.eARThouse2016

Concept

The project aims to enhance natural materials and local construction techniques, widely affordable by the dwellers, in order establish a strong connection with the environment and people’s living conditions. The main function of this building is about arts production, as a platform for culture exchange. The internal distribution has two working spaces and three rooms organised around a small courtyard. Continuing the traditional “patio house” typology, eARThouse explores alternative roofing solutions providing rainwater harvest as well as natural ventilation and thick walls, according to well-defined principles of sustainability in tropical climates.
To achieve maximum interest towards the usage of earth made structures, it was considered appropriate to use the pisé technique because it tends to be perceived, at the local level, as a modernization of the local earth buildings techniques and then a possible valid substitute of increasingly widespread cement blocks buildings.

Foundations

Foundations are made of granite boulders from the local quarry and concrete mortars. The slight slope area of the site allowed small excavation for the foundations works, likewise offering natural rainwater drainage system. Due to this ground slope and limited budget, foundations have three bottom levels. A reinforced concrete ring beam was also poured on top to connect the foundations, to ensure even loads from the upper structure and to have more precise top section. When the project started, it was immediately realized that site safety as well as building precision are poorly considered, compared to average worksite standards. However, in order to ensure great durability while reducing maintenance costs, it is necessary to reach good precision, adopting for instance basic measurement tools such as batter boards, plumb line and levels. Most of the issues related to this construction step came from transportation delays and materials availability. As a result, the team has worked one month before starting the walls.

Walls

The project is characterised by thick earthen walls (16inches), with high thermal mass and small openings towards the south-side. The technique used for eARThouse provides rammed earth load-bearing walls, tabilized with cement (8%) added to the dry mix of sand (10%) and soil (82%). The mix is reached through on-site samples and nearby earth building survey. To achieve the widest spread of rammed earth, it must become able to compete with other cheap techniques such as cement blocks, mainly in term of costs, since the main aspects of structural strength and thermal comfort are qualities already recognised by the community. To reduce the construction cost the team designed metal formworks as a community tool, easily and quickly reusable by anyone several times, compared to the common wooden ones. They were designed and then produced together with the local welder and the master rammers. Furthermore, the formworks were tested within a second project, which was totally funded by a local farmer with little money and time. Regarding the electric system, the switches and sockets are integrated inside the rammed walls, to address better quality of internal finishings and proving the equal potentials of this technique compared to others. Thanks to many volunteers the wall was eventually raised in almost 6 weeks.

Roofing

Responding to tropical climate conditions the building has steep-pitched roof, with open gable and high peak to allow air circulation as well as wind-oriented pitches which channel cross breezes. The roofing is made with local wood, cutting and nailing most of the parts on ground, before putting the trusses on place very quickly. Many profile dimensions and structural spans were decided through local builders experience and on-site empirical load testing. On top of the rammed walls, the roofing structure lays on a wooden ring beam, connected to the walls through tie bars. Rubber stripes were also fixed directly under the covering sheets, using half garden hose, to reduce rainwater noise.
To prevent from direct sunlight the main openings are covered with horizontal canes called Babadua, tied together to make a dense screen. Babadua is a traditional material, locally available and one of the most resistant type of wood against termites and weather, but fallen into disuse as a poor material nowadays.
The aim was to find out cheap solutions to be reproduced by anyone from different social status, in order to empower living conditions through simple changes.
Constraints on resources in such contexts should bring to minimize the waste of material, in fact, rejected wooden boards were reused for frameworks and furnitures.

In this project sustainability means working with the lowest budget, in order to achieve a cost-effective building according to local dwellers affordability. Reducing the cost, while using natural materials combined with innovative solutions, anyone within the community will be able to enhance his dwelling condition, despite personal resources.


 

Risultati e problematiche riscontrate

La quasi totale mancanza di gestione e pianificazione delle attività da parte della Fondazione nonostante la sua elevata diffusione mediatica, comporta una notevole dispersione di risorse e lavoro volontario. Numerosi edifici realizzati dalla fondazione sono tuttora privi di vita artigianale. La lontananza del Villagio delle Arti dal villaggio vero e proprio (5 min a piedi) non facilita il coinvolgimento della popolazione, che continua a percepirlo come un luogo “altro”, non ne comprende gli scopi e i vantaggi delle tecniche al suo interno sperimentate.

L’edificio eARThouse non è ad ora utilizzato. LOAD si sta attualmente impegnando affinchè, insieme al Prof. Mantey e Mr.Frank, si riesca a trovare un indirizzo di sviluppo del Villaggio delle Arti,così da insediare artigiani nel progetto costruito. La collaborazione con il Prof. Mantey è stata sicuramente un aspetto estremamente positivo nel
corso di questa esperienza. L’intensa condivisione di idee ed un’intesa inaspettata che supera
ogni differenza culturale, ha riempito le nostre giornate di speranza. Il contributo da lui fornito si è manifestato sotto forma di proposte lungimiranti ed innovative, mediazione costante con i locali, disponibilità continua in cantiere anche nei lavori più faticosi.

Un obiettivo importante raggiunto ed ancora in evoluzione riguarda invece la maggiore diffusione
della tecnica in terra battuta e l’avvicinamento del gruppo di volontari verso la comunità di Abetenim. Dopo due mesi di lavoro per eARThouse, infatti, la volontà di capire l’effettivo utilizzo futuro delle casseforme in metallo è cresciuta, maturando così, insieme al Coordinatore ed il Dr. Mantey, l’idea di un secondo progetto, destinato ad essere la prima abitazione in terra battuta autofinanziata. L’obiettivo principale consisteva proprio nell’abbattimento dei costi relativi alle casseforme per la riproducibilità della tecnica da parte di tutte le persone interessate ad un miglioramento delle proprie condizioni abitative, a prescindere dal loro status sociale.
Con queste intenzioni, il team di LOAD ha potuto incontrare Opoku.

Results and problems encountered

The almost total lack of management and planning of activities by the Foundation despite his high media activity, turn into a considerable waste of resources and volunteer work. Many buildings completed by the foundation are still not used. The remoteness of the Arts Village from the real village (5 min walk) does not facilitate the involvement of the population, which continues to perceive it as a place “other”, it does not include the objects and advantages of the techniques to his inner experience.

The eARThouse building is not now used. LOAD is currently working, together with Professor Mantey and Mr.Frank, on finding a development address for the Arts Village, in order to settle craftsmen in the various buildings. The collaboration with Prof. Mantey was definitely a very positive aspect during this experience. The intense sharing of ideas and unexpected understanding that exceeds any cultural difference, filled our days of hope. The contribution he provided was manifested in the form of forward-thinking and innovative proposals, constant mediation with local, continuous availability in the work site even in the most strenuous jobs.

One of the main purposes of our project was about spreading the rammed earth technique, as a widely cost-effective one with high environmental comfort. Beside that, we wished to encourage the volunteers working at the site to take away the distance between us and the villagers. While working at eARThouse project in Abetenim Arts Village, it became necessary to understand how much cost-effective the metal formworks were. As a community tool, their purpose consists of decreasing the overall construction cost when using rammed earth technique, for a greater affordability of better dwelling conditions by anyone, regardless his social status. Together with Abetenim Community Coordinator and Dr. Mantey, lecturer at the Art Departmente of KNUST, Kumasi, we have therefore met Opoku.

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