BUENOS AIRES — It's a school in more ways than one, and a dream come true for the many people who planned and then — in a span of just six weeks — helped build the highly unusual structure.
Uruguay, arguably Latin America's most socially and environmentally conscious country, recently completed its first sustainable school building. Located in the coastal district of Jaureguiberry, some 50 miles east of Montevideo, the school was built using "Earthship techniques" developed by U.S. architect Michael Reynolds.
The technique centers around the use of recycled materials, which in this case meant approximately 2,000 used tires, 5,000 glass bottles, 2,000 square meters of cardboard, and 8,000 aluminum cans, all of which were collected by neighbors and a group of some 200 volunteers from 30 different countries. Overall, some 60% of the materials used were recycled.
The 270-square meter building is powered by solar panels and wind turbines. Perhaps best of all, the 45 children who attend classes there receive an environmental education, which includes how to use "waste" and make good use of resources.
The project first started taking shape about five years ago, when a group of friends sought to put into practice the ideas that Reynolds teaches through his Earthship Biotecture Academy, in Taos, New Mexico.
"We didn't know anything about building," says Martín Esposito, a member of TAGMA, the NGO that coordinated the project. "It was an idea as big as planning a trip to the moon."
The group decided to contact Reynolds directly. The "Garbage Warrior," as the U.S. architect is sometimes known, took an immediate interest in the project and even made a trip to Uruguay, just as the school was nearing completion, to help out with some last-minute details.