July 9 - Frustrated by the noise of trans-Atlantic airplanes flying low overhead, a school near London's Heathrow airport has come up with an innovative solution - superadobe structures originally designed for use in earthquake zones. Jim Drury went for a look.
Playtime can be difficult for pupils of Hounslow Heath Primary School. Positioned directly below the Heathrow flightpath, the noise can be unbearable, says headteacher Kathryn Harper-Quinn. SOUNDBITE) (English) KATHRYN HARPER-QUINN, HEADTEACHER AT HOUNSLOW HEATH INFANT AND NURSERY SCHOOL, SAYING: "The noise is relentless when the flights are on the southern runway. They cross every 60 to 90 seconds and during that time we lose 30 seconds of an opportunity to be heard." Her pupils agree. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT, PUPIL AT HOUNSLOW HEATH INFANT AND NURSERY SCHOOL, SAYING: "It's really noisy and it hurts your ears." SOUNDBITE (English) OWEDA, PUPIL AT HOUNSLOW HEATH INFANT AND NURSERY SCHOOL, SAYING: "When I'm trying to talk with my friends it disturbs me." SOUNDBITE (English) ELLA, PUPIL AT HOUNSLOW HEATH INFANT AND NURSERY SCHOOL, SAYING: "When the plane comes you can't just catch what the teacher's saying." But Harper-Quinn has found a solution through Julian Faulkner, founder of a company called Small Earth that designs and builds inexpensive superadobe shelters for earthquake and emergency zones. The shelters are made from woven polypropylene tubing filled with Earth, and held together by barbed wire. SOUNDBITE (English) JULIAN FAULKNER, SUPERADOBE SHELTER DESIGNER AND CEO OF SMALL EARTH LTD, SAYING: "The barbed wire it acts like velcro, it's incredibly sticky so it will catch hold of this bag and it will prevent any lateral movement, will prevent lateral slip, but it will also stick the bag together. Once we compact the layer on top it also, that compaction also puts this barbed wire under tension and it acts like a miniature ringbeam." In the school playground Faulkner built a main shelter, seating 30 children, and three smaller substructures. For those inside, the domes have reduced considerably the roar from incoming aeroplanes, and the teachers are delighted. SOUNDBITE (English) KATHRYN HARPER-QUINN, HEADTEACHER AT HOUNSLOW HEATH INFANT AND NURSERY SCHOOL, SAYING: "We find them very very adaptable and flexible and have allowed us to build our earth curriculum around the sorts of activities that we can now provide for the children and they do provide some shelter from the noise, which is hugely important." The shelters' self-supporting structure allows them to be built with foundations less than a third of a metre deep. Faulkner says they could also have a role to play in addressing Britain's acute housing shortage. They can be built anywhere, including on hillsides, and cost very little. SOUNDBITE (English) JULIAN FAULKNER, SUPERADOBE SHELTER DESIGNER AND CEO OF SMALL EARTH LTD, SAYING: "If you've got a few mates and a bit of land you could feasibly build a three-bedroom house for something in the region of about 10,000 pounds. It's got that level of affordability." With a third runway proposed for Heathrow, Faulkner is hopeful that Hounslow Heath's idea will take flight at other schools nearby