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VanekInATFieldGuide2003

VanekInATFieldGuide2003 - Field Guide to Appropriate...

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Unformatted text preview: Field Guide to Appropriate Technology Edited by BARRETT HAZELTINE Brown University CHRISTOPHER BULL Brown University ACADEMIC PRESS An imprint of Elsevier Science Amsterdam Boston London NewYork Oxford Paris San Diego San Francisco Singapore Sydney Tokyo ' DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY, 7 CITED LITERATURE 1. See Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture: A World View. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 1994, Lawrence E. Harrison, Who Prospers'! How Culture Values shape Economic and Political success. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 1992; Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. New York, N.Y. The Free Press, 1995 and Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72 (summer 1993), pp. 22—49. 2. See Merryn Claxton (1994) Culture and Development: A Study. UNESCO, (World Decade For Cultural Development (1988—1997) UNESCO, Paris and AS. Bhalla, (1979) Towards Global Action for Appropriate Technology, Peramon Press, Oxford. 3. See Abubakar N. Abdullahi “Strategies in Technological take-off in Nigeria: Are we in the Right Direction” Nigerian Journal of Science and Technology, Vol. 1. No. l. 1983. 4. PD. Dunn (1978), Appropriate Technology: Technology with a Human Face, Macmillan, London. . N ji Agaga, (1992), “The Dialectics Between Appropriate Technology, Public Policy and Rural Development” Impli— cations for Discovery and Innovation in the Third World. Discovery and Innovation, Vol. 4, No. 1, March 1992, pp. 4344. 6. Adams, Don and Robert M. Bjork, (1969), Education in Developing Areas, David McKary, New York, see also Michael Lipton, (1977), Why Poor People Stay, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Massachusetts. UI .- DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY Francis Vanek Applications of appropriate technology, as reflected by the range of possibilities included in this handbook, encompass a large number of activities, from construction, pumping, and agriculture to cooking and heating—in short, most of the household and community activities that people require for a comfortable life. It is therefore difficult to cover in brief the philosophies that bind these technologies together. Nevertheless, a brief discussion of some common tenets can help prepare the practitioner to develop and implement a technology with greater likelihood of success. I A successful design stage should help us to approach any project more clearly and hopefully, anticipate any pitfalls, rather than finding out about them after the fact. In some instances this work will focus mainly on structural or mechanical aspects of a device or project, but in the case of appropriate technology, inclusion of societal and economic factors are very important as well. In this section, we will discuss how design for appropriate technology differs from design for other applications and also the pros and cons of designing at lesser or greater, depth before the building/implementation stage. The ideas presented here reflect some 20 years of developing, testing, and disseminating appropriate technology on the part of the STEVEN Foundation and its predecessor, the Ensol Cooperative, working in several developing countries as well as in various parts of the United States. For further reading, the practitioner may wish to refer to the following books. For a longer description of mechanical design, those with some technical background will find Chapter 11 in the CRC Handbook of Mechanical Engineering (Kreith 1997) useful. Dickson (1975) lays out the political debate surrounding appropriate technology in a chapter entitled “Intermediate technology and the Third World.” Lastly, Weisman’s (1998) account of the evolution of the Gaviotas ecological community in Colombia provides a micro- cosm of the issues faced in the field when introducing these technologies. Lastly, while the focus of this chapter is on physical projects involving either products (e.g., pumps, mills) or fixed infrastructure (buildings, catchment ponds, etc.) the importance of institutional work to support appropriate technology (e.g., community and financial organizing) must be recognized. For further 8 OVERVIEW reading on approaches to institutional work, reading on the topic of “project management” in the literature on management of technology (e.g., Slack et al. 1998) may be of interest. APPROACHES TO THE DESIGN OF APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY Practitioners of design sometimes make the distinction between “hard” and “soft” design. In hard design, a device is broken down into component parts, which are precisely defined in terms of their dimensions and materials. The device requires that each component be fabricated to these standards in order for the device to function. Take the example of an automobile: An engine piston having the wrong circumference or not having a smooth surface could prevent the entire vehicle from moving, even if all other components are built “according to spec.” Appropriate technologies are more often built along the lines of “soft design,” in which the design concept is subject to modification in the field so as to better use available materials and knowhow. For example, a given material, such as metal pipe or bar, may not be available in a given size, so that the design must be modified to incorporate a different diameter or size. Alternatively, certain skills or facilities, such as people with welding ability or access to elec- tricity, may not be available, so that an installation may need to be built using hand tools to assemble a device with nuts and bolts or other hardware. This level of flexibility may have advantages beyond the ability to create a working installation under difficult conditions. As the late Jacques Cousteau stated, soft technologies tend to develop from “thousands of free-thinking individuals, taking thousands of small random steps forward, [so as to] make only small mistakes on the way to accumulating a large aggregate success” (Skurka & Naar 1976, p. 9), Successful design of appropriate technology also requires trading off the benefits of thorough design against the costs in terms of time and effort of undertaking such a design stage. Obviously, if a good design can preempt all problems before materials and labor are used in a project, then the time spent will be well worth the trouble. On the other