Tag Archives: Building

Let’s raise the roof…

UPDATE: Moving Schools Project – The roof goes up!

After a great weekend, with the arrival of the fabric roofing and flooring material for the school build we were very eager to start putting up the roofing system and turn the project from a steel frame into a complete building. The workshop apprentices were now working on site at the school where they were using a generator to construct the larger roof frames on site.

Once a large frame was built by the team, the plastic roofing fabric was fitted to the frame and then a team of workers would lift the frames into place over the steel frames.With the rain not stopping we decided to try and place the first small roof in place. Paul from Youth Connect climbed onto the steel frame as Aung Myint Soe and David pushed the small frame into position.

1st roof section

It was great to finally see a roof section in place and to find out that the plastic roofing caused no sound when the rain hit the roof. With the first small roof in place the next day the team decided to lift a large frame into position to complete the first school module. With scaffolding carefully positioned around the steel frame the team slowly manoeuvred the large roof into place and within a few hours the first two school modules were fitted with roofing system.

First two modules

As the roofs were fitted the volunteers moved the Viva floor boards into place on the school module and the boards were painted. Both top and bottom of the boards were coated in acrylic paint. This layer of paint will provide an essential waterproofing.


After the floor boards were painted David used self tapping, countersunk screws to attach the boards at 50mm centres to the steel floor joists. Slowly we could see the school modules creating an interesting new space which would become the classrooms for the Thu Kha Hang Sar students.

As the floor boards and roofs were being fitted, we began to research a supplier for bamboo blinds which would be fitted to the steel frames adding extra protection from the weather to each module. We were very happy to find out a family in a nearby village manufactured bamboo blinds from their home. Driving through the rice paddie fields and across a winding path led us to where the family created the blinds. We discussed the designs with the family and they agreed to make 30 blinds for the school in two weeks. The family would cut and smoke the bamboo before weaving the bamboo with nylon to create beautiful blinds.

Bamboo blind loom

Bamboo blinds

It was fantastic to be providing the local community with work and great to see even more local produce being taken into the final design. After collecting all the blinds from the local village they were taken to the Youth Connect workshop to be painted with a lacquer to protect the bamboo from insects and water damage. We really looked forward to bringing all the school materials together to see the final school design.

It was great to see more of the roof in place and begin to get a feel for the space and overall design of the building. We were really pleased with the plastic fabric which looked spectacular above the steel frame. The roofing system will provide the students with a quieter classroom environment, sun protection and better ventilation provided through the angles of the roof.

Meanwhile, in the workshop further Burmese workers were employed to finish the bamboo wall panels. A team of two spent two weeks constructing 60 bamboo panels which would create the walls for the school modules.

Wall panel construction

It is great to see all the components of the build coming together and we are looking forward to seeing the finished school build very soon.


The roof arrives!

UPDATE: Moving Schools project – The roof and flooring arrive!

After a fantastic weekend constructing the ten school modules on site, we were eager for the arrival of the roofing fabric and flooring which would turn the steel frame structures into a school building. We received notice on Sunday morning that the UV resistant fabric for the roof had arrived in Bangkok from Germany via Oman. The fabric was very kindly donated to Building Trust by Mehler Texnologies a German company, who offered to provide the fabric for the school project free of charge we then had to pay the shipping cost by air to Thailand. We also awaited the arrival of the flooring which is made from a cementitious wood board by a Thai company called Viva Board. The cementitious wood board looks very similar to the familiar concrete flooring often found in Mae Sot schools, however the vital difference is that the Viva Board can be taken with the school community if they have to move the school in the future. Another package awaiting delivery from Bangkok were the aluminium extrusions, a  product by French company Profil Tensions Systems which would hold the PVC membrane to the steel frame.

After a few days of long, arduous and frustrating phone conversations, trying our hardest to get the fabric released from customs at Bangkok airport we received the great news that on Wednesday afternoon the flooring, extrusions and roofing were on a truck from Bangkok to Mae Sot.

As the truck made it’s way to Mae Sot the volunteers spent 2 days completing 8 foundation holes for the central courtyard. Instead of using truck tyres and digging three tyres deep for the courtyard foundations, we used a smaller car tyres. We were able to use a smaller system for the central courtyard as there will be very little imposed loads on this area of the school.

