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Principles of appropriate technology
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Appropriate technology basics
What makes "appropriate technology" is determined by context. Therefore, none of these are absolute - they are simply common features that make a technology "appropriate" to a world where many suffer a lack of basic necessities, a lack of money, and lack of equipment and technological expertise. They are also technologies that have a gentle impact on the earth:
- Small, as in Small is Beautiful. Small often means affordable and adaptable, and puts the control in the hands of the users. Small also means local, which offers benefits in resilience.
- Few moving parts - less to go wrong (similar to the KISS principle, & the Durable, efficient, stoïc-principle ).
- Can be built locally
- Made with locally available materials
- Easily repaired, by local people with locally available equipment.
- Suitably disposable - locally and not polluting in it's disposal or recycling
The source of the technology doesn't matter much - it matters much more that it is appropriate. While the source of a technology sometimes becomes an issue in discussions of technology for international development, technology from anywhere can have uptake and make an impact, as evidenced by the mobile phone.
Some additional practical considerations are:
- Using parts in the design that are already mass produced and that are globally or widely available reduces the cost a lot. For example, tyres that are already manufactured for automobiles are frequently used as plant pots in permaculture designs, ...
- Reducing the amount of material needed is also useful. Dimensioning ie metal parts to only the thickness as required for the structure's rigidity, allows to produce more parts and will thus reduce the cost.
- Design using assimilationW of several similar devices, wherever possible. This could allow you to combine the best of several worlds, hereby improving the design.
The design should also take into account how it will be built. Ie will it be built by people that actually understand how the object they are building works, or do they not fully understand it ? Designing something from scratch (bottom-up approach) is a lot more difficult than just piecing together a set of parts (top-down approach). An example of a top-down approach is what William Kamkwamba W did when building his wind turbine (he used commercial parts). However in practice, it often yields little efficient machines/objects. The only upside (besides being less difficult to do) is that it is also less labour-intensive, and often cheaper (ie parts can be attained from local salvage sites (ie junkyards, municipal waste sites, ...) Designing something yourself, and having each part purpose-built ensures that optimal efficiency can be attained (ie in the wind turbine example, the dynamo/alternator would need to be sized according to the bladed rotors).
A method in between both is the use of kits or manuals. Kits are a sort of top-down approach (uses pre-made components), yet as the components are all pre-made specifically for a design (rather than coming from different devices) it still yields a efficient design.
- Liter of Light (article and video about soda bottle skylights) How a liter bottle of water set in a roof brightens lives.
Every context is unique, but certain categories to be considered include: