Tag Archives: engineering

Construction of sustainable, flood resistant housing is underway in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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.

Construction worker at Open Embrace site
Construction worker at Open Embrace site

The house has been constructed under the supervision of the Habitat for Humanity Cambodia team and a local workforce skilled in building houses.

Open Embrace
Open Embrace


The second design which has recently finished construction is Courtyard House by Jess Lumley and Alexander Koller from the UK. Their design was chosen by a family who needed a space to keep chickens.

Family consultation at Courtyard House
Family consultation at Courtyard House

The family were brought to the construction site to discuss with the Habitat for Humanity Cambodia team about their house design.

Courtyard House under construction
Courtyard House under construction
Courtyard House is complete
Courtyard House is complete

With two of the three homes complete and the families settled into their new homes, I look forward to sharing with you photos of the third winning design WET/DRY house very soon.

Many thanks once again for the amazing support and assistance of the Habitat for Humanity Cambodia team and their local workforce for creating such fantastic homes for families very much in need.

Thanks for reading,


The latest from Moving Schools 002

My friends at New Road
My friends at New Road


After a fantastic couple of days bringing the steel to site and installing the classroom frames, the next task was to fix all the floor joists in place and drill holes into the ceiling beams ready to take the roofing structure.

Ironwood team drill holes into ceiling beams
Ironwood team drill holes into ceiling beams

A few of the pupils spent their lunchtime lending a hand and helping us to paint more of the steel sections for their new classroom. It was great to see their enthusiasm and eagerness to help out on site.

New Road pupil painting team
New Road pupil painting team

The local community arrived on site ready to work and decided to build a walkway from the current school building to the new classrooms. Travelling to the nearest place we could source bamboo, several of the parents cut down 15 pieces of bamboo and then split and stripped the bamboo. They used the bamboo as a replacement for a metal frame to go at the bottom of the base of the walkway in preparation for a concrete mixture to be poured on top.

Criss cross bamboo frame structure is created
Criss cross bamboo frame structure is created
Mixture of sand, gravel and cement is mixed to make concrete
Mixture of sand, gravel and cement is mixed to make concrete

It was fantastic to have the local communities support and assistance in the school project. Both the students and parents were keen to see the Ironwood team working and have the ability to share their different skill sets.

Ironwood team on site with school pupils
Ironwood team on site with school pupils

Next to be installed was the metal roof structure and finally the Shera board flooring material for the classroom floor.

Roof is installed
Roof is installed
Shera Board floor is installed
Shera Board floor is installed

It is great to see the classroom structure taking form on site at New Road, we cannot wait to see the pupils using their new classroom buildings.

Wall and floor are installed
Wall and floor are installed

I look forward to updating you with final pictures of Moving School 002 very soon.

Thanks for reading,


The James Dyson Foundation and Brunel

In 2007, I graduated from Brunel University with a degree in Industrial design. Since leaving University and setting up Building Trust, I have been lucky to continue my connection with my former University through setting humanitarian project briefs to eager design students. I was thrilled to have been invited by my former Head of Design to be part of the judging panel for a brief set to the students by The James Dyson Foundation.  I was very keen to attend the judging day and see the exciting solutions that the very same pupils whom I had set a brief to the previous year had come up with.

The same students who had spent weeks coming up with their own solutions to improving the very poor living conditions of migrant workers in Singapore now faced a new design challenge.  The James Dyson Foundation aims to “inspire young people to study engineering and become engineers” and encourages “young people to think differently, make mistakes and invent. ” It was great to meet with the fellow jury members and was reassuring to hear that The James Dyson Foundation had very similar aims to Building Trust;  promoting design as a tool for social change through connecting with young designers and engineers.

The JDF ‘Future Solutions’ Design Brief:

‘Design something that solves a problem caused by extreme weather in the UK’

Solve a first world problem using an iterative design process.

The James Dyson Foundation advised students that 2012 was the UK’s second wettest year on record and also the world’s tenth hottest year. As these trends will continue they felt it was very important that the students tackle these new climate challenges. Students were asked to think about areas such as disaster relief, disaster prevention, damage to houses due to flooding, solutions to problems caused by extreme weather, food crop adaptation due to climate change and water conservation due to drought.

It was great to read a challenging brief and I was eager to see the solutions that the students had come up with. Starting at 10am sharp we spent the day reviewing each students submission, carefully checking whether their design fitted the brief. It was interesting to see that many students had focused on similar ideas such as a new iPhone Application to provide traffic advice in an extreme weather scenario or to warn users of a flood. Many students also looked into tackling preventing damage to homes due to flooding with a similar product which blocked off water to the main front door. It was fantastic to see how the students had progressed from the previous year and it was obvious to see through their designs how passionate they were about humanitarian design. The most interesting solutions however had read the brief very carefully and created new innovative solutions to many of the areas stated above.

I am very happy to share with you the top 5 chosen designs which the selected students will now develop further over the upcoming weeks. In May, The James Dyson Foundation will review the 5 developed projects and choose a winner. The winning design will be given £1500 and runners up will be presented with a Dyson AM04 Fan Heater.

The Dyson 5

Bumble' by Henry Davies
‘Bumble’ by Henry Davies

One of the shortlisted 5 designs was by Henry Davies who designed a product entitled ‘Bumble’. Henry came up with a solution to a problem caused by extreme weather. The ‘Bumble’ alerts the public of an open manhole using a water turbine to power and rotate a LED to warn those nearby.

‘Stretcher Chair’ by Matthew Durbin tackled the issue of how emergency services rescue people during emergency situations. The design converts from a flat stretcher to a mobile chair which two people can use to carry a person to safety.

