Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Meetings 3.4.2014 & 7.4.2014


We've had two meetings after the Mid-review and our final goals are finally starting to take shape. We have divided our group to two, the first focusing on water solutions and the other on biogas production and composting. We think that this division will help us to concentrate to what we want to provide to the Rock Village and also utilize our individual strengths to the fullest. Me and Axel are in the biogas group and Konrad, Ville and Vesa are in the water group. Sasha will do the visualization of our work and also provide some down to earth opinions and facts to us engineers. He is also interested in providing some points on how to establish a working communication plan for the future of Rock Village. As Konrad wrote last time we're going to focus on simple solutions that are easily realized in the first phase of Rock Village.

The water group is focusing on grey water usage, rain water collection and irrigation of the gardens and the trees. Ville has found some good articles about ecological villages and will look more deeply into them. The big questions now are how big the gardens are going to be and if the grey water can be used for the irrigation unfiltered. The biogas group is going to make calculations of the methane production potential and do some research on the composting. Both groups should meet and/or talk individually and try to finalize their goals. After that we can start distributing the work for the final report/presentation.

Last Monday (7.4) we started to talk about the final form of our work. We all agreed that a written report is necessary but we also want to create something more tangible and practical for people that do not have engineering backgrounds. Our idea is to do benchmarking for our solutions, produce computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and simple sketches of our solutions, and make something like a helpful guide booklet. We also want be as open as possible so we will explain why we have discarded some solutions, such as wind and solar power (they are not feasible for the first phase). We hope that these measures will help to bring our work to a more understandable form.

We are going to meet on next Monday and hopefully everyone will be present then. On Monday from 11.10-12.00 there is also a project clinic where we will be interviewed by the organizers of the course. Vesa, Sasha and I have told that we're going to be there but I hope everyone else finds the time for the clinic.

See you on Monday!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mid-review and our revised goals

Hello everyone,

The Mid-review presentation went okay but not great in any sense. We were only 3 guys (Ville, Sakari and Konrad) plus Aino present. We fortunately had some time to discuss both before and after the actual presentation-session and we decided that we need to take some action now. It is not important that we immediately start producing text for our final report but we definitely need to come up with a clear focus and decide on what our final goal with the project will be. This is why we decided to have a bunch of meetings in the upcoming 2 weeks. On Monday the 14th we will need to present our final scope to Matleena and Olli so it is crucial that we could have as many meetings as possible before this. The meeting times are discussed in the mails sent to the participants.

All of us present on Monday got something out of seeing the other groups’ presentations and we already discussed changing our scope in accordance with what we learned. The main change would be to get rid of all high-flying ideas and focus on one or a few simple, achievable and cheap solutions that easily could be applied on a small scale and then expanded when necessary. What we have discussed so far is rainwater-collection both from roofs and in separate structures, treatment of graywater for reuse, small-scale biogas production, composting and maybe irrigation systems.

Rainwater collection from roofs is a very simple but also useful solution. As it would be integrated to the buildings themselves it is a good example of a phase 1 solution for us that is as applicable to one unit as it would be to the whole Rock Village. Reuse of graywater requires the use of certain hygienic products free of toxins etc. and some sort of simple treatment but this should be easily manageable. The water collected through these two systems would most probably not cover the needs of the Rock Village, it’s gardens and tree-plantations but it could cover a significant proportion of these needs.

As long as there are some animals present at the Rock Village small scale biogas reactors would be a sustainable, cheap and simple solution to produce gas for cooking. A larger system would require many inhabitants so we feel that we should focus on a small scale alternative and be happy about the fact that a small portion of the energy needs could be covered. The digested manure could be used as fertilizer but in addition to this a composting station would be a very simple and cheap way to produce better quality fertilizer for the gardens and agriculture. All of the ideas mentioned above are connected to gardening and agriculture and could therefore be presented as a system.

Concentrating on these kinds of simple solutions means that our plans have a much greater chance of getting implemented in the Rock Village and we should have the professional expertise to make the sufficient planning steps. If we want to focus on making the Rock Village a model for the surrounding farmers and villagers these easily applicable solutions are a much better idea then something technical and expensive such as wind- or solar-power. 

Our next meeting is set for Thursday 3.4, 11.00 at Kaisatalo. Hope as many as possible of you can make it. If it looks like you’ll have a problem making it to the 3 meetings we’ve planned and discussed in the mails then please have a look at the Doodle and suggest one for yourself!

