The story of Falatow Jigiyaso orphanage begins in Bamako. In 1978, Fatoumata Goundourou found an orphan baby in the street and brought him home. From now on, her house will become a shelter for no less than 30 children of all ages.
In 2010, the mayor of the city of Fresnes (south of Paris) – Jean-Jacques Bridey – was told by some of his citizens of Fatoumata’s story. Then he went to Mali to meet Fatoumata and decided to build a proper orphanage in Dialakoroba (50 km south of Bamako).
The orphanage offers housings for children and staff, a small medical centre, administration offices, toilet and shower blocks, a kitchen and a dining hall.
Classrooms and terraces are located on the first floor for children’s activities.
The blocks are arranged around a central yard in the fashion of traditional Malian and West-African architecture.
On this project, located in the subsahelian area, we faced extreme weather conditions. Moreover, for practical, environmental and economic reasons, we choose not to use air conditioning units or even simple fans.
For those reasons, the whole design of the orphanage is based on three principles that would guarantee a good comfort in the building.
The first principle is the reduction of solar heat gain. To do so, a canopy with large eaves is placed above the blocks in order to protect the rooms from direct solar gain. Moreover, those extra roofs protect the terraces located on the first floor and used for children activities.
The second principle was to improve the thermal mass of the walls.
All the walls are made of “H”-shape concrete blocks. Then, the hollow centres of the blocks are filled with Banco: a recipe of mud and grain husks. Banco is easily found in Mali and is well-known for its strong thermal properties. Finally, gabion cladding is used on the most exposed façades.
The last principle was about natural ventilation. On the scale of the whole orphanage, the layout of the blocks tends to improve air circulation. On a small scale, each block features vent grills in order to allow natural ventilation and passive cooling.
During the warm season in April, we measured an indoor-outdoor temperature difference of more than 20°C. This result tends to prove the benefits of the specific design developed on this project.
As the orphanage is located outside the village of Dialakoroba and far from the services, we had no choice but to make it self-sufficient. Photovoltaic panels are placed on the roof to produce electricity. Groundwater is pumped in a 70m depth well. Another important aspect of the project is waste water management. As Mali faces great water issues, we believed it was particularly relevant to imagine a second life for the water used in the building. Therefore, waste water are collected and processed through an extensive treatment system. The first component of this system is a digester making possible the settlement of suspended solids. The second component is a biofilter where anaerobic bacteria are fixed on sand beds in order to purify the water. When depolluted water exits this device, it flows to an opened pond used for fish farming. The overflowing water – around 4 m3 a day – is then used for agriculture (especially market gardening) allowing several harvests a year instead of one.
This system not only provides food for the orphanage but also provides education for the children in the fields of market gardening and fish farming. Finally the orphanage outdoes its primary function of giving a shelter to the children and takes a part in their education and fulfilment.
This project was marked with knowledge and know-how exchanges. This can be simply illustrates with two examples. The idea of using “H”-shape concrete blocks that is a very relevant compromise between a complete concrete masonry design and a complete mudbrick solution was given by a Malian engineer. The extensive wastewater treatment process design by our friend Gérard Violante, a French engineer, was implement for the first time in Mali and should find other applications elsewhere.
As a conclusion, this whole adventure will be always remembered by our team not only because of the nature of the project but also thanks to the quality of the exchanges we experience with people. This first project will be also remembered for bringing our team together to create our architecture firm.
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