Student help unload truck

As the final courtyard foundation hole was finished, the truck from Bangkok arrived and the volunteers, David and I wondered how on Earth we would be able to unload the truck containing all the flooring and roofing materials for the school construction. As we tried to come up with the easiest solutions to unload and called friends to see if they could help, out of nowhere a group of 50 students from the school next door, who had just finished playing football started walking in droves up the road. They all huddled together around the back off the truck and looked up to David & the workshop guys to unload the material to them. It was as if by magic a team of incredible, strong children showed up to help us unload. Ranging in ages from 6 – 16, they lifted the rolls of plastic roofing into the school site.


With 10 children to a roll the roofing was quickly brought into the school site. Next to be unloaded were the large Viva Boards for the flooring. Over the next hour 140 pieces of Viva board were carried piece by piece into the site, where I stood directing the children where to place the materials. It was fantastic to see how eager and enthusiastic the children were to help out.

We were so relieved that the fabric and roofing materials had arrived safely from Bangkok and could not quite believe the experience of unloading the truck. We truly believed someone/something was looking out for us.

Students from Parami carry Viva board

After an action packed afternoon on Friday, Saturday morning we were to begin work on the roofing sections. There are two sections to the roof, a small roof and one larger roof. Both steel frame roof sections need to be fitted with aluminium extrusions, which hold the plastic roofing material in place. Adrien from Profil Tension System  very kindly flew up from Bangkok to show us how to construct the aluminium and roofing sections.

Adrien from Profil Tension Systems fits aluminium extrusions to steel frame
Adrien from Profil Tension Systems fits aluminium extrusions to steel frame

First the aluminium extrusions are connected to the steel frame with self tapping screws at approx. 200mm centres.

Roofing fabric is stretched over the steel frame
Roofing fabric is stretched over the steel frame

The fabric is then rolled out over the steel frame and cut to the correct size. Small plastic extrusions are then tapped into place at four points across the frame to keep the fabric in place.

The four small plastic extrusions are then removed as a larger piece of plastic extrusion is fitted to the roofing section as the plastic is stretched and tightened across the frame.

Plastic extrusions are fitted
Plastic extrusions are fitted

When the plastic is stretched and tight across the whole roof, then a second layer of aluminium is fitted on top.

Fitting top layer extrusion
Fitting top layer extrusion

The process of fitting aluminium extrusions to plastic onto steel roofing frame took the team just under one hour to complete. Now to complete another 9 small frames and 10 large frames!

Finished small roof
Finished small roof

It was great to see how fantastic the roofing fabric looked against the steel frame and when tested under the rain we could see how resistant the fabric was to the weather and how little noise could be heard when the rain hit the plastic surface. This would be a huge change to the current tin roof which is very noisy and only lasts a few years. We hope that the plastic roof will last for 5-10 years, Chan Chan the Headmistress smiled from ear to ear as she visited the school site and the weekend to see the fabric roofing material. This will be the first of its kind and we hope will make a dramatic improvement to the education of the children at Thu Kha Hang Sar.

Large roofing frame is constructed on site
Large roofing frame is constructed on site

We now wait for a break in the rain to place the 10 small and 10 large roofs onto the steel modules. We hope that we will be able to have the roof up over the next few days. This will allow us to have a dry area where we can begin to fit the Viva board flooring and insert the bamboo wall panels into the school structure.


LIVE UPDATE: from ‘Moving Schools‘ project – First Classroom module is placed on site

After another successful weekend with new volunteers helping on the school site we were happy with the progress being made. It was great to have volunteers from the UK and Canada working alongside the school teachers and students on their Saturday morning. With the number of long term volunteers slowly depleting it was great to see the arrival of Pablo from Guatemala on Saturday, a civil engineer who will be helping us out in Mae Sot until the end of the project. We also gained a few days volunteering assistance from Wen an Architect who had travelled from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to assist with the build.

New volunteers
New volunteers

On Tuesday, we received news from the workshop that they had finished cutting, drilling, painting and welding one set of steel frames to construct one school module. With this good news David, Pablo, Jim, Wen and I went to the school site to prepare the foundations posts for the arrival of the steel frames. In order to ensure we have the same height across the site, we purchased a 10 meter length of clear plastic tubing to use as a water level. Pablo had recently used this technique on a project build in Guatemala so was able to explain and show the very clever, simple process of ensuring the height across all foundation posts.


