I am very pleased to share with you the latest photos of the construction of two of the winning house designs from The Future of Sustainable Housing in Cambodia competition. The winners were announced in March and we are very happy to see progress of the builds on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
‘Open Embrace’ by Lisa Ekle & Keith Greenwald’s design allowed for the selected family of 5 to have an open house design made from both brick and wood.
My Vodafone WOD placement at Building Trust international may have finished but work doesn’t stop. With the rainy season quickly approaching in Thailand it was very important that we work with the local teachers and parents of New Road school to set the foundations for their new school before the rains started. Having previously set the grid for the foundations and bringing truck tyres to site we were ready to start digging the holes and setting the foundations. With the parents and teachers keen to help out it was left to their committee to dig the 14 foundation holes. Overnight, 7 parents and teachers excavated the foundations to precise accuracy. This was fantastic as it meant by day two we could begin filling in the holes with truck tyres and a concrete mixture. It was amazing to arrive at site the next day and see the vast number of people ready and waiting to carry out work on the foundations. With sand, gravel and tyres delivered to site we were ready to begin mixing the concrete mixture and setting the foundations.
A team of men from the committee began mixing the concrete mixture by hand, with a further team delivering buckets of sand and gravel to the mix. Within less than an hour several of the foundation holes were set, it was easy to see that many of the people helping had a background in the construction industry.
It was great to have Jay a volunteer from Chile on site to help with the foundations, he carefully fed rebar into the foundation feet to give added support. It was not only volunteers and parents who helped out but also the pupils of the New Road school. They were happy to carry buckets of the sand and gravel to the site and were excited to see the start of their new school.
To ensure the foundation holes were level a home made plumb bob and line was made from a stone and string to ensure all foundations were at right angles. Each foundation post was also clearly marked with a marker pen to show the centre position of the foundation for ease when the steel frame structure is fitted to the foundations posts at a later date.
After just a few hours all the foundations were set and ready for the upcoming rainy season. This will be a great benefit when we begin the construction of the school in June as it is easier to mix concrete and work on foundations without the rain.
After 2 days all 14 foundations holes were completed! The steel for the school frame structure has been delivered to the Iron Wood workshop for the apprentices to begin drilling holes and cutting the steel to construct the frames. I look forward to updating you on the school build progression soon.
One of my main aims while on my Vodafone WOD placement is to increase the awareness of the work Building Trust carry out. Over the last few weeks I have been working hard to publicise the work of my chosen charity and promote the results of the Cambodian housing competition. In a previous blog I shared with you the winning and short listed designs from the competition. I would like to share with you some of the fantastic articles which have been written about the competition results:
The above article was published on Inhabitat’s website, the piece generated a high level of social media activity and promotion with over 550 Facebook shares. You can read the full article here
I have been reaching out to international press to cover the competition results and was able to secure a live radio interview on Radio Australia with David Cole, Director of Building Trust International. I hope that with the wide spread coverage of the competition we will widen the exposure for the NGO’s involved and highlight the increased need to provide sustainable new housing solutions to low income families in Cambodia.
A great article about the Cambodian Housing project was placed in last weekend’s edition of the Phnom Penh Post. I hope this will assist in promoting the exhibition of winning and short listed designs which will be held in Phnom Penh in May.
Many thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing photos of the completed house builds with you soon.
I am very happy to share with you an update live from the Thai/Burma border with details of the progress of the first Moving Schools project at Thu Kha Hang Sar school. To prepare the school for the upcoming rainy season, we have re-recruited the team from Iron Wood part of the Youth Connect social enterprise to carry out necessary metal and wood work on the school site. In order to ensure the building is water tight we will be adding additional wall structure to the school which will also provide extra security. We are currently installing a steel frame to the outside wall panels. The steel frame contains a section with a built in white board which will be of great benefit to the teachers. The Iron Wood team are also installing a window for each classroom which can be opened and closed by a clever pulley system.
The additional steel frame window structures will ensure the internal structure is rain tight. The great benefit of the pulley system windows will allow the classrooms to maintain cool air circulation whilst also giving added protection to the building.
Wooden panels have been added to the current floor boards to allow the wood and bamboo wall panels which were made last Summer to sit along the corridor of the school. These panels can then be taken down in dry season to create the current open plan design. Adding this feature will allow the teachers to have dual purpose classrooms which can be closed off in rainy season and open in dry season.
