http://cecu.co.uk/ecolodge/Spring2019

Updates on the Ecolodge Building from mid March 2019

If you have not read our earlier “Story of the Building Site” which covers the general principles of our design (November 2018  – March 2019) go here.

An impression of the main courtyard

 

So much has happened in the last month that I have not had time to write updates! Here is an abbreviated summary of the latest progress together with some photos and videos. We have done a huge amount already: all foundations, sub floors, walls of all the rooms and the huge project of external walls around the acre plot as well as the items described below.

The Garden Volunteers From 12-19th March Jane was supported by 3 volunteers helping with the garden which involved designing; taking cuttings; sowing seeds; buying pots, herbs and trees; and even making a model. It includes a variety of new ideas including creating a nesting place for storks (they seem to like being near the town walls); asking the builders to leave wooden pegs in some of the holes left by the scaffolding in the rammed earth walls so that we can attach wires for plants to climb. Huge thanks to Jenny, Trish and Christine for their excellent company and input.

The garden team: Trish, Jenny and Christine

We have sourced or/and ordered and/or taken delivery of lots of beautiful materials and plants and seen other natural materials being made and used, primarly these:

Plants:

  • a wide range of herbs, some potted in January, others in March are growing fast; these include lemon grass, lemon verbena & lemon balm and many more, destined mainly for the big courtyard with a fountain and pond in the middle that will adjoin the kitchen, dining room and activity room- you will be able to help yourself to fresh sprigs of herbs to make tea.
  • grapevines for parts of the west facing and the east facing  boundary walls, the latter being adjacent to the access road for fire engines and vehicles, where only plants that will grow snug to the wall will fit. There are several varieties, but the majority are the luscious muscat grapes. The fruit will ripen really well against the earth walls that will retain the sun’s warmth overnight
  • although the majority of the plants will be to feed guests (both wildlife and human!) we recognise the importance of including colourful flowering plants especially in the early days before the bigger trees are established. Amongst the ones we have bought are Clivia (see photo below), Bougainvillea, Bignonia, Plumbago, various succulents and we have seeds ready to sow of Morning Glory, Nasturtium and Washingtonia palms (the ones that reflect the sunlight exquisitively
  • we have sourced and planted some high quality grafted trees: carob, olive and argan from a local specialist nursery
  • the other trees with edible fruits we have planted so far include almond, apricot, cedrat (a citrus with huge leaves renowned its scent with a link with local history & the Jewish community of Taroudant), fig, date palm, pomegranate, quince, loquat and guava.
  • Clivia: this is actually a plant at home which thrives in my “garden room”

    Olive grove behind the kitchen taken in early March when the capping (chapeau) on the wall and plastering was incomplete. There are now grapevines growing here too!

Stone:

  • a beautiful camel-coloured fossiliferous marble from High Atlas Mountains for the counter tops in the bathrooms
  • a stunning black and white fossiliferous marble from the Anti Atlas Mountains for table tops
  • a creamy grey coloured flagstone from the High Atlas Mountains for paths in the garden

    Flagstone for garden paths
  • Marble for bathroom counters
  • Durable granite worktop for kitchen
    Design for bathrooms?

    Black marble for table tops

Earth:

Having had difficulty sourcing good earth from elsewhere, we decided to excavate more from the site. Our earth is really good quality – it has been analysed by a lab as well as our experienced rammed earth builders. In what will be the main garden area we now have a huge hole. We shall back fill with some of the earth that is not suitable for building.

Mixing earth plaster

The earth plastering has been done beautifully. I asked about the recipe & the told me the secret is the finely cut straw, the sieved mud and the special lime from Marrakech. Then cure the mix for 3 weeks before use. The swallows kept stealing it to make nests too!

Delivery of finely chopped straw for plaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrying the plaster in a bucket made from a recycled tyre

 

 

Applying plaster to the boundary wall’s chapeau

 

The walls and windows.

Now completed on all the bedrooms and almost complete on the remaining buildings (April 21st).

 

The wide reveals of the bedrooms doors and windows will all allow light to stream into the rooms from morning to evening

 

The ring beam of reinforced concrete is installed on top of the earth wall of the bedrooms

 

Window & door frames arrive. We will use a microporous UV resistant paint to protect them

 

The first beams are installed – you see the shadow cast by them

The earth builders are a marvel to watch as they gracefully carry buckets of earth on their heads, climbing up planks onto the higher “banches” (each the depth of the boards seen in the photo below). They use these as the frame that 2 of them are standing in to ram the earth into. Then they use scaffolding bars to support  the next banche.

