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Breaking Ground in Nungwi

After five years in Moshi, the time was right to broaden our horizon and we decided to open a second office in Nungwi (Zanzibar). Soon after, preparations started for the construction of our first project: the Library for Nungwi Primary and Secondary School. In cooperation with a delegation of Belgian students from the Antwerp Management School and Doubletree Hilton we now finished the first phase. Time for a brief update…

Nungwi Primary and Secondary School counts over 2000 students, but lacks facilities to accommodate them on their way to adulthood. In order to get acquainted with the students and their needs and wishes, a participatory design workshop was organised mid-January (more on this: During the workshop, opposing demands were detected: students were looking for peace and tranquillity, while also in need for a place to discuss school assignments after hours. This dual brief led to a design consisting of two volumes: the main library where people can browse and study and a secondary volume where teamwork is encouraged.
Crucial for the design is its location on the school plot: Nungwi Primary and Secondary School is located at the town square within walking distance from the beach. The site can thus be described as the focal point of touristic and communal activities. This location lends itself perfectly to showcase Zanzibar’s waste issue (Zanzibar produces over 96 000 metric tonnes of waste per year and can not find a way to process it) and how we can deal with it.

After months of discussing, designing and testing the moment was finally there when we decided to leave for Zanzibar at the beginning of May… or so we thought. In hindsight it should be noted that it wasn’t the best of decisions to start construction in the middle of the rainy season. In between showers we dug the foundation of the main library and started to build it up from the ground.

  We then recovered the enormous amount of soil, partially that is, by building a bench out of filled plastic bottles.By doing so, we created a front façade for the library; this small gesture defines the adjoining outdoor space. Bottle by bottle we saw the crowd of interested people getting bigger and this is exactly why we decided to use this low threshold technique on this exact location: it raises awareness and at the same time people can join in. When all the bottles were filled, they were put in place and a nice coat of plaster was applied.

 Before rounding up the first phase of our very first project in Zanzibar, we decided to do some additional testing with waste as a construction material. Many projects across the world have made use of the so-called Ecobrick, but no DIY-website can beat some good old-fashioned testing. Since we want to limit the amount of cement plaster used, we decided to use the Ocean Ecobrick (two bottle ends filled with plastic are put together) as an infill material in between a cement block structure. In comparison with regular Ecobricks this type does generate waste (the bottle caps of the two bottles), but in cooperation with Shabaani and his small-scale company X we managed to recycle the bottle caps. A shredder helps us to create a plastic mass, which can then again be melted into any desired shape. In the future this technique will be of great help while designing furniture for the library and school classrooms.

As the saying learns us: Rome wasn’t built in a day… and I can imagine costs of construction were part of the reason why it took quite some time to build Rome. This is exactly why we needed to phase the library, but as summer approaches we have some small and some not so small events planned to help raise the roof!

More information on our crowdfunding campaign will follow shortly.