In Vanuatu the demand for access to education is growing due to population growth and increased school attendance. The current centralised delivery of education infrastructure cannot keep pace with demand. The existing archetype concrete buildings are costly and time consuming to build and difficult to repair following the regular earthquakes and cyclones. This project, in Takara Village, North Efate Vanuatu, responds to this with the aim to increase the use of local materials and skills whilst meeting western construction standards. Following consultation a design was developed and a this project built as a demonstration.
Most classrooms in Vanuatu are built using reinforced concrete and concrete blocks. Gravel, sand and cement are expensive to transport between islands and reinforced concrete is difficult to produce to the standards required for earthquake loading. This project used locally sourced timber portal frame comprises the main structure. The frame design takes its cues from the local vernacular, articulating posts and using scissor trusses. The portal frame addresses the requirements of western standards forming a strong and durable structure. Within this frame the community is then able to customise the building depending on available resources. On this project this includes; a woven sago leaf roof, woven bamboo window hatches and dead coral infill walls. Much of the timber was sourced locally.
The building uses significantly less concrete and water using mainly renewable timber. Transportation was also reduced by using less concrete. By using a local palm leaf roof, a renewable resource, the building negated the use of 250m2 of corrugated steel roof sheeting. Likewise with the bamboo window hatches which replaced the usually used flat steel sheeting. These measures where a significant improvement in terms of sustainability from usual practice.
This building was constructed entirely by the community. Roof panels and window hatches were made in local villages. This has the benefit of ensuring the community possesses the skills to maintain the building and carry out repairs post disaster. It is a departure from the current situation where a high level of centralised assistance is required to repair concrete classrooms following disasters.
An additional benefit is in creating local livelihoods. Materials and labour were sourced locally therefore funding was retained in the community, further supporting school attendance. Currently most building materials are procured from hardware stores usually owned by western companies. This project when compared to existing building types, costs up to 70% less, employs almost exclusively local materials and labour, is easier and cheaper to repair post disaster, takes substantially less time to build, has 3 time more natural ventilation and 20% better natural lighting.
Finally the project provided an opportunity for local workers to gain new skills. The local project manager was quoted as saying;
“It has help me a lot too in my building capacity or carrier in hybrid construction and also shows me more creative ideas & techniques of mixtures of natural to artificial materials to develop schools and communities around all Vanuatu."
The building is 21m by 7m and comprises two classrooms, 7m by 7m and 9.5m by 7m, as well as a store room, teachers office and entry veranda.
The building comprises 10 timber portal frames made from local termite resistant hardwood. These are bolted together and fixed to the concrete ground beam using locally fabricated galvanised post shoes. The roof structure utilises traditional scissor trusses notched together and bolted.
The roof is made from a traditional Natagkura palm leaf. The leaves are harvested and the central spine is removed. Each leaf is then folded over a piece of split bamboo 2 metres long. The leafs are then sown together 3 at a time using another piece of split bamboo. The panel is then stacked to dry prior to placing on the roof. Each panel is then tied using 'bush rope' to the purlins.
The infill external walls are made from dead coral stones harvested from the beach. A piece of plywood is temporarily nailed to each side of the timber posts. The stones are then carefully placed and backfilled with a wet concrete mix. The bamboo window hatches were premade as panels in a neighbouring village using traditional techniques. These were then cut to size on site as the frames were made.
The building was constructed by village builders and labour without the use of cranes or lifting devises. Temporary scaffolding was used out of timber framing and 'bush posts'. Concrete aggregate as collected from above the high water mark of the beach and left in the open for several weeks to be washed of salt by the rain.
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