One of the earth builders with his family team- such superb posture

Then there is the internal walls which will mainly be done in 10 or 20 cm hollow concrete or terracotta blocks, the former made down the road by the builder. We need to use these rather than earth sometimes because they are so much thinner. Earth walls are all 40 cms which is the ideal thickness for them to collect heat by day and radiate it back into the rooms at night. To clarify we need thin interior walls to, for example, give space for a desk in each bedroom. Oddly enough, despite the fact that the plot is huge (about half a hectare/one acre) we are not allowed to build on:

  1. on the widest part near the town walls or
  2. on  7 metres of the width of the plot (3 metres on the west side & 4 metres on the east side, the latter to allow fire engines to enter)

Furthermore our sustainable design (which won’t require electricity for air conditioning or heating) requires that the rooms face due south so that we can control room temperature. Hence rooms will be comfortable throughout the year, and the buildings must be at least 6 metres apart so that the sun penetrates at the winter solstice, when it’s most needed. The floors will be darkish coloured to absorb heat when the sun streams in in the winter.

Bathrooms with be 4 metres long x 1.5 metres wide, with a separate toilet which will be lit and ventilated by a “solar chimney”. There will be a spacious showering area with a tall window with frosted glass adjacent to it.

Walls separating 2 adjacent bathrooms (20 cm thick) and the bathroom from the large built in wardrobe

 

Flooring

We have ordered the sustainably-produced, warm, hard wearing marmoleum (the modern equivalent of lino) in a beautiful marbled colour (see below) for the big activity room. For the bedrooms turquoise or dark grey tiles to go with green and orange or red colour schemes respectively. Then deep red tiles for the dining room……….

Solar thermal heating & grey water

This might seem like a strange combination. Read on to see why!

We are delighted to have sourced a newly launched solar thermal panel named SUNPAD with an integrated tank and with a “landscape” shape (unlike the ugly ones that you so often see with a portrait shape & a cylindrical tank above).  These are produced by a very good Austrian company, Greenotech, who have 25% of the market and who have an outlet in Agadir named Casatherm. Apart from the timing of the launch coinciding exactly with our research the other coincidence is that the logo for the Sunpad is almost identical to the one we have used since 1997 – a gecko!

We use those revolutionary Ecocamel shower heads which everyone loves – they give a strong shower but only use 50% of the water of a conventional shower head and a fraction of the water used by the fashionable rain shower heads. We will therefore have plenty of hot water, with a 150 litre tank for each pair of bathrooms. For those rare days when there is not enough sun, we will have a switch that allows us to boost the water temperature using electricity if a suitable temperature has not been achieved by late afternoon.  I have recently spoken with the company’s agent in the UK who was very helpful; he suggested we use timers to control when and at what water temperature the electric power kicks in.

The revolutionary Sunpad solar thermal collector

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then our builder Mohamed came up with the brilliant idea of making the roof of each pair of bathrooms a little lower (ceilings will still be almost 3 m high) so that the solar panel serving each pair of bathrooms will be hidden from sight. Also rainwater will drain into this lower section of roof and then, together with the grey water from the bathrooms, will pass into the gravel trenches where, in the anoxic environment, the water will be cleaned and eventually gathered into the pond in the main courtyard. Small fish which consume the larvae of mosquitoes will keep the pond healthy. The water will feed the irrigation system for our plants which will mostly be deep rooting perennials.

Wood

We have located some really good cypress for beams and have used much already split for the capping (“chapeau”) on the walls that surround the plot. Cypress has been widely grown as a wind break around citrus groves for the region is so famous. Many old groves have been abandoned (often due to water shortages) and hence the windbreaks are redundant. New groves have been planted to replace them in parts where water supply is more reliable.

We have found a company that does sprung floors so our dance/yoga space will have a really forgiving floor which is very rare in Morocco.

We have just started to make ceilings in a traditional way, known as tataoui, whereby designs are made using split wood or bamboo. We are using more durable split cypress to create fishbone and diamond designs.

