Home Version Low-Tech Exercises

Home-Grown Low-Tech Structure Building

In our field workshops, the Parking Lot Exercise has become an extremely helpful and memorable exercise to get introduced to building low-tech structures. As shown in the pocket guide on page 55 and 56, we encourage students to experiment with building low-tech structures in a parking lot, park, or your driveway to get over apprehension about building these for real.

Participants of our virtual (thank you pandemic) Spring 2021 Intro Class got really creative and added some very different twists on this assignment!

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Normally we would all go out in the parking lot and we would provide you with materials, and a set of instructions to build your first Beaver Dam Analog (BDA) or Post-assisted Log Structure (PALS). However, things are not normal, so you are in charge of building your own BDA and/or PALS. Here is a video explaining the general parking lot building exercise. See here for more detailed examples and instructions of this exercise.

Detailed instructions for building PALS and BDAs are also on page 25-48 of the pocket guide, and explanation of the parking lot exercise are on page 55. The pocket guide can be found here

Your assignment is to build at least one BDA or PALS (or one of each) and record your construction efforts with a short video. Then:

Submit your assignment below as a URL to ___ . In your discussion thread post include:

  1. A paragraph description of what you did or narrated video explaining things.
  2. Clear indication of what represents the channel (e.g. edge of sidewalk) what indicates floodplain, and what direction is flow.
  3. Any questions for instructors based on what you did.
  4. At least one embedded either  Instagram Post or a Tweet with hashtags #lowtechPBR and #parkinglotBDA.  You can include multiple posts if you prefer. Use your phone’s camera for video. You might like to use your camera’s time lapse feature, for example like this one:

To embed your tweet or instagram post, make the post first, then copy the embed code, and in your discussion thread, switch to HTML view in discussion editor (</> in lower right) to copy into your thread and switch back to rich text mode.


You can follow the instructions and dig up equipment and materials from your garage, or the hardware store and nearby woodlands. Or an alternative approach for pandemic (or if it represents a financial or logistical hardship to follow recipe in pocket guide) you can use things in your house or yard like paper, cardboard, toothpicks, straws, or whatever you can imagine to simulate posts, woody debris, and sediment (if you are building a BDA) and create a scaled down physical model. The most important part of the assignment is to think about how to build and what are important considerations that will be necessary when you eventually build a real structure in a real stream. Here is a video from Emily Fairfax  that may inspire any scaled down virtual parking lot construction attempts.

Have fun with it.

Inspiring Examples

House Plants & Stuff in Kitchen

Card Board Cut-Outs

A BDA in Corn Bread?