hand, excessive time spent in the design stage may delay a project unnecessarily, especially in the case of soft design where some amount of trial and error in the latter stages of the project may be inevitable. Three basic levels of design can be seen to exist at this juncture: mental, picture with dimensions, and picture with supporting calculations. In the first instance, the practitioner does not create any diagram or plan before starting work. An example of this is the case of Gaviotas, where a number of the engineers on site responsible for developing new products worked from memory without producing any typevof diagram of their work (Weisman 1998). While many practitioners would be uncomfortable building a device without so much as a paper sketch, these members of Gaviotas were able to develop several highly successful technologies in this way. For those most designers, however, some sort of sketch will be in order. This may be a copy of a diagram from a publication, or an adaptation of such a diagram; alternatively, it may be a sketch developed from scratch so as to fit into a specific location or meet a specific need. Questions such a diagram will answer are typically the dimensions of the device or installation, or the total material requirements for completing the project. The last option, involving supporting calculations, is the most difficult, as it will generally require specialized knowledge beyond commonsense use of measurement and arithmetic. These are some questions that we might seek to answer at this level. 1. Will the structure hold the required weight without breaking apart? 2. Will the device deliver adequate heat or power to meet the expected demand? .-, tag-«mam DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY 9 3. If the financial benefits of the project are known, are they likely to exceed the financial costs over the‘project lifetime? Thus, we are trying to find out not only the size and material content of the project at this stage but also to anticipate whether or not the design as given will succeed 1n terms of the project expectations In some instances, it will not be possible to complete such calculations, often for lack of knowledge about the input data (e. g, what 1s the material strength of bamboo, of varying diameter and weight, that one happens to have obtained locally?), so that there is nothing left but to construct the design, knowing that ex post facto modification may be needed. On the other hand, it is good practice to at least consider whether supporting calculations are possible, as they may lead to design changes before beginning construction that either allow completion for a lower financial cost or prevent the project from failing entirely. Take the use of steel angle- iron for the creation of some weight—bearing structure, where a number of different widths and thicknesses will be available. If it can be determined that a narrow, thin cross section is adequate to support the weight, then the cost of the larger 1ron will be avoided, and the savings can be diverted to other uses GUIDELINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION Having discussed approaches to appropriate technology design in general, it is now possible to discuss specific guidelines for use in the design process. For instance, the STEVEN Foun- dation has in the past focused on three specific guidelines for the technologies it promotes: local materials, local knowhow, and local business opportunity, such as for family—run busi— nesses or worker-owned cooperatives. Alternatively, Darrow and Saxenian (1993, p. 7) suggest a more comprehensive list of 11 criteria that encompass these three points but also include several others. The purpose here is not to definitively choose one set of criteria over another but rather to illustrate the benefit of having a set of criteria and also to show how a given approach will tend to steer the development of a device or project in one direction rather than another. Regarding the first point, the criteria provide guidelines that are not specific to a type of project (e. g. solar, wind, agricultural development, etc.) but rather provide guidance in the use of appropriate technology generally, especially to help the practitioner to be sensitive to the needs of individuals and communities in developing countries; When given due consideration, they will help to answer questions such as “What will the effect of this project/technology be on this individual community?” “Is it compatible with the local situationand needs?” “Are there hidden disbenefits that were not obvious at first glance?” FOr the second point, we can continue with the example of the previous three-point approach. The use of local materials will tend to favor fabrication of components from plumbing parts (pipes etc.), hardware (such as angle-iron or reinforcement rod), lumber, or some mixture of the three, depending on availability. Also, local skills usually include car- pentry and basic metalworking, including welding, 1n many countries. One could not, however, in general rely on the availability of precision metal- -working such as the use of lathes and milling machines. By following this approach, a project might evolve in the direction of using local materials in their simplest form in order to fabricate complex structures, regardless of the time required. This would not only encourage the development of local skills but also allow unemployed and underemployed adults to exchange their free time for an opportunity to reduce expenditures on 10 OVERVIEW finished subcomponents. However, the resulting installation may require more initial “tweaking” and more input in terms of maintenance than a different version that incorporates some manu- factured components. Solar powered pumping systems illustrate this tradeoff (Figure l). A typical approach to solar powered pumping is to have a photovoltaic panel produce electric current to power a motor, which then drives a mechanical pump. While the panel and motor are Solar collector beyond the scope of local production, the (parabolic trough) pump could be built from local plumbing parts and hardware in the interest of self- reliance. Another approach would be the use of a solar collector to generate steam, which could then turn a steam—engine and power a pump in turn. (Such systems have been pro- duced by the STEVEN Foundation for dem— posmve onstration purposes since 1984. Histori— diSplacemempump cally, it was also available at the end of the 19th century, prior to the introduction of photovoltaics; see Butti & Perlin 1980.) Since this latter system