Tataoui Ceiling: one side of what will become a fishbone pattern

Miscellaneous

We have sourced:

  • Some richly coloured red/orange themed fabric which we shall use for furnishings. We have had to buy more already because we have had so many people ask if they could but the shopping bags we made from it. We therefore know that many guests love this fabric, because we don’t even offer these bags for sale!
  • Circular ceramic washbasins
  • Copper washbasins – we will only use a couple of these in the “public toilets” because copper is a precious resource better used for other purposes
  • Some expensive mature date palm & Washingtonia palms
Washbasins

 

Copper washbasins

Videos

We have uploaded a variety of videos taken in mid March which are a joy to watch to see how skillfully the men work.

 

Plastering with earth, straw and lime mix

Laying the wall footings

Plastering the chapeau of the walls

This video gives a good overview of the north end of the site, including the earth quarry but since you are looking at the north side of the bedrooms, you’ll see no windows! Notice that there are cracks in the

 

Bathrooms & Disabled Facilities

 

Demo of position of toilet

I’m reminded that we will be creating one room “Papaya” with disabled facilities, which we are not obliged to do unless we have more rooms, but I feel it is important to offer. We have our first disabled guest, Kate, booked in for next year and she is helping me with the design.

Looking across what will be the main courtyard: imagine a fountain in the centre with lovely smells of plants in the courtyard and from the kitchen (facing you on this photo). Dining room and activity room on the right of the photo. For scale the courtyard is about 14 metres across.
Showers and toilets for garden area and laundry ready for the roofs to go on.
Massive, smooth trunks of cypress trees about 5 metres long are being used for the roofs of the 12 en suite bedrooms. Felled from an old abandoned orange grove.
Our vines are settling in nicely. They are being grown against the outer wall in places where they will grown under the 25 cms wide chapeau of the wall, so they won’t interfere with traffic. For example along the eastern edge where we have left a 4 metre wide road in case fire engines ever need to come. One thing for sure is that there is very little to catch fire and that fire exits are on every room, since all rooms are at ground floor level and open directly onto the gardens.
The back wall of bedroom Carob had to be curved because we could not build with a certain distance of the historic town walls. They use adobe (mud bricks) instead of rammed early for this part because rammed earth is made in a square cornered frame.
Internal plastering is continuing apace. This is the first layer. It dries to a beautiful colour similar to “cafe au lait”so we shall probably not paint it.
Facade of the block of bedrooms closest to the communal facilities. Notice wooden beams for lintels and a different design to other bedroom facades. On this facade and the grand facade of the dining room and activity room we will use the traditional design with shutters being hung on the outside wall with a “pin” above. Hard to explain!.
View along side wall of dining room and kitchen. A healthy looking loquat is growing beside the wall. It will bear huge early white flowers – great nectar for bees – and the apricot-coloured and shaped fruit that is rarely seen abroad because it bruises easily in transit. Beyond is the olive grove behind the kitchen – for Fatima’s hens!
Imagine the 8 arches we will build here (once the 3 metre wide corridor is no longer used for delivery lorries) and the view of the 20 metre long pool in the garden beyond!
The large south facing windows and doors of the 8 metre wide & deep activity room. Again notice that parts of the wall are built in adobe (earth) bricks because the side & shape of the space here made it difficult to do with rammed earth.
The cedrat tree is growing lots of new leaves. It will smell delightful, being the source of a perfume of that name. It was introduced into the region by the Jewish Community. Jews were heavily involved in the making of jewellery in Taroudant, for which the town is famous. In fact the large Jewish cemetery is immediately beside us (on the other side of the town wall) so we have quiet neighbours

Next – electricity supply will be connected soon. So far, apart from a chain saw, everything has been done by “human power”. I imagine a similar celebration to the one we had on the day water was connected (at great cost because there is, quite rightly, a tax related to the area of land you own. A pity they didn’t know about our low water use plans and the grey water recycling or we may have had a discount!)

My Visit

I’m going to be in Morocco for 4 weeks from the 25th April until the 21st May, an unusually long time for me to be away during the growing season when my garden and allotment calls. However, Martyn in the office and Brian my new lodger will take good care of my cat. Here he is saying “You’re not off to Morocco again, are you?” as I left in March. Notice I have a marmoleum floor!

How to make a donation for the dance floor or the trees: please Contact Us with the title “trees” or “dance floor” & we will send details. Thank you!

For the next stage of the story please visit the the May June 2019 page. If you would like to read our earlier “Story of the Building Site” November 2018  – March 2019  go here.