Observation House, Panacea, Thailand

learning through nutrition, permaculture + mindfulness

Panacea is the Greek goddess of healing – hence this centre focuses on learning how to live a healthy and sustainable life, to heal ourselves and our environment. Located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, in central Thailand, this 2 hectare site lies on the outskirts of the town of Muak Lek, boardered by a wide river, local farms, coconut plantations and a scout camp.

Vision:  to create a community to showcase and teach sustainable practices. The centre will teach: Organic Farming, Nutrition, Natural Building, Appropriate Technology, Permaculture, Yoga, Mindfulness and Reiki Energy Healing.

Observation House, the first stage of the Panacea project, was completed in April 2019. Observation is the first thing taught in permaculture, stressing the importance of observing the flows of nature on the site for at least the full cycle of a natural year, before commencing any big works. Observing the sun, wind, rain, rivers, animals, insects, plants and their interrelationships.  We want to work with nature not against it.

Built using the local materials including earth blocks, lime clay plasters, bamboo and with a green roof, Observation House is immersed in its surrounding nature. Orientating the building on an east-west axis avoids large heat gains from the low angle of the afternoon sun. With the deck facing the pond and the old food forest, provided greater visual connections between inside and out.

Passive cooling was achieved by carefully placement of windows and door openings to create cross and stack ventilation patterns. Earth is the greatest natural breathable insulator. With the green roof build-up of sand, earth and turf the indoor spaces remain cool even in the midday heat.

Hot Water Showers

A composting system, designed by SAWA member, Paul Edington, succeeded in producing hot water to 60/70 degrees, entirely from organic waste. Known as the ‘Compost King’ Paul, a permaculture and appropriate technology teacher, created a compost heap 1.5m wide and 2m tall, fed entirely with organic matter – kitchen waste, urine, straw and water. As the organic matter decomposes it produced heat as a natural by product.  This was more than sufficient to heat water for showers. Cold water was then added to balance the temperatures to meet our various needs.

Compost produced heat as a natural bio-product of decomposition. All organic matter will decompose sooner or later. SAWA Collaborator, Paul Edginton, Permaculture, Approbate technologists teacher, also known as the ‘The compost king’ showed us how to heat water with our own waste. We made a compost heap of 1.5m wide and 2m tall. Feeding it combination of kitchen waste, urine, straw and water. The compost heap produced water up to 60 or 70 degrees, enough to burn your hands, much hotter than needed for our showers. Hence we used cold water to balance the temperatures to meet our various needs.

Design and Construction Processes.

Workshop with Bangkok Architecture Students



Build Area