uses no electricity and does not require high-precision manu- Photovaltaic (PV) Panel Battery Steam engine Electric motor 11 Positive displacement pump (i.e. with cylinder and piston) (Le. with cylinder and piston) FIGURE 1 Two alternative approaches to solar-powered f . . b d d f . pumping. The design on the left relies more on acturmg, It can e pm uce rom mirrors, high—tech mass production (components shown in plumbing parts, and lumber, all Of WhiCh are italics) but requires less advanced preparation and likely to be locally available. On the other less leam-as-you—go. hand, the photovoltaic system will not place as much demand on a community for initial installation and maintenance and so may have greater longevity, even if it does not provide the same opportunity for learning as does the steam system. Beyond the three-point criteria (which focus mainly on educational and economic empow- erment), the cultural dimension should be considered as well. Care should be taken to consider the cultural consequences of introducing a new technology. For example, the Gaviotas group developed a pedal-powered cassava grinder for use in rural South American communities, reasoning that this machine would relieve the burden of grinding this vegetable by hand (Weisman 1998). As it transpired, women had traditionally done the hand grinding, which, while tedious, had given them a certain status in the households. When the pedal grinders were introduced, the time required was greatly reduced, and the task was also taken over by men in the household, so that the status of the women was reduced. Some consideration of this cultural attribute at the design stage might have anticipated this negative fallout; perhaps some way could have been found to free the women from the obligation to grind by hand while still supporting the importance of their place in the household. , Understanding of the cultural context for the technology require two-way communication, of course, not just from the outside AT specialist to the community but in the other direction as well. Often the most successful projects are the ones where the community largely shapes the outcome based on information actively requested from the specialist (this approach is advocated by Darrow and Saxenian 1993). In one project in Mexico, volunteers from the STEVEN Foundation arrived planning to build deep—lift pumps for local communities, only to find that the need was for a different design of shallow-lift pump. As the materials and DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY 11 tools had already been assembled, the community members and volunteers set about creating a different pump design that would meet the needs in the particular village. Not only did the villagers largely control the designing and multiple production of the pump, they also con- tinued to improve on the design after the volunteers had returned to the United States. The pumps were used for four or five years before eventually they were made redundant by electrification of the community. In conclusion, we have seen that appropriate technology is a specific application of techno- logical design separate from the “high—tech” that is used in the industrialized world; that it can be approached by applying specific criteria; and that it is situated in its cultural context. Perhaps the most important lesson that can be drawn in terms of a philosophy is to look before you leap. Careful planning at the design stage can prevent unintended consequences later on, not only in terms of a device or structure which functions as planned, but also in terms of a practice which is truly adopted by the community for the long term. REFERENCES » Butti, Ken, and John Perlin. (1980). A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of SolarArchitectute and Technology. Palo Alto, CA: Cheshire Books. Darrow Ken, and Mike Saxenian. (1993). Appropriate Technology Sourcebook. Stanford, CA: Volunteers in Asia Publications. Dickson, David. (1975). The Politics of Alternative Technology. New York: Universe Books. Kreith, Frank. (Ed.) (1997). CRC Handbook of Mechanical Engineering. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Skurka, Norma, and Jon Naar (1976). Design for a Limited Planet. Living with Natural Energy. New York: Ballantine Books. Slack, Nigel et al. (1998). Operations Management: Second Edition. London: Pitman. Weisman, Alan. (1998). Gaviotas: a Village to Reinvent the World. White River Junction VT. Chelsea Green Publishing. REFERENCES CONSULTED Arlosoroff, Saul, et al. (1987). Community Water Supply: The Handpump Option. Washington, DC: The World Bank. Ahmed, Kulsum. (1991). Renewable Energy Technologies: A Review of the Status and Costs of Selected Technologies. Washington, DC: World Bank. Aspin, Terry. (1978). The Backyard Foundry. Hens, England: Model & Allied Publications. Butti, Ken, and John Perlin. (1980). A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of SolarArchitecture and Technology. Palo Alto, CA: Cheshire Books. Clark, Wilson. (1974). Energy for Survival: The Alternative to Extinction. New York: Anchor Press. Clegg, Peter. (1975). New Low- Cost Sources of Energy for the Home. Charlotte, VT: Garden Way Publishing. Congdon, R. J. (Ed. ) (1978). Introduction to Appropriate Technology. Toward a Simpler Life-Style. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press. Daniels, George. (1976). Solar Homes and Sun Heating. New York: Harper and Row. DeMoll, Lane. (Ed.) (1977). Rainbook: Resources for Appropriate Technology. New York: Schocken Books. Feldman, Stephen, and Robert Winshafter. (1980). On the Economics of Solar Energy. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Inglis, David. (1978). Wind Power and Other Energy Options. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Leckie, Jim, Gil Masters, Harry Whitehouse, and Lily Young. (1981). More Other Homes and Garbage. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. Mazria, Edward. (1979). The Passive Solar Energy Book: A Complete Guide to Passive Solar Homes, Greenhouse and Building Design. Emmaus, PA. Rodale Press. Minan, John, and William Lawrence. (1981). Legal Aspects of Solar Energy. Lexington, MA. Lexington Books. Ritchie, James. (1980). Successful Alternative Energy Methods Farmington, MI: Structures Publishing Company. Stoner, Carol. (Ed.) (1974). Producing Your Own Power. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press. Veziroglu, T. Nejat. (Ed.) (1980). Solar Energy and Conservation: Technology, Commercialization, Utilization. New York: Pergamon. ...
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