Please look out for my next blog post which will detail the window pulley system design and photos of the finished school.
I am planning to host a rather large fundraiser for Building Trust in London this Summer. After a very successful Halloween Fundraiser in 2011, I am hoping to get a great venue, some fantastic acts and throw a huge night of comedy/music all in aid of Building Trust. As I currently research venues and recruit performers, I would like to share with you a glamorous night in aid of Building Trust which a very good friend of mine James is putting on in Singapore.
On Saturday 13th April 2013, British Expats in Singapore will be holding a black tie ball with Welcome Drinks, 3 Course Meal (with free-flow wine and beer), Live Entertainment, Dance Floor, Raffle and a Silent Auction.
If you are a resident of Singapore or know people who live there and would like to have a fantastic evening while raising funds for Building Trust projects then please get in contact or click the link below to buy your tickets – http://britishexpatscharityballapril2013.eventbrite.com/
Many thanks to James and all of those involved in helping promote and plan this fantastic event. We cannot wait to hear how the night goes!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
When two frames are fitted to foundation posts the structure is secure, however we add a cross brace across the frames for additional support.
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.
On Saturday morning, David and myself met with Thu Kha Hang Sar Headmistress Chan Chan on the school site. After taking measurements of the current school buildings we were able to draw the buildings in CAD and place a render of the position of the new classroom buildings. We were then able to take Chan Chan through each aspect of the school design to ensure she fully understood the classroom layout. We discussed the use of colour within the building and Chan Chan told us how she would like to use the colours from the teaching staff’s uniform in the design. It was great to gain her ideas and thoughts on the design and we look forward to working alongside and implementing her ideas as we move forward together.
In order to understand the scale of size of the classroom we took some of the current pieces of school furniture and placed them outside within the plotted grid of the new classroom layout. This was a great way of allowing us to gain a clear understanding of how the classroom would look and feel inside. We found that the best layout for the chairs was in a horseshoe shape, allowing all students to see each other during a lesson and also allowing the teacher to have the ability to walk up and down the middle of the desks. It was important to Chan Chan and the teachers that we understood where the white boards would be positioned and where the school flagpole would be positioned. After reviewing the layout and materials to be used, we were happy and confident that Chan Chan was pleased with the school design and knew she was keen to start the building project. Not one to miss a photo op one of the teachers suggested that Chan Chan start the first foundation hole. We passed Chan Chan a shovel and led her to where the first foundation foot was to be dug.
With great excitement she placed a pair of gloves on, took the shovel and started digging. Soon afterwards the school teachers asked for gloves and tools and within an hour the Building Trust volunteers and School staff were getting stuck in and mud began flying everywhere. In the first afternoon, the team managed to make a great start on the foundations and slowly began to be able to visualise as to how the school would look. In the late afternoon, we had a surprise visit from the Head of the School Council who arrived with his wife and a much needed platter of jack fruit to feed to the volunteers and provided them with a much needed last boost of energy to keep them going until the early evening.
On Sunday, the volunteers arrived on site bright and early ready to start a full day of digging foundations. Over night the skys had opened and all of the holes that had already been dug and filled with three car tyres, were now full of water and in some holes a family of frogs!
We knew that building in rainy season would be a challenge and we were to find out over the next few days how much a challenge it would be. As David went to scout out more car tyres with Matt our cameraman, the volunteers continued to make progress digging foundations and emptying the holes off water and then filling with tyres. We were shocked to see David and Matt return a truck load full of truck tyres instead of car tyres. The original foundation plan was to place one truck tyre and two car tyres underneath the earth. However, David was to find out that a very kind local Thai lady would offer as many truck tyres as we needed for free. We therefore made the decision that it would be better for the school structure and cost that we place two truck tyres with one car tyre on top. This was great news, however meant the volunteers finished foundations were not quite finished as they now needed to be as wide as a truck tyre. The volunteers remained upbeat and split into groups with two widening the finished car tyre foundations and the further two groups starting new holes the width of a truck tyre. David and Matt returned to the truck to collect a further 32 truck tyres!
We were sad to see our cameraman Matt leave on Sunday evening, however we knew he had to get back to his real job and looked forward to seeing more of the footage he had captured over his two week stint in Mae Sot.