Have a pleasant day,

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 17: Two scales in the project planning

This Monday in Design Factory I(Sasha) have  found Konrad, Axel and Sakari. A day before we got letters from Aino and Nassib, so we have had new data to talk about. Absolutely fantastic amount of water needed for trees (80L/day/tree) was mentioned in a letter, and we took off talking of this one and not being able to match this number (for the reference, 1500 trees were planted recently on the Rock Village perimeter) needed for irrigation and permanent desire of planners to engage in using gray water (drain from household use) for irrigation. With the average consumption of 150L per day per capita (taken from the previous Aalto reports on situation on Lebanon), this will make very little sense. Later Maria El-Solh discredited 80L/day requirement, when asked via email. She claimed that currently the trees are fed by the rain and later will have to be irrigated twice a week during the summer. We still will be waiting to receive correct information on this


Initial shock led us to a very interesting twist in our objectives. Previously we were looking into the small scale solutions orienting on the Phase 1 of development. Now this case gave us a new angle of vision. Phase-1-Living-sattlement is actually small, however Phase-1-Farming can be already quite significant. Therefore since now we have decided to treat them separately and have a reasonably simple take on the living matters, while considering potential crop farming in a larger scale. 

We keep popularization of sustainable practices as a target desired by the client. From here and restrictions above topics we are looking into this week are as follows.

LIVING Phase 1
(objective: simple and cheap solutions that may seem attractive to other farmers)
Energy solution will, most likely, be a typical generator, what we would like to look into now, is whether it makes sense to install few solar panels on the building rooftops (Konrad). Current prices and technologies might make is quite possible and the benefit of those will be easy to convey to the neighbors.

Bio-gas mini-plant is a feasible suggestion (Sakari) and we will elaborate on numbers that it involve. At the moment the key questions here are: what kinds of cattle/farm-animals are there going to be, in which amounts and in which conditions. It makes big difference for the future of the plant whether there is one sheep or three, whether they are free-roaming in the field or kept indoors. For example, in case where animals spend day time roaming in the filed, overall productivity of the plant drops by 50%, which might make keeping it not any beneficial for the household.

Suggestion on personnel recruitment in the Rock Village development can be drawn at this moment (Sasha). For example, productivity of our work could have been a lot higher if we could communicate to a professional working with technical questions. It does not have to be a person working for the project full time, but someone aware enough of the case and having dedicated time to feed us with data.  Quite many things become literally impossible in our work due to the lack of information on the case.

(objective: high yields, high quality product)

Obtaining independence on water resource is still a big topic, therefore we keep looking into options. We received a call saying that considering both rainwater collection and groundwater use is the optimal case. Suggestions for both will largely depend on the scale, now we will present everything we have in an upcoming mid-report (Vesa).  To draw the assumptions on energy required for pumping the water we need to know where the water is pumped from, where does it go to and what are the heights characteristics of the landscape. 

Estimates of required irrigation need for various crops can be done by Axel and Konrad as well. They will go for using UN FAO data and other similar resources available online to make plan on the book values. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 10: Promising Findings and Elaborating on it.

We were dearly missing Vesa and Konrad on March 10th meeting, other than this had a board full of notes again.  In a planning curve after few talks with Nassib and a few turns of discussion we set a new objective that might sound like:

Provide technical guidelines for the Phase 1 of Rock Village construction with 1 family inhabiting the area. Final aim is an involving way to present concepts of eco-conscious and sustainable farming on the exemplary case of 1 family farming.  

With these two objectives on our mind we set following directions for the result:

1. Smallest possible biogas plant
Sakari has managed  to find an example from 2002, where Indian family has nearly managed to cover the cooking gas production utilizing bio waste from their cattle. Six chicken and one pig have produced just enough manure (aka "animal poop") to feed 610L gas plant reactor (daily need for water input 11L). Resulting with 0,699 m3/day of gas used in the kitchen (with a daily need about 0,850 m3 - Not too bad!). 1L of water takes about 0,04m3 of gas to boil, for example. 

In fact, using anaerobic digester plant for direct gas production is not the most efficient way of utilizing it's capacity. More reasonable solutions come with use of the plant to generate energy and heat. However in the small-scale case the input of the manure might be not enough to sustain the energy level. When does it become efficient? This is one of the questions we will look into. Sakari promised to produce an Exel with the book-values on animal manure production that can calculate how many animals and of which kind would produce enough material for the plant to grow. 

Requirements to begin with seem pretty basic: container for manure, container for the gas, a little batch of other equipment and water added regularly. However there are specific conditions that the plant would need, such as permanent temperature about 30-40C. Given set up of 6 chicken and 1 pig was enough to keep the plant running which keeps us optimistic about the possibility to suggest it for the Phase 1 area development. Some agriculture waste can as well be used to run the plant, but this input has its limits and will not be the main one. Number of productivity vary a lot in real life and can not be fully predicted mathematically. 

