The Valldaura 'GreenFabLab': Exploring the frontier between technology, environment and people

Jamie Nicol
Saturday, 30th March 2013

Permaculture and sustainability have rooted in the Spanish hills of Collserola near Barcelona and formed a partnership with a global project, the Green Fabrication Laboratory.

Innovation and creativity are part of the lifeblood of Barcelona. Picasso and Dalí began their artistic careers here and Gaudí and Miró have left their own mark on the progressive spirit of the city. The new Sustainability Centre of Valldaura follows this inventive character by offering the combination of technologies, old and new, to meet the tasks of an uncertain future.

Perched on the beautiful Collserola Hills above Barcelona, Valldaura opens its doors to conferences, events and courses. It invites people to study and investigate the interactions of urban and natural landscapes to develop ecologically designed systems that have the stability of nature while still providing leisure and resources for the local population.

The centre are offering internships that will include weekend workshops, a summer course and a Permaculture Design course. In September Valldaura will begin their first two Masters programs: one which will teach how to fabricate everything needed on site from the materials found on site, the other looking at new ways to use and enjoy European metropolitan parks sustainably.  

The restoration project on the house has taken many years and as many millions of Euros! But the masia of Valldaura now boasts sustainable energy, heating and water systems and the facilities to welcome and care for its students and guests.

Sensors are placed throughout the house to help create an efficient use of electricity, five different water tanks are connected in order to provide water to the house when needed from rainfall and well water and a large biomass plant provides more than enough heat to the house. There are also study rooms, classrooms, an auditorium, meditation room, dormitories, refectory, the GreenFabLab, animal, vegetable and forest gardens and the encompassing forest itself.

The forest garden begun with 150 trees being planted to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the Cistercian monastery on the land of Valldaura. It will define the boundary between the cultivatable and forest lands, utilizing the borders of the extensive roads and earthworks systems and any bare slopes left from the previous agricultures.
Fresh vegetables for the house and guests are grown in established small, well-watered areas held by the retaining walls in the small valleys that have occured from the extensive earthworks previously.

Bring together artisans and technologists

GreenFabLab (Green Fabrication Laboratory) is a worldwide networked movement connected to digital manufacturing. Beginning as an outreach project of MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and CBA (Center for Bits and Atoms), there are now 120 self-organizing Fablabs from Wellington, New Zealand to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Each FabLab provides local access to the most modern means of invention and production. Valldaura´s GreenFabLab aims to explore the frontier between technology, environment and people as part of the Spain´s Plan Avanza network of national laboratories. It is a local manufacturing hub involved in providing products and solutions to all aspects of human daily needs through carpentry, pottery and metalworking, using only the materials found on the land.

The aim is to bring together artisans and technologists to develop new materials from natural ingredients such as wood, earth, and minerals; manufacturing building materials of bricks, glass and resins using traditional techniques such as the "Bovila" kiln common to Catalan farming estates; innovating, investigating and improving the tools required to build a self-sufficient community within the Collserola national park of Barcelona.

In a great collaborative effort the best of local government, business and education have come together to create a center that will become the heart of sustainable change in the region and beyond: Including governmental organizations and ventures – The Spanish Governement´s Plan Avanza, city council support from Cerdanyola, The Collserola Natural Park Consortium; other educational institutes – UPC, i2Cat and MIT (FabLabs); and businesses – Endesa, Roca, Cisco, Remosa, Santa and Cole and more.

Located on the border between city and forest, between technology and nature; working with local business, cutting-edge technology, leading academic institutions and grassroots Permaculture activists, this project reaches out to anyone wanting to explore the dynamic edge created as these different worlds collide. And to those inspired by the idea of studying the interface and interactions of urban and natural landscapes, to develop ecologically designed systems that have the stability of nature while still providing the daily needs of the Valldaura community and leisure and resources for the local population.


For more information on the courses or the centre visit

Extra Fab lab information 

Further recommendations

Celebrating 25 years of Sunseed Desert Technology, Spain

Earth Education: permaculture for kids

Kenyan Permaculture Education Project Lifts Children Out of Abject Poverty

Video: Propaganda Gardening at Incredible Edible Todmorden

Agroforestry in the Amazon: Restoring health and nutrition 

Mark Boyle |
Wed, 03/04/2013 - 11:16
Just a thought - has anyone in the world of fablabbing thought about the unintended consequences of their technologies? Maybe they have, maybe they haven't. How much consideration has been given either way though? For example, there is already open source designs for a handgun available. I appreciate that green fablabs will set out with noble ideals, limiting their production to the land under their feet. However, though this may start local, become regional and then "progress" to global as the increased technical and technological power allows them to. The printing press, the clock and so on may have started with noble ideals (and most of you reading probably love both!) yet many of these laid the foundations for the deathmachine that is civilisation today. Its makers probably didn't foresee huge wads of forest being clearcut for Heat magazine, or humans being mechanised to the point where every hour of their working day is clocked. But that is what happened. One of the many issues is that ideas marry to other ideas, giving birth to children who - usually - end up being destructive in ways the parents couldn't have originally conceived. Increased tecnological power gives increased capacity for destruction on huge scales. I appreciate where people are coming from on this, and I admire the sentiment, but I must admit I have grave concerns about fablabs and I believe they are another example of humanity's obsession with technology.