45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 2015 - Page 72

encouraging students to play creatively and learn, and building a connection between the school and the wider community. The design should draw from good practice, such as child-friendly school guidelines, and adhere to the minimum standards required in the region. However, findings from the needs and community assessments in the Planning Stage should be particularly important in shaping the form of the school. • Addressing social conditions. Achieving structural safety and functionality is constrained in relation to the particular context of a community, which can put realistic limits on design options. In particular, the design should account for findings from the local material and capacity assessments conducted in the Planning Stage. Using available construction material from the local market and minimising the use of foreign material ensures the design matches local construction practice, available skill sets and the community’s capacity for maintaining the building. It also increases the likelihood that the hazard-resistant techniques used in the design are readily IN CONTEXT Building back better Keywords: Myanmar, cyclone, reconstruction, compressed earth block, breakaway walls, UNICEF SECTION III: DESIGN Following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, UNICEF constructed school buildings ready for the next storm surge by elevating key portions of the building above recorded flood levels at each community. The top of the foundation – the plinth level – was raised, in some cases, 2m above the surrounding rice fields. Classrooms were further elevated above cyclone stormsurge levels on a reinforced concrete frame, which was designed to resist cyclone winds, pounding waves and seismic shaking in parts of the region. In the later phase of the reconstruction process, UNICEF adapted their design even further. They began adding breakaway walls made of loosely attached timber to portions of the walls rather than compressed soil blocks. When floodwaters pushed against the building the timber portions could break away. This allowed the water to flow through the building. When the water was able to flow through, the structural integrity of the building remained unaffected. Such a design provided additional educational space on the lower floor, and upper floors remained functional even when heavy storm surges struck. Communities were organized to evacuate all educational materials to the second floor during flood events. After flooding, community members knew they could find and reattach any lost timber wall pieces. 63 transferable to other construction projects within the community. Other constraining factors may include: • The size and location of the school site. • Local construction practice. • The availability of equipment and other technology. • The capacity of local contractors and skilled labourers. • Available materials. • Funding. The design team should develop a set of design drawings and construction specifications that meet safety, functionality and social criteria that is identified by the school management committee. All three conditions are necessary for children to have safe, inviting and engaging spaces for learning. However, safety should always be prioritised as an essential condition. Rebuilding with remnants of destroyed structures was familiar to local community members, who commonly salvaged materials after disasters. Now, communities trust the safety of the school structure. During unusually strong winds in 2009, almost all villagers took shelter in the upper floors of the safer school rather than sheltering in the local temple as they had traditionally done for decades. In addition, UNICEF provided some school communities with simple new technology that would enable speedy construction. UNICEF worked with HABITECH, a research group from the Asian Institute of Technology in neighbouring Thailand. HABITECH developed manual machines that produced interlocking compressed earth blocks. These blocks could be manufactured on site using local soil mixed with cement – the interlocking feature made mortar unnecessary. After the blocks were made, school walls could be erected in just three weeks. Although thorough long-term evaluation and monitoring stopped when UNICEF’s construction team disbanded, residents in the communities have use the earth-press to build houses. A safer school in Myanmar built following Cyclone Nargis. Photo: Carlos Vasquez/UNICEF.