EWB Resources

Locally-Sourced Materials


As EWB is committed to sustainability, when working in the field we look to source materials locally wherever possible.


What do we mean when referring to 'local materials'?

Looking for inspiration in the local environment is a skill of innovative designers. In the case of sustainable buildings, Sustainable Build in the UK looks for materials that, ‘can be used without any adverse effect on the environment, and which are produced locally, reducing the need to travel.’ (8) In the context of a rural community this reduces dependency on external forces like market availability and poor infrastructure. We can look for these materials in the form of natural resources, agricultural waste, in excess or underutilised resources. 


In some instances imported materials will be required to achieve your design. If this is the case ensuring an ethical and sustainable supply chain that can be managed locally is essential. Considering the cost of transport and logistics is essential.


How do local materials apply to my EWB Challenge design?

You should consider the availability of products which you choose to include in your design. Consideration should be given to location, resources required to ship (carbon, non-renewables), availability, supply time etc. of materials you recommend and how this may impact the sustainability of a design. Sourcing further afield is not strictly prohibited but you should understand the impacts of the factors listed above. 


How do I find out more?

The concept of local vs. global sourcing is well understood in relation to manufacturing and supply chain management. For more of the pro’s and con’s of this approach you could consider searching for domestic or local sourcing.


As a Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) Engineer, part of my role in remote Timor-Leste was implementing the EWB Challenge ideas presented by students and actualising them in the field. One of the ideas from the University of Western Australia was to make soap that would improve sanitation throughout the communities, looking at alternative uses for locally available materials, such as coconut oil and papaya leaves. The soap only required a single imported ingredient for use as a binder. This EWB Challenge idea was further developed by a EWB final year research project at Monash University. The outcome was that the soap no longer required imported ingredients, substituting for burned coconut husks instead, and all ingredients can now be found within a 2km radius of the community. This was essential for sustainable production, improved sanitation and livelihoods in the community.” Tim Kuiper, EWB Australia Field Professional, Timor-Leste 2014/15