The ends of the plastic tubing are held vertical, and the rest of the tubing lies on the ground.  The tube is filled with water, then two people hold the tube and one foundation post is chosen as the reference point. With foundation post chosen, one person stays at the post and holds the tube against the post and waits until the water levels out. The water level at each end of the tube will be at the same elevation, whether the two ends are adjacent or far apart.

Checking water level to reference height
Checking water level to reference height

Then at a second foundation post the other person holds their section of tubing against the second post and waits till the water stops moving up and down. When the water is still the level is marked on the reference post and then on the second post.

This process is repeated across all foundation posts using the reference post against each post.  A very simple method indeed!

On Wednesday, we headed up to the workshop and started loading a truck with the steel for one classroom module.


Thankfully the distance between the workshop and the school site is not too far and the truck managed to drive onto the school site for the steel to be unloaded and laid out onto the ground

Unloading the truck
Unloading the truck

The workshop apprentices drill out the final holes in the foundation posts on site to ensure all sections are fitted to the correct measurements.

The steel columns are laid out on the ground and positioned into place with the floor panels and ceiling sections, which are bolted together. This will allow the two sections of the frame to be lifted up into place over the foundation posts and then bolted together.

First frame is lifted into place
First frame is lifted into place
Second frame is lifted into position
Second frame is lifted into position

When two frames are fitted to foundation posts the structure is secure, however we add a cross brace across the frames for additional support.

Cross brace is fitted to frames
Cross brace is fitted to frames

Next the floor sections are bolted onto the frames, soon we will add the roofing, bamboo wall panels and floor panels onto the school modules but first we must finish the remaining foundation posts and fit the classroom frames into place. The workshop are now planning to work over the weekend and we hope all ten modules will be fitted over the next few weeks.

First school module is fixed into position
First school module is fixed into position

School Test

Moving Schools Project: Week Two on Site:


After managing to put in the first foundation post at the end of last week, our determined and energetic volunteers worked through the weekend and managed to fix three further foundation posts on site. The team worked through heavy rain, attempting to remove water from the foundation holes before they filled up with new rain water. It was great to see their clear understanding of the tasks, each volunteer knew their role and worked together as a team to construct the foundation posts in a quick and efficient manner.

Placing first tyre into Foundation hole
Placing first tyre into Foundation hole

It takes a great deal of patience and careful orientation to place the truck tyres into the foundation holes. The wires which can be seen in image above plot out the central line of the foundation post. It is very important that the wires remain in the correct place to ensure we have an accurate measurement across the school grid.

Finished foot foundation post


On the last day, many of the school students helped out the volunteers to carry gravel to the holes. It was great to see the kids excited about the school project and get involved in lending a hand on site.

We were very sad to loose nine of our volunteers on Tuesday, as they returned to Hong Kong for their Summer break. Ashley, Airi, Stephanie, Charity, Chung, David, Hin, Nicholas and Jim made an incredible impact on the school site and we are very grateful for the help they offered over the last month. Thankfully, Jim will remain with us for another month and our UK volunteers Claire, Ben and Mark will continue to help out over the next week.

HK Volunteers
HK Volunteers

As we awaited recruitment of new volunteers to assist with the foundation posts and with a day of continuous heavy rain the remaining volunteers spent Wednesday at the Global Neighbors workshop. The workshop team had managed to drill all the required holes in the steel and cut to the correct dimensions to allow us to assemble the first classroom module. With great excitement the team assembled the steel construction simply slotting the steel plates in place and bolting together.

Fixing steel components together
Fixing steel components together

It was very exciting to see the pieces come together and gain a real understanding of the size and scale of one school classroom module. It was also very reassuring to know that in no time at all the unit was assembled.

Steel frame
Steel frame

We had the great opportunity to finally see how the bamboo wall panels which the G’yaw G’yaw workers made a few weeks ago would sit inside the steel frame. The frame slotted inside the frame perfectly and the combination of the dark metal steel frame looked fantastic next to the natural bamboo wall panel.  We cannot wait to see how one fully assembled unit with full wall panels, flooring and roof will look very soon.

Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame
Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame


Now that we have tested the first module we can confirm all dimensions with the workshop and order steel for the ten classroom modules. Over the next few weeks the apprentices at the workshop will be plotting, marking out and drilling many holes to create the final steel frame structure. The steel will be brought to the school and assembled on site. In the meantime, there is lots of painting to be done!

Painting foundation feet
Painting foundation feet

HOME Competition Deadline – 1 week to go!

HOME Competition
HOME Competition

There are now only 6 days left to register for the latest Building Trust International Open Design Competition.The competition entitled ‘HOME’ will look into designing affordable, single occupancy housing for the increasing numbers of young and elderly people affected by poverty.


The aim of this competition is to:

– Design a quality, low cost home that will tackle issues of homelessness and homes for the elderly in our society;

– Encourage and reward design excellence at a small scale which integrates function, structure, details and the need for shelter;

– Research, respond to and highlight the unique aspects of designing a home with the constraints of a low budget on an urban site.

– Encourage the employment of sustainable design in all aspects of the proposal and foster understanding of the impacts of housing trends on people’s health and well-being.


This is a single stage competition with the aim of identifying the most appropriate proposal, which best satisfies the general and specific objectives of the contest.


The challenge is to design an affordable home for an individual. The profile of these users is not defined within the brief “we’re leaving it up to you” but as a guide they could be the elderly, physically or mentally impaired or homeless and looking for the opportunity to stop the cycle of living in debt. Lack of provision of quality small scale housing stock in developed countries often means those that are most vulnerable in our society live in sub-standard living conditions. The HOME design competition hopes to shed light on this and open the doors to designers and house builders that want to make a difference.


HOME Competition welcomes designs that can be sited in an urban area in any of the countries from the list below:

Norway                                          Luxembourg                                      Israel
Australia                                          Singapore                                    Belgium

Netherlands                               Czech Republic                                     Austria

United States                            United Kingdom                                    France
New Zealand                                      Greece                                       Slovenia
Canada                                   United Arab Emirates                              Finland
Ireland                                               Cyprus                                           Spain
Liechtenstein                                     Andorra                                          Italy

Germany                                 Brunei Darussalam                               Portugal

Sweden                                              Estonia                                       Bahrain
Switzerland                                      Slovakia                                          Latvia
Japan                                                  Malta                                             Chile
Hong Kong                                         Qatar                                      Argentina
Iceland                                              Hungary                                       Croatia
South Korea                                      Poland                                      Barbados
Denmark                                          Lithuania


Once you have decided which area you would like to work in please find a site and situate your project. Building Trust want to know why you think the site could have the potential to offer a home. We understand that it may not be possible to find out every detail about a site i.e. cost, land ownership, etc. However, we do expect a certain level of study into the site conditions that may inform any design decision. It would of course be great if you can give more information regarding cost of land and ownership but it is not a marked criterion.


1 – Find a site: Within a city (pop100.000+) for example an in-fill site, a warehouse, redundant parking space(s), under transport infrastructure, on top of a building, etc… NB: If you would prefer to suggest a generic home solution, please skip stage 1.

2 – Research: Site and housing solutions (Think both inside + outside of the box)

3 – Test: develop and refine

4 – Propose


The design should be accessible and inclusive, you should display a sensitivity to the access needs of elderly and those with physical /mental impairments. Submissions can be the work of an individual or a group. There is no age limit. However, entrants under 18 years of age must be led or entered by someone over 18 year of age. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to enter the competition.


Professional Category
1st prize: We will pursue funding and planning for the winning design.
There will also be 9 honourable mentions.

Student Category
1st prize: $500
There will also be 4 honourable mentions.


1st Prize, will be published in any subsequent magazine press as well as the Building Trust Website. There will also be a book that will be compiled of the best designs from the professional and student categories.


Competition officially announced – 1st April 2012
Final date for registration and fee payment – 30th June 2012
Closing date for submissions – 31st July 2012
Jury evaluation – 1st – 30th August 2012 
Announcement of Winners to be posted on buildingtrustinternational.org –15th September 2012


All entry submissions must be sent via email to competitions@buildingtrustinternational.org until 31st July 2012 at midnight (11:59 pm.GMT). Competitors will be responsible for the arrival of their proposals within the corresponding deadlines and no proposal will be received one day after the date previously stated.

