in houses that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic
infestation rates drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in
any given month dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores
on cognitive tests went up by more than a third."
-Foreign Policy Magazine
How Did earthenable Get Started?
earthenable was started by six passionate people with a dream to improve health outcomes through simple and affordable solutions. We came together at Stanford's design school, through a class called Design for Extreme Affordability. One of every three projects from the class continues to this day, and we are proud to be incorporating as a nonprofit.
"Kids in houses that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic infestation rates drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in any given month dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores on cognitive tests went up by more than a third." -Foreign Policy Magazine
During the course of Stanford's design for extreme affordability class, we traveled to Rwanda to understand how sub-optimal homes affected physical and emotional health outcomes. We were shocked to discover the significant health problems that dirt floors cause. Studies show that simply eliminating a dirt floor from the home results in dramatic reductions in childhood asthma, diarrhea, malnutrition, and parasite infestations. In impoverished children, the cognitive improvements and health benefits of a proper floor are on par with providing nutritional supplements.
We were also shocked to find out how unaffordable other floors are in Rwanda - concrete is upwards of 300 US dollars. Everyone we asked with a dirt floor said they wanted a proper floor but couldn't afford it.
Uma's home had a dirt floor, which turned muddy as many puddles formed due to rain seeping up from the ground.
It then became our mission to find a way to floor Rwanda. And it turns out the solution was right in our own backyard! Earthen flooring has experienced a revival in the western United States, with many sustainability oriented home-owners refining the technique to install modern earthen floors in their homes. These floors are easy to clean, abrasion-resistant, and beautiful. All we had to do was find a way to adapt this for Rwanda.
A modern earthen floor in Portland, Oregon, Courtesy of Joshua McMahon
In the United States, earthen floors are made by hand with several layers of earthen materials, without the need for industrial tools, and sealed by a layer of linseed oil.
One reason earthen floors have not reached Rwanda is that linseed oil is very expensive. We have addressed this by developing a way to chemically convert soybean oil and sunflower seed oil (both affordable and locally produced) into a material that behaves just like linseed oil, and is also more environmentally friendly. Our newly developed oil can be produced with mostly locally available material.
The other reason earthen floors have not been adopted is that people don't know the technical (but easy-to-learn) skills to installing high quality floors. earthenable brings modern earthen flooring to the poorest Rwandans by bridging this gap in training.
Where's My Money Going?
We have already completed two pilot projects in Rwanda with great results. We plan to scale in June 2014 to many more communities. Until then, we need $20,000 in order to fund:
- Additional pilot floors to continue to test, learn, and refine our product and training process
- Research and development of our new drying oil, and initial manufacturing (with two chemistry students from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology or KIST)
- Testing ways to make earthen floors dry quickly to prevent displacing families from their homes for too long (with a recent graduate from the KIST engineering program)
- Solidifying materials sourcing and supply chain support
- Hiring a trainer from Rwanda to conduct earthen flooring workshops across the country
- Trips to Rwanda for our co-founders to oversee additional pilots
"Kids in houses
that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic infestation rates
drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in any given month
dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores on cognitive
tests went up by more than a third."
-Foreign Policy Magazine
Our campaign will promote a simple technology that can potentially make a huge impact on the health of Rwandans, all serving a massive unmet demand for affordable flooring. We hope you will join us in enabling Rwanda to have healthier homes.
More information on the dramatic health improvements attainable by a proper floor are available here: UC Berkeley's assessment of Mexico's "Piso Firme" program
Other Ways You Can Help
If you know partners or organizations who may be interested in working with us, please contact us at email@example.com! We appreciate your support!
The original music created for this video is by Carlos Cabrera.
Photographs of modern high-end earthen floors were generously provided by Joshua McMahon. Joshua's earthen masterpieces can be found at http://www.dioxua.com/
Special thanks to the MASS Design Group and Earthen Hand Natural Building who have supported us along the way.