To run the digester plant you need a special sort of seed sludge (anaerobic bacteria). There is a functioning reactor in Beirut and getting in touch with them Rock Village may acquire a scoop of the material sufficient for the stage 1 little container. 

2. Use of grey water in irrigation
Nassib has mentioned this topic as particularly desired one. Ville will look into the filtering techniques used in Finland, as they seem to function pretty well. Vesa should take a look into small scale grey water irrigation solutions. 

The very basic idea of the grey water reuse system is a basin connected to the kitchen drain and collecting the dumped water. 

3. Solar panels
It was made clear to us that self-sustaining is not the aim of the project. What matters is to provide a spectrum of techniques and concepts that could illustrate local farmers the opportunity of running households in the way not harmful for environment. As solar panels are getting cheaper we thought that Konrad and Axel may take a look into the small scale solutions in this field. Quite possibly we can find a lot of data in previous Aalto studies on this account, but the situation in this field is changing so fast, that more relevant studies could have been made. 

Nassib explained that since the area is still under the stress of uneasy political tension any big energy plant is seen as a potential problem. Solution we propose should be more on the household level. 

for tasks outlined above

17.03 — studies on the small scale functionality should be presented to the group on the next meeting
24.03 — before this group meeting we should forward our mid-way report to Nassib to check if we are on the right way and hear more insight in response. Feedback would be good to get before 28.04 so we can react fast enough before the review we have in the class.
31.03 —Mid-review in the class.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Meeting 5.3.2014, Requirements of Rock Village project phase 1.

The spring is coming to Finland! And it’s time to get our project really going on! Today the meeting took place in Design Factory as usual at the reasonable time of 11 am.  Sadly Sakari and Konrad couldn’t make it, but in my point of view the meeting was fruitful.  Sasha told us about his Skype conversation with Nassib which revealed others the lack of funding in the Rock Village project and the fact that nothing much has really been done yet.

This in mind we decided that we’ve done enough planning and that it is time for good old fashioned research work. Our main objective is to start the designing from the very beginning: the one family moving in and living in the Rock Village site. For this we listed the basic requirements for one family living and cultivating land. In this very early stage we would use the most simple and easiest solutions available. For example for energy supply we thought of a generator and for water supply a big tanker. These solutions could easily be later replaced by more sustainable solutions ( for example a well and small scale solar energy) Now it is important to get people living in the village site and start implementing the project in practice! This also helps with the funding since all the investments are not made in a single batch. 

In order to get the phase one started we still need some basic info. What kind of houses will be built for families? How will the water be dispensed? Also for agriculture we need to know some numbers about the need of irrigation and energy usage. We assigned tasks so Sasha would find out about the houses, Axel about the irrigation, Vesa about the energy use and I will start tackling the possibilities of small scale biogas solutions (plan is to use  biogas for at least cooking.)  


Some of Sasha's beautiful notes on the meeting


Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24: New week — new info. Skyping Nassib.

Today early morning I have Skyped Nassib with the key questions we have outlined the last time. We have spent about half an hour time in which seeds for common understanding were planted. Previously the office was busy planning a bike ride in support of the project awareness. However the ride was postponed till March because of the recent car explosion in Beirut that gave uneasy mood to people around. Nevertheless the work on Rock Village is happening and 1200 trees were recently planted in the area. (Nassib promised to provide us with the map showing the tree formations).

We begun the conversation talking of how far has shaping of the network of farmers gone now. It appears that due to the lack of funding not much is happening in this area at the moment. To establish the contacts Rock Village plans to hire agriculture engineer, social worker and an administrator. Aside from the salaries the expenses for telephone costs and car transportations should be covered for those workers to be able to work in the area. As soon as Rock Village can allocate finance for this task the work will proceed faster. As it was mentioned earlier on the first phase one family moves into the area of the future Rock Village to establish and exemplary household that may provide some basic needs sustainably and prove the need and vision of it to the local community on personal case. As the project grows and machines for processing are ready to run - purchases from local households will begin.

The aimed objective for the farmer's network is clear. Rock Village hopes to involve up to 300 households with an estimate of 200 tons of grains annual circulation in the process in the end. Focus is on the small farms (under 500m2 of land or 1-5 cattle heads) that will be united in establishing Rock Village production chain. The hope is to learn together to carefully and accurately treat the land and environment while farming. As well, there is no system at the moment that would be regularly collecting the product from little farm households, that does not allow them to properly benefit from their product. For example, milk from the cow will not be collected on time and it poses the question of what to do with the excess product. Rock Village plans to develop milk collection and processing in parallel with the grain collection program. For this, in its turn refrigerating and processing power will be needed. Final marketable products could be cheeses and yoghurts.

