Sharing information and promoting earthbag building
|Free Burma Rangers Clinic
by Ben Vander Pas
Engineering Ministries International is a non-profit organization of Christian design professionals. They provide engineering and architectural design for Christian ministries in the developing world. In the fall of 2011 they conducted a construction training workshop for earthbag building. They also provided training in a thin shell latex concrete roof system called the HyPar, due to its hyperbolic paraboloid shape. The roof is about 1 cm thick, strong enough to walk on, and lasts for decades.
The training was in northwest Thailand, near the Burma border. The ministry is the Free Burma Rangers, a small organization that provides medical support to minority groups in Burma being attacked by the Burma Army. They want to build an earthbag medical facility in the jungle of Burma with surgical operating, lab, and X-ray to serve people there.
The hospital at Jungle School of Medicine serves as a referral center for 14 surrounding villages. Providing a space for a medical laboratory will facilitate both the immediate provision of healthcare for needy IDP patients as well as the training of medics in laboratory skills. Over the long term, the knowledge and skill in earthbag technology could provide a whole new dimension in housing solutions in this area.
Our EMI team will be building an earthbag (EB) building on site in Thailand, in order to teach the construction techniques to the Karen (a group of people), who in turn will use this knowledge and skill to build a clinical laboratory and medical lecture hall.
Although the actual building that we'll be constructing will be for a poor village, the main focus will be training locals to build these medical facilities in a remote location where EMI personnel could not otherwise go directly.
The Jungle School of Medicine provides quality training for medics through supervised healthcare to IDPs (internally displaced people), many of whom have lost everything and cannot afford even the most basic healthcare.
The Jungle School of Medicine medics go on to provide some of the only primary healthcare available to their people, they also become the next generation of leaders. This EMI team will help empower students now with an aim to widely impact their home areas both for the present as well as in the future with basic healthcarel.
Rex Barber (EMI team leader) has received earthbag training in Mexico and has lead an EMI team in earthbag design and building. We'll build and document the construction process and we'll make changes / adjustments in the field.
Team members need to be in good physical shape. Besides design work, all team members will be doing manual labor, this is a design / build project. Also housing conditions in Mae Sarinag are very basic.
We'll also be designing a roof system that will be using minimum materials, but will still be strong enough to stand on, keep the elements out, including rodents and snakes. Plus the buildings must be able to vent and to keep condensation to a minimum.
George Nez pioneered and wrote the book on hypar roofs, along with Albert Knott. