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"Sustainable human settlements development
is one of the biggest challenges of our times."
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, World Sustainable Building Conference, Tokyo 2005

In 2005 the project studio BASEhabitat – building in developing countries – was set up in the University of Art, Linz/Austria. BASEhabitat stands for basics and beauty, architecture and aesthetics, social and sustainable, energy and education. BASE does not mean specialisation but the development and expansion of the existing classical and comprehensive study of architecture. It represents a step into the reality of life, into the reality of politics and society. Today we can erect buildings in which no outside energy is needed to provide a pleasant internal climate, buildings that use the resources of their location rather than destroying them, that enrich the environment and offer people new challenges and new work. To achieve this we do not need more responsibility, nor must we restrict ourselves or do without something. All that is necessary is additional intelligence, more teamwork, sensuality, joy and beauty. There is no difference in this respect between the "rich north" and the "poor south" of this world.

In our university passive house technology and the use of solar energy are core elements of the curriculum. In regions with limited access to public infrastructure, where the means of providing adequate heating or cooling are lacking, this knowhow can be particularly fruitful. We regard knowledge about how to make use of alternative energy sources - an achievement of highly industrialised countries such as Austria - as a particularly valuable export commodity to communities whose most pressing wish - to achieve more prosperity and a higher standard of living - generally means that problems of climate change and shortage of resources are ignored. Therefore, in all BASEhabitat projects we have, in conjunction with specialists, worked out concepts for the passive use of solar energy, and tested their effectiveness by means of computer simulations. Using intelligent roof constructions and thermally insulating wall materials as well as by positioning windows and the means of providing shade in a carefully considered way we can achieve a comfortable indoor climate that needs neither air conditioning in summer nor heating in winter.

The rediscovery and use of endogenous potential is a precondition for sustainable development. Therefore in all BASEhabitat projects we see to it that local materials, as unprocessed as possible, are used. The aim is to revive the art of building with locally available materials and to place it on a new level. Using building materials from the immediate surroundings allows the people involved greater independence while also strengthening the local economy. In addition traditional building forms and techniques are used in building with these materials and this existing latent knowledge should be activated and increased. "die architektur", together with experts and skilled workers, searches on site for methods of construction that are appropriate to local materials and techniques and that, at the same time, can meet high demands with regards to comfort and aesthetic delight.

The BASEhabitat projects are created within a sensitive social environment that requires special attention. They could not be successful without the acceptance and sympathy of the local population. Our intention to provide houses as prototypes to be copied requires careful integration in the community. We achieve this primarily by involving as many people as possible in the building process: these are above all the users who will live in the buildings and who should shape them according to their needs, the local craftspeople who introduce valuable skills and can transmit acquired knowledge, the men and women from the neighbourhood for whom we are short-term employers, and also the businesses and traders from the area who supply us. We want to involve all the people from the surroundings of the projects in a mutual process of exchange and to gather their joy and creative energy in focusing on our common goal.