In 2015, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation launched the Collaboration Fund in order to encourage cross-collaborations among Sauvé Fellows of different cohorts, disciplines and/or nationalities. We believe that Fellows can achieve great things by applying their diversity of interests, skills and experiences to innovative collective projects.

Here is an update on a Collaboration Fund-awarded project led by Sauvé Fellows Stéphanie Jensen-Cormier (2011-12) and Joshua Monk Vanwyck (2011-12):

Last year, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation’s Collaboration Fund contributed to the establishment of GroundUP, a Hong Kong registered eco-architecture consulting company.

You have probably considered how the space that you inhabit and in which you spend most of your time affects your mood and productivity. Is the layout conducive to how you live your life? Are the construction materials safe for your health? Is the temperature suitable? Many marginalized people in rural areas lack proper housing and community structures. One of the primary objectives of GroundUP is to introduce high quality, low-impact, efficient, available and affordable design practices and construction techniques to motivate communities in rural areas to steer their own development. It is a sustainable and human-centered approach to design.

The Fund enabled a small team of Fellows to begin several projects, including the development of a programme to teach natural building. In March, GroundUP will lead its third sustainable construction workshop in rural Jiangsu province, China. Individuals from across China who have an interest in building homes according to natural building principles have already registered for the ten-day course and the wechat group (the Chinese and more versatile version of WhatsApp) with all of the participants is incessantly buzzing excited messages onto our phones.

During the first two workshops in 2015, sixty participants learned about the principles of natural building during theoretical lessons and put their knowledge into practice by building a rammed earth teahouse in an eco-tourism and permaculture centre. It was fun to see the participants go from being apprehensive about touching mud to loving the experience of working with earth so much that they would wake up early and stay up late just so that they could continue to work with the material!

We hope that students for the already fully-booked March workshop will become just as passionate about embracing these techniques and that they will have as much fun. This time, participants will be building an earth bag eco-guesthouse. There is a hunger for these workshops in China. Despite the small scale of ours, our workshops have become recognized as one of the primary places in the country for people to learn about natural building.

Stay tuned from more updates on GroupUP this spring!

*Photo was taken by participants in the GroundUP natural building workshop in October 2015.

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