The Nkoranza Children's Home in GhanaEdit profile
THE ISSUE Let Kids Smile is a Dutch NGO set up to run and sustain a children’s home in Nkoranza, Ghana. This charity had successfully cared for hundreds of orphaned children, often left parentless by HIV/Aids. After the 25-30 children, 4 carers and the Let Kids Smile team were suddenly given notice to leave their rented building, and with no other facility available to re-house, they decided their only option was to purchase and build on a piece of land. Let Kids Smile had a tiny budget of just EUR20,000 and in desperate need of help, so they approached Article 25. THE SOLUTION A 10 acre plot of land was bought to build a new children's home. This space allowed for the space for the home, as well as providing a protective environment. The surrounding area is now also used as farmland to generate income, and to help children learn the basic skills of farming and responsibility. Design The Children's Home design was developed by Article 25 architects following feasibility research into the: • Local vernacular construction methods. • Historical, cultural and political context. • Available materials and skills. • Site context and basic geological survey. • Logistical challenges. • Most cost-effective construction techniques. • Community capacity analysis. Based on this, Article 25 produced a package of construction information for the building. This comprised of plans, sections, elevations, and details, along with two-dimensional and three-dimensional CAD models. A key feature of this design was the relationship with the local environment. While initial proposals had recommended clearing the site of trees to provide timber for the building, Article 25’s design instead made them an important feature of the completed building and retained them; this provided additional vital shade for the children in their play time in a secure, well overlooked, cloistered central space. Community Involvement Article 25 believe that the key to the success of a project is community involvement at every stage, from learning their local vernacular techniques to involving children in the design so they feel engaged in their new home. The local community became heavily involved – clearing the site and assisting the teams on the ground at the weekends. To ensure empowerment of the local labour force and stimulation of the local economy, workers and businesses as close as possible to the site were used during the build. Local children were educated in how to set out the walls using pegs and string and volunteers assisted in the site clearance and column positioning. Article 25's project coordinator even set up an under-12's football team to play against other local teams! In total, 55 members of the community volunteered to help move stones, pump water, carry timber and clear the land. The children found small remnants of the materials – small stones and cement left over and many of them started building their own model houses to play with. Construction The children’s home was built from local materials. The build was a stone wall construction with cement mortar, with concrete and stone foundations. The roof was a timber construction with fibre concrete roofing (FCR) tiles, and palm tree columns were used to support timber veranda roof structure. An Article 25 project architect was present during the full construction phase to monitor work onsite. This onsite supervision mitigated the risk of costly construction errors, while local workmen were employed to construct the building and were trained in techniques to optimise the quality of the build. Use of an in-country architect-coordinator also resulted in cost effective construction and improved local material procurement. On one occasion our architect was able to make the decision to buy all the concrete required up front. This was made possible by comprehensive and accurate planning, with a full bill of quantities prepared in advance. Therefore he was able to avoid the project being hit by the consistently increasing concrete prices which would have hit the budget for the building quite hard in the later weeks. The construction began with the installation of an onsite water pump. Foundation trenches were then excavated by hand using pick axes and shovels while stone, sand and aggregate was delivered by tractor. Laterite stone walls were built off a shallow concrete trench. Where required, these walls were strengthened using buttresses. Reinforced in situ concrete lintels were poured, and a gable roof structure constructed with roof felting installed, followed by roof tiling. Eaves were sealed and mesh installed. The veranda slab was poured and latrines dug and lined with concrete block. Once the electrical installation was completed, the ceiling frame was completed and ceiling fixed. Finally, the shutters and doors were fitted, plastering applied internally and walls painted internally. All materials were locally sourced whilst all construction labour was hired form the local community. This local content ensured the local industries were encouraged, and the project became a vehicle for skills development in the community. By using locally sourced, natural materials, the completed building is both highly durable and sustainable within the means of its users. THE END RESULT Article 25 exercised effective programming within a very tight budget of about £17,000 and within a very tight timescale of just 4½ months. The speediness of this build ensured this precious young community will enjoy shelter and clean and plentiful water supplies, and acquire the skills and education for a prosperous future. All of this is possible in the safe, spacious, secure and loving new home which Article 25 made possible and which they feared would never be possible.