If you or any or your friends/colleagues may be interested in the competition please do share with them the link to download the Competition brief:


But remember there are only 6 days left to register – Good Luck!


Why Building Trust International?

Why Building Trust International?

In August 2010 myself and my boyfriend David Cole left our city jobs in London to go traveling. We set off very excited to see the World, visit new cultures and explore new continents. We always had in mind that we would like to do some voluntary work while we were away however we really did not know what we had in store.

On the first part of our trip to South East Asia we visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Along the way we researched about many “Voluntary” placements but were very disappointed to find that most companies charged you to take part in their voluntary schemes. We were saddened by this and felt that people should be able to help out communities in need for free.

In January 2011 we visited Mae Sot, Thailand a small town on the border of Burma. Our visit was to be an eventful and a life changing trip which we will never forget. Before we reached Mae Sot, we were already aware of the large number of Burmese refugees who were seeking refuge in the town. We knew there were many schools in the area looking after the children of migrant workers. On our first day we met Naw Paw Ray, a truly inspirational woman. Naw Paw Ray herself originally from the Karen State of Burma saw a problem in Thailand that non-Thai’s were unable to gain an education in the country. She decided to set-up her own school for non Thai’s in the area which grew to be an umbrella organisation in charge of 65 schools looking after 13,000 displaced children in Mae Sot called the Burmese Migrant Workers Education Commitee.  She kindly took us around the varying level of school buildings in the area, many of which were agricultural sheds with tarpaulin sheds used to make classrooms.

Agricultural shed used as school building, Mae Sot, Thailand
Agricultural shed used as school building, Mae Sot, Thailand
Spelling class with girls at Hsa Htaw Learning Centre
Spelling class with girls at Hsa Htaw Learning Centre

We learned that there was help from many large aid agencies in the area, however Burmese do not have a right to own land in Thailand. This leads to a terrible problem, new school buildings are being built in the area but the land which the building is built on is owned by a local landlord who can then raise the rent of the land forcing the students and teachers out of the school building which they can no longer afford. It was then that a seed of an idea was planted and we came up with an idea to organise an International design competition asking Architects, Designers and Engineers from across the World to come up with a school design which could be constructed and disassembled if the need arose, moved and then reassembled at very little cost .

Well in order to set-up the competition we decided to register Building Trust International with the Charities Commission in the UK. We launched the School4Burma competition in July last year and had an incredible response with over 800 expressions of interest from over 30 countries.

By entering the competition entrants were asked to give a donation of £95 for Professionals and £25 for students with all donations going towards the cost of the school construction. We announced the winners of the competition in December a design by Amadeo Bennetta and Daniel LaRossa from Berkeley, CA.

School 4 Burma - Winning Professional Design
School 4 Burma – Winning Professional Design

We are looking forward to taking the design into the construction phase this summer and I am looking forward to spending the next two months of my placement gaining further public awareness of the design, our charity and the ongoing situation in Burma.

We held an exhibition of the winning and shortlisted designs at a POP up space  on Oxford St, London at the beginning of February which was a great success.

'Moving Schools' exhibition
‘Moving Schools’ exhibition
'Moving Schools' exhibition
‘Moving Schools’ exhibition

The ‘Moving Schools’ event attracted much attention and with the high level of shortlisted designs we are now hoping to gain funding and corporate sponsorship to build the other designs for further communities in need. On my placement I will be looking into finding the funding for these designs.

The more schools we can build the more communities in need we can help.

Today we met with a steel manufacturer to discuss the details of the school build and really start the ball rolling on construction. I will be in charge of coordinating volunteers to assist on the build in Thailand this summer who will not have to pay to work on the build but volunteer their time and services for free.

If you would like to see more of the designs from the competition please visit the Building Trust International website – http://www.buildingtrustinternational.org and be sure to Like our Facebook page.

What started as an idea is really now growing into a huge community of designers, architects and engineers who want to give their time through Building Trust International to help those most in need around the World.

Many thanks for reading I look forward to keeping you up to date with my placement.

Louise McKillop

Co-Founder/Trustee at Building Trust International