Jo Gregory Brough’s app design entitled ‘Navigate’ aims to combat transportation issues when bad weather effects the UK. Users are able to share their experience with other app users to gain a greater knowledge of the road and transport conditions.

One of the more technical designs was ‘Deluge’ by D Posner, who decided to tackle flood prevention in the home. The solution to add hydromorphic polymer to the door frame. The polymer would expand when wet and seal the door giving the user added prevention against water damage.

‘Sampan’ by Phongpracha Vadanyakul provides a solution to transporting users who have been injured or trapped by disaster. The rescue raft works on both snow and water and provides an insulated waterproof compartment to prevent users from catching hypothermia.

I am sure you will agree that the designs are very innovative and tackle a wide range of solutions to the questions posed in the brief. It is great to see young people thinking about designing for disaster prevention as well as disaster relief.

I look forward to sharing with you updated developments of the projects and images of the winning design in May.

Thanks for reading.


Meeting the Mae Sot team

Meeting with Global Neighbors:

There are over 100 other non profit groups in Mae Sot all helping in a variety of ways to assist in providing better education for the 13,000+ displaced children in the area. One of the larger organisations is a Canadian charity called Global Neighbors. The Building Trust team were able to get an appointment with David Heppner, Director of Global Neighbors who has been heading up work in Mae Sot since 2004.  David and his local community in his home town of Prince Albert, Canada kindly donate hundreds of items which are placed in a shipping container every year and brought over to Thailand to be donated to the local schools.

David is a great asset to the the area and after a very interesting meeting we hope that we will be able to work with Global Neighbors in the future to develop more schools in the Mae Sot area. At Global Neighbors Headquarters in Mae Sot there are fantastic workshop facilities where the team train locals in an apprenticeship scheme teaching woodwork, welding, mechanics and more. We hope that we will be able to gain a team of apprentices to help on the school build.

Meeting with Translator:

As I am not up to scratch on Thai conversation we organised to meet a translator, a lovely lady named Mey. We had a really nice meeting with Mey who is Burmese and speaks fluent English. Sadly as our school is a Karen school we need a translator who can also speak Karen. Mey kindly taught us a few basic Burmese words and vocab and is going to source a Karen speaker for our upcoming meetings.

Meeting with Youth Connect:

The Building Trust team had a great meeting with Patrick Kearns from Youth Connect. Youth Connect pose the question, “What happens when these students become young adults and have to leave the system? Where will they go next?” Youth Connect provide training, apprenticeships and career services so students can transition to safe, productive and independent lives. We were very interested to meet with Patrick and hear more about the great work he is carrying out in Mae Sot. The organisation offers paid apprenticeships in skilled work which are carried out in the workshops mentioned at Global Neighbors. We hope to work with Patrick and his team of apprentices to build the winning design from the ‘School 4 Burma‘ competition. More details to be confirmed soon! Check out this short video showing just a few of the apprenticeships on offer:

Design Meeting:

We met up with Albert and Jan to review a new scale model of the school design. We discussed possible materials to use for the school floor possibly a stone tile structure or a wood/cement material. Albert made a suggestion that if we were to keep the raised flooring we should raise it even higher to ensure that poisonous animals don’t ‘move in’ underneath the classrooms. We are now in a process of refining and finalising the design details.

Meeting with HKU Volunteers:

Tomorrow 9 students from Hong Kong University will arrive to volunteer on the ‘Moving Schools project we are very excited to have the team work with us on the build. Yesterday we met with the team leaders Neha and Edward who previously volunteered teaching English at Kwe Ka Baung school last Summer. It is great to have them as part of the team! We look forward to next week when we will start an introduction session with our volunteers. We currently have 9 volunteers from Hong Kong and three from the UK along with a camera man arriving next week to film the progress of the school construction.

Meeting with Imagine Thailand:

Another great charity found in Mas Sot is Imagine Thailand another Canadian run organisation who offer support to the community of Mae Sot through supplying water systems to schools in the town. We met with volunteer Dave Hanson who moved to Mae Sot with his family to help the local people, his family has now been in the area for two years.

Imagine Thailand works with ERDO to provide the funding needed for the water systems in the area along with a range of funding programmes such as Sponsor a School linking Canadian schools with schools in the Mae Sot area. It was great to meet up with Dave who is hoping to help out on the Moving Schools project throughout June.

Many thanks to all of those who have met up with our team this week!

‘HOME’ International Design Competition

I am very excited to announce the launch of Building Trust International‘s new open design competition entitled ‘HOME’. The competition seeks to find well designed homes for the elderly or homeless within some of the World’s richest countries. The growing rate in single occupancy households has led to increased numbers of young and elderly people affected by poverty being forced to live in substandard living conditions and in the worst cases sleeping rough. The ‘HOME’ International Open Design Competition is directed to designers, engineers, architects and house builders to provide a solution to the housing crisis by offering sustainable, affordable small homes that give those that are alienated or marginalized within society a safe place to live. Building Trust international ask contestants to site their proposals in an urban area of a developed country, develop single occupant designs that are sensitive to the local context and keep to a budget of £20,000 ($30,000). Building Trust international will work alongside local government and community groups to seek funding and planning for the winning design. The design competition has the support of Habitat for Humanity and the YMCA.

HOME Competition
HOME Competition


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.


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 http://www.buildingtrustinternational.org –15th August 2012

If you are interested in the competition the brief please download from HERE

This week I have been in discussions with many architectural and design press and social networks to ensure the brief is available to the largest audience possible. I really hope you find the brief of interest and please do share the link with anyone who you think would like to enter the competition.

Thanks! Louise