However main focus of the project is that far revolving around grains cultivating and processing. We have only briefly touched the agricultural aspect in a talk. What is clear by now is that farming will happen largely in winter (with planting in November) so that most of the irrigation needs will be met with natural rains. However even this is not reliable enough and this year's winter for example was rather dry.

Water resources remain key topic in the conversation. System able to collect grey water for irrigation is brought by Nassib as one of the most desired elements on the Phase 1 of building. Currently the well in nearby village is providing up to 80m3 of water per hour. How much of this will be able to Rock Village for obtain is an open question now. Outcome will finalize according to the public relation and authorities perception of the project needs. Alternative plan for supporting water needs in Rock Village is buying a truck with water reservoir and pulling water pumped from the river (7 km away). The need for water in Rock Village can be quite massive in the end since all the grain processing will take place in their facilities.  Processing cycle includes following stages (at least these if not more): cleaning of the grains, disinfecting the grains (that happens in a tightly closed place with chemicals), sorting by size (possible, yet not essential),  lifting to the boiler, boiling (500 kg per time), drying on the rooftop, crush, drying again, packaging. Few important aspects for sustainable planning can be the fact that boiler water is drained, for example. As well separate industrial machines needed (on many of the stages) that will require space and power. Production area is not same with living area of the Rock Village inhabitants.

Another area of consideration is waste collection. Initial plan for the Phase 1 of Rock Village project was to call 10-20 housewives in the nearby village for kitchen waste collection and establish a compost plant in a Rock Village household. Aalto team was not entirely optimistic about complex composting system payback on the early stage of development. However providing exact numbers and clear examples could still help Rock Village planning the system that grows by time. People in the area seem to be well concerned about waste collection in general. Details are little on this account, but the waste collection factory is going to be build and the money for it are allocated already from 30 villages.

Lebanese University partners have had presented their 5 projects of Rock Village possible architecture last week. No preference was given to a single solid project, however the work done was impressive and final decisions will be pulled from all of the projects. We should get in contact with University on our own and obtain their studies as they have made some field explorations and talked to locals in the villages. We have gotten the soil report from Nassib (however we will still need a person reading Arabic to help us with the translation).

For further numbers and technical details Nassib recommend two institutions working in the area. The first is LARI, Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute that provided soil study seen above. Their email can be found from the bottom of the page and more information online. Another institution to get in touch with is ICARDA, Sustainable Agriculture for the Dry Areas, who has the reports on local possibilities in harmless farming. We should get in touch with these organizations to support our study with technical details.  

As out trip to Lebanon currently seems to be cancelled, we have to establish another system of communicating Rock Village now. Nassib agreed to Skype again next Monday morning, which gives us enough time to end up with more questions.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meeting in 17th February 2014

After the Valentine's days meeting we agreed to meet again on this Monday morning, before submitting our project document. We already had people missing because they had other errands. Axel was travelling and Konrad got sick. So the people present in the meeting were me, Sakari, Ville and Sasha. Aino was there too to supervise and providing advice.

The first thing that came up in discussion was the planned field trip. It was already known that I can't participate in it, due to personal reasons. But now Konrad also wasn't going and Sakari was uncertain. Whether the field trip will take place, remains to be seen.

At the beginning in the meeting it was only me, Sakari and Aino. While waiting for Ville and Sasha, Aino showed us an introduction video about Rock Village. The video was actually quite useful, as it provided us information regarding the Rock Village area. From that, we began to discuss about the climate in the area. We had already determined that if the village can utilize wind energy, we'd need to determine the average wind speeds. It was also interesting to learn the average altitude of the area when looked from sea level: approx. 550 meters.

When Sasha and Ville arrived, Sakari had to leave for other errands. After that we began to discuss our project for the Rock Village. To get a more clear understanding about what we want to focus on right now, we brainstormed a mindmap. In that mindmap we asked ourselves questions concerning our project. In the end, we got this kind of mindmap.

Through this picture, we decided to focus now on the network of farmers and providing agricultural solutions for the Phase 1 of the Rock Village project. In phase 1 the plan is to settle one family to the area with means to handle their own farming. We already mentioned some of this in our project document.

Finally, we agreed to meet next time on Wednesday, 19th February. Our plan was to get in contact with Professor Nassib with Skype, so that we could ask questions about Rock Village directly from him. After all, he has been working for Rock Village for years.