On Project Partnership

Published October 4, 2011

Project Update: From the Executive Director

I realized I personally haven’t written an update since returning from South Sudan in June. Time seems to evaporate in this work! We’ve made a lot headway and some new friends on the project front. As many of you know, we’re introducing a new foundation technology to East Africa in the form of helical piers. This technology is perfectly suited to the environment we are building in, though we knew we had some unsolved challenges ahead of us. One design problem to date has been the flooring system. Because the building is elevated on 91 piers (13 rows of 7) the floor needed to be light weight and essentially self-supporting. Our default design called for a latticework of steel bracing covered in metal mesh and topped with a thin layer of concrete. The could have worked, but was complex, relatively expensive and labor intensive.

Enter Jeff Owen, an engineer formerly with Rolls Royce Jet Engines. Not exactly a rocket scientist, but pretty darn close. Jeff approached Rebuild Sudan with a very unique solution to our flooring problem. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are a proven building technology that has many of the qualities we were looking for in a flooring system. Essentially a piece of ridged foam sandwiched between two flat “skins” this laminated product is incredibly strong for its weight. The downside, however, is that the skins are nearly universally made from plywood or strand board. While these work fine if they are well protected from the elements, as a flooring system on a flood plane they wouldn’t last the season. Jeff, however, introduced us to Durasip, a new company based in Mississippi that substitutes fiberglass for the traditional wood skins. Now we’re talking! Completely waterproof, lightweight, and all-in-one panel for structure and finished floor surface.

And I haven’t even told you the best part. Jeff contacted us because he is very interested in bringing this technology to South Sudan. We’re not talking of simply importing shipping containers full of panels, he is actually seriously considering building a facility in South Sudan to manufacture fiberglass SIPs. Wow. This is exactly the kind of partnership that Rebuild Sudan dreams about! We say it internally all the time – we’re not just in this for a single school. Everyone involved in the project gets excited when we start to see how our actions can have an impact far beyond the Jalle community.

And then, since we equally feel the responsibility to complete the school for the people of Jalle, we calm ourselves down and get back to work at hand. Vantem Composite Technologies will be conducting final feasibility testing of the floor system next week in Brattleboro, VT. We’re also in the process of negotiating the phase II building contract with our contractor, GDC. And, not least, we still have over $100,000 to raise this year. You may or may not be a rocket scientist, but I know for a fact you can help with that last one.


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