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Materials and capacity assessment The choice of materials needs to account for: • Cost. Many materials can be designed for safety but may not be cost-effective in all contexts. • Quality. Material choices should be excluded if they are unlikely to result in a safe school, especially in light of labour capacity. • Labour capacity. Community approaches tend to have more success when local skilled tradespeople and unskilled labourers are familiar with most of the materials and construction techniques. Likewise, new materials and construction techniques can be successful when coupled with adequate training. • Material availability. Where communities supply part of the construction material, the quantity and quality of these materials needs verification before Design Stage. Where the quality of material is unknown, engineers may first need to test the material strength to determine whether and how it can be incorporated into school design. In post-disaster contexts, construction materials are in high demand. Program managers need to assess if and how salvaged materials can be used safely and what materials can be readily acquired. When material needs to be imported, program managers also need to take care these materials are appropriate for environmental conditions. For example, timber and plywood imported into tropical climates may deteriorate rapidly or be highly susceptible to insect attack, undermining the safety of the school after a few years of use. Even if they are environmentally appropriate, imported materials may not be harvested sustainably or may be difficult to repair without the costly exercise of importing more materials. • Community preference. Communities often have strong preferences about building materials. Their preferences may stem from familiarity and availability or from an appearance of wealth and modernity associated with some materials. These preferences should be valued highly, but where such preferences compromise the hazard resistance of school buildings, minor adjustments or substitutions may be necessary. A community’s understanding of modernity may need to shift, as was the case in one Ghanaian project highlighted in the Construction Stage (see the Community Design Stage case study). IN CONTEXT Safe construction and cost Keywords: cost, building practice, community perception Community members may initially turn hazardresistant construction down, thinking of it as too costly and complex. Yet safe construction is often more about doing construction differently rather than simply investing more in brick, cement and reinforcing steel. While some hazard-resistant construction may add marginal costs to school construction, at other times it may result in cost savings. Traditional construction practices pour resources into the wrong elements – for example, building thick walls and slabs rather than adding more reinforcing steel shear ties to the columns. Helping communities understand what aspects of design are most important to safety can increase their confidence in safer construction practices. • Capacity-building potential. The fourth key principle of the community-based approach is ensuring school construction builds local knowledge and skills for hazardresistant construction. New materials and hazard-resistant construction techniques should be transferable to other construction projects, like housing and small-scale commercial construction (see In context: Building too fast in the Community Design Stage section). SECTION III: PLANNING One of the major characteristics of the community-based approach to school construction is that the design and construction are tuned to local context through use of local materials and construction techniques. Although local practices can decrease costs, these reductions must be evaluated alongside impacts on school safety. The school management committee, with support from the program manager, should consult with local builders and other identified local resource-providers to better understand the local materials and construction capacity in their community. If the program manager or committee has already identified the design team, the committee should work closely with them to complete this assessment. If a design team has not been identified, local engineers, master builders, or construction specialists within the implementing agency may provide good support. 54