An Exciting Project Update

Published July 3, 2013

What a whirlwind the last few months have been for us as an organization and for many of us personally. The past year has held some of our highest highs and lowest lows. But the project continues to move forward and we are more excited than ever that this school will become a reality.

Construction projects are constantly subject to delays and set backs in the US; given the difficult building conditions of working in rural Africa (some professionals have said we are building in the most difficult context they have ever seen) we have experienced our fair share of  expected issues. Last year, GDC installed our building’s concrete pier system but soon after asked to end its contract with us. We had been excited about their commitment to the project, but they had problems with their internal leadership and finances that we were not aware of and consequently, they were unable to complete the job. We have unfortunately lost some of our construction deposit (around $20,000) for the erection of the building as a result. Their owner has committed to a payment process with us to begin repaying this amount each month and we appreciate his commitment to make good to us on this debt.

Thankfully, we were connected with a new contractor local to the area who has erected the type of building (by Steel Structures) we are building. After a thorough vetting, we brought him on board to finish the erection of the steel structure we had onsite and we are impressed with their work.

Here is the project as it stands on site now with the village elders, local leaders, and future students standing proud in front of it.

In February and April we had professionals, a civil engineer, contractor, and architect, visit from the US to inspect the construction progress. They found several issues that we will need to address before moving forward. But the best news is that they were able to meet with government officials and confirm with them that the teachers the government will provide can begin teaching in the school before the building is 100% complete. As long as we can get the roof on the building and provide some toilet facilities, the school can begin!!!

So, here is what needs to happen to make that happen:

1. Fix Foundation – Concrete is strongest in compression (the downward weight of the building) but we put rebar within the concerete so that a foundation can also handle tension forces (uplift or bending forces). Our previous contractor incorrectly installed some of the rebar in the foundation and therefore, we need to further strengthen the foundation. Thankfully, this is the perfect use for the helical piers that we have been experimenting with for our difficult soil conditions. We are putting drawings together now to review with engineers to ensure our revised design will adequately strengthen our building’s foundation.

2. Buy Floor Girders – One of the main lessons any designer quickly learns in construction is that what is drawn on the paper is not necessarily what will be built in the field (especially in Africa). In order to better prepare the project for the future raised floor, we believe we should install the floor beams at the same time we fix the foundation with the helical piers. These pieces will work best if they are anchored together. While we could wait to do this in the future, we do not believe it will be as financially efficient in the long term. We are confirming this strategy with engineers and Steel Structures.

3. Buy Roofing Material – While we have some roofing material on site, this can be use for temporary walls between the classrooms. Stronger and longer roofing material needs to be purchased to cover the building and give shelter to the community from the intense sun and rain.

4. Install Temporary Walls and Teacher Toilets – We believe if we can do the previous 3 things plus install temporary walls with the materials we have on site and build 2 teacher toilets, will have a structure that is safe and sufficient to begin the Jalle school operations!!

Below is a preliminary drawing of what we are discussing with the engineers and manufacturers now (NOTE: this is not a construction drawing but just a representation drawing to communicate these design ideas)

We cannot give an exact amount of how much these things will cost (in a country with an inflation rate of 47% things changes quickly and often). A rough, rough estimate is is as follows:

  1. Cables and Helical Pier Installation – $5,000
  2. Floor Girders & Transport – $15,000
  3. Roof Sheeting – TBD
  4. Toilet Foundation Block – $1,000

We of course will update you once we firm costs up and launch a campaign later this summer to try to raise the remaining funds to get these supplies to the site for the next dry season (January). Thank you for your continued financial support, patience with this unprecedented process, and partnership with the people of Jalle.

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