommon Good


Nearly a year after its Earth Day groundbreaking in April last year, Greenspace is nearing completion. Local non-profit Uncommon Good is constructing the eco-friendly building to be used as office space. 

The Greenspace structure is is made up of Superadobe, a medium developed by Nader Khalili, an architect and consultant both to NASA and the_x000D_
United Nations. This innovative technique uses mostly earth from the site of construction_x000D_
as raw material, thereby drastically reducing resource costs. Uncommon Good’s website notes, “Ninety percent of the_x000D_
building materials will be on-site earth, and the resulting structure will have_x000D_
a zero carbon footprint.”

Michael Peel, Development_x000D_
Director of Uncommon Good, said that the organization chose to use Superadobe for_x000D_
several reasons. “To us_x000D_
preserving the planet and helping the poor are inseparable in terms of how_x000D_
important they are to each other,” Peel said. “When resources are scarce, or there are_x000D_
environmental disasters, we find that it is the poor that suffer the most. The objectives_x000D_
of using Superadobe are caring for the environment and showing how using_x000D_
on-site resources is so low on cost.”

Uncommon Good has called upon the students_x000D_
of the Claremont Colleges to volunteer to help construct the building. Now that the basic_x000D_
structure of the building is up, Peel said that volunteers will be helping to plaster the building’s exterior. 

“We will be doing that with the actual earth,_x000D_
making mud balls and using that to build the walls,” Peel said. “We’d literally be getting_x000D_
our hands dirty!”

Uncommon Good has had_x000D_
a longstanding connection with the 5Cs. Uncommon Good’s office is in close proximity to the colleges, allowing for easy communication between_x000D_
the students and the NPO’s administration.

According to Peel, Uncommon Good runs a mentoring program for high school_x000D_
students and more than half of the program’s mentors are 5C students.

Uncommon Good is one of_x000D_
the six clients of Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) SOURCE consultant project. SOURCE provides free_x000D_
consulting services to NPOs. Peel is a CMC alum, and_x000D_
was an intern at Uncommon Good through the SOURCE program.

Lilian de Greef HM ’12 volunteered at Greenspace’s construction_x000D_
site last Saturday, where volunteers created a system of mixing mortar “balls” and then tossed them to others stationed on the structure’s top to smooth them into the roof’s barrel-shaped arches. De Greef appreciated the Superadobe building technique. 

“Not only_x000D_
can you build them with cheap and easily available materials, but they also_x000D_
require very little labor. They are very good at insulating heat and they are_x000D_
fireproof. I know that the one built down in Pomona is earthquake-proof as well._x000D_
So they are very good structurally,” de Greef said. 

In addition to helping with construction, students from Harvey Mudd College (HMC) and Pomona College have been involved_x000D_
in the design process. Uncommon Good’s website reported that the students “are working with the_x000D_
Claremont Environmental Design Group to create instruments and tests to measure_x000D_
the environmental impact of each phase of the building’s construction and, once_x000D_
finished, its operation.”

When the Greenspace project was first announced, Uncommon Good immediately invited students to help with the design of the building, and several students expressed their desire to become involved.

“I hope to contribute to the_x000D_
project by helping out with a portion of the research associated with_x000D_
calculating the carbon footprint of the building’s construction process,” said Hsuanwei Fan PO ’12. Fan believes Superadobe is well-suited to the Los Angeles area. 

“It is_x000D_
highly appropriate for our climate, since much of Southern California is, after_x000D_
all, desert-scape. Its ability to insulate is excellent, while the circular_x000D_
form and domes employed in the construction method make Superadobes much more_x000D_
resistant to earthquakes and other natural catastrophes,” he said.

Crystal Bong HM ’13 worked with an HMC-based research group last year to develop Greenspace. Bong researched types of sustainable flooring and a sustainable sifting method. 

“We think the Greenspace_x000D_
building is a great idea for a sustainable future,” Bong said.

Peel noted that when_x000D_
the community puts its resources together, a lot can be achieved. He added that_x000D_
Uncommon Good needs more volunteers and he hopes that more students from the_x000D_
5Cs can chip in to finish Greenspace.

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