On Monday the volunteers had a day off, several were very lucky and managed to gain a day pass visit to Mae La Camp which they reported back as an interesting, eye opening trip. Meanwhile, in the Global Neighbors workshops, Chris and his team of local apprentices began work on the steel foundation posts for the first school module. The foundation is made up of a layer of gravel, a truck tyre with the steel foundation post slotted inside then a further truck tyre and one car tyre placed on top. The tyre hole is then filled with gravel and the footing fitted into place. We were glad to know that Chris’s team work incredibly fast and managed to make the first foot posts by the end of Monday.
On Tuesday, David dropped myself and the volunteers off at the school site to continue digging holes. By Tuesday the school site was very water logged from the continuous down pours of rain and the water remaining in the ground. Volunteer Ben resorted to wearing swimming goggles in order to get the mud out from the bottom sections of the foundation holes and not get mud in his eyes. By midday on Tuesday the volunteers were covered from head to toe in mud and were really making progress on the foundation holes. Even with a heavy afternoon downpour they stayed out on site determined to get as many holes dug in one day as possible. It was great to see their positivity and determination to get the job finished.
By Wednesday, the volunteers were beginning to feel slightly less upbeat about spending the entire day digging holes, however I think it helped keep motivation by seeing the children they were building the school for so close to them every day. I sat amongst the children as they waited for their school bus as they each shouted out ‘Hello’ to the volunteers digging hole.
I spent the morning cleaning and painting the first of the school foundation posts. First using white spirit to remove any rust and dust and then painting with a layer of red primer. After the primer had dried I then gave each post 3 coats of black enamel paint. The primer will help to keep the steel from rusting.
After spending the morning in the workshops, we went back to the school site to test out one of the painted foundation posts inside a truck tyre. In order to place the post inside the tyre, a small cut had to be made to the tyre. We were happy to see the foundation post fit perfectly. The next morning, Ben one of the UK volunteers and David accurately measured the placements of the foundation posts and prayed the rain would hold off for a few hours to allow us to drain the holes of water and fill with gravel and tyres. We were very pleased when the rain held off and yesterday afternoon we managed to fix our first foundation post!
Bright and early on Monday morning, the Building Trust team and volunteers met at the DK Hotel in Mae Sot to await our escort to the Global Neighbors workshops in Mae Pa. We have been very kindly offered the workshop facilities to develop and design the modular school classroom. Before setting off, the volunteers were given a run through of Safe Tools Use and watched a 20min video entitled the ‘ABC Of Hand Tools‘ The very simple cartoon allowed the volunteers to have a basic understanding of to use hand tools correctly and how easily they can be misused.
With the arrival of our ride, the volunteers piled into the Picturebook truck to be taken up to the workshops along with Saw Dee and Si Da Pa, two highly skilled carpenters/bamboo workers who will be working with the group this week. They have worked on several school projects in the area and were hired to teach the volunteers about the uses of bamboo. They worked with Norwegian Architect Line Ramstad through the G’yaw G’yaw Organisation. Gyaw Gyaw is committed to construct buildings to the benefit of Karen refugees in Burma and Thailand.
Before we could start using the bamboo and seeing how this material could be used to create our wall panel structures, Saw Dee and David travelled to pick up material supplies for the day. While myself and the volunteers awaited the materials we played a few team building exercises to make sure everyone would communicate clearly and be aware of each other in the afternoons building workshop. The first activity was a drawing game.
I first split the group into pairs giving one person from each pair a simple drawing of a cat placed on the top left of a blank piece of paper. The other team member then had to draw the picture which was described to them in shapes by the team member with the original drawing. It sounds difficult but the teams seemed to enjoy the game and as we tried a second round with one player drawing their own image to describe to the other team the communication between the pairs developed and the teams were faster at drawing the correct image.
The next game involved trust and working together as a team to get the best possible solution. The volunteers enjoyed the mornings activities of getting to know one another a bit better and to understand how important it is to ensure everyone has a clear knowledge of the task to be achieved each day.
Just after lunch Saw Dee and David arrived with the materials needed to build the wooden frames. The volunteers quickly ran to the truck to help unload the bamboo, wooden planks and woven bamboo sheet into the workshops. We were quick to learn that Saw Dee believed that the machetes they had purchased did not have a high quality handle, so decided to search the workshop for a better piece of wood and then make their own. Within an hour Sawdee and Si Da Pa had made 3 new wooden handles for their machetes.
With machetes at the ready, Saw Dee kindly began the bamboo workshop and discussed the many ways bamboo can be used. He first cut a piece to length then used the machete to take any rough edges off the sides. Then slowly cut into the bamboo, tapping all the way down. Saw Dee said to cut one piece of bamboo would normally take 15mins, however the lesson took slightly longer so the volunteers and BTi staff could gain an understanding of how to do it ourselves.
After cutting the bamboo, Saw Dee unfolded the bamboo and began to flatten, using the machete to remove any hard edges found along the inside of the bamboo. The piece was then attached to a further two pieces of flattened bamboo and attached inside a wooden frame to create the bamboo infill wall panels.
It was great to see the skills shared between the local workers and the International volunteers, the group worked well together and slowly but surely we were getting the hang of using bamboo. Saw Dee and Si Da Pa will be working in the workshops all week to finish the wooden frames for one classroom unit.
Yesterday, the volunteers began clearing the ground and digging holes for foundations with the hope that we can complete one steel frame with infill wall panels over the next week. So keep reading to see how the build progresses!
And one panel is completed.
After cutting 3 pieces of bamboo and flattening then fitting inside a wooden panel fixed with a mortise and tenon joint and two tapered down teak dowels. Now another few to go so we can complete one classroom module!
After arriving in Mae Sot and initially meeting with the school teachers and Headmaster, Mahn Bala Sein, we became aware that the best way to discuss the school design to the community would be to make a small scale model of one of the classrooms enabling everyone to gain a better visual understanding of the design. So over the weekend we constructed a model using what materials we could find from toothpicks to create ‘bamboo effect’ wall panels to corrugated plastic found in the local school stationary shop. We finished the model and set-up a me
ting with the school this morning to allow the teachers, students and headmaster to gain a clear idea as to how their school could look.
The meeting today went well and the model allowed us to take the School members through the materials to be used to construct a classroom and the overall size and space within the module. Through this discussion questions were raised over what materials should be used for each section. We discussed the different possibilities of using timber or steel to create the main classroom frame structure and were pleased to hear that the school were very happy and excited about the idea of a plastic fabric being used to create the roof. The current leaf and bamboo roofing systems only last one year and then need to be replaced so both the teachers and Headmaster could see the benefits of a fabric roof with a greater life span.
We reviewed the idea of using half height wall sections between classrooms but it was decided that a full wall panel would be better suited to ensure students were focused on their teacher and the class being taught. However, it was agreed that a half height wall should be used at the end of the classroom to create light and a view out to the main courtyard.
Discussing the design with the teachers was of great use and many interesting ideas came out of today’s meeting. Tha Taw one of the teachers at Kwe Ka Baung has taught at the school for 4 years. We asked Tha Taw what his idea of a good school design would be he is now going to set-up a class asking the school children to draw their ideal school design. I look forward to sharing their drawings and ideas with you soon.
Still undecided on the main material to be used for the school design, we agreed with Mahn Bala Sein to visit both a timber yard and a steel supplier. We first visited a reclaimed timber yard where we were able to gain a better idea of costing of the material and also the size and lengths of material available in the area. We found out that the maximum length of timber was 4 metres and fresh timber is almost impossible to come by.
After visiting the timber yard we visited a local steel supplier who showed us the lengths, dimensions, weights and variety of steel available and gave us an idea of costing based on our current design. This was very useful and we are now in a better position of understanding what we can achieve and what materials are available for us to use.
After meeting with the school and the material suppliers today we had a great meeting with two Architects Albert from Spain and Jan from Germany who have both been working locally for the Mae Sot Clinic. They have been developing and designing further buildings for the Clinic from dormitories to toilets and also a brand new Training Centre. It was great to meet with them and discuss the ‘Moving Schools’ project and find out the best practises of working in the area. It felt very reassuring to know there were like minded individuals in the area who were willing to share their skills to develop some fantastic humanitarian projects. We thank them both for arranging to meet up and we hope we will be able to work out the finer details of the school construction with the help from their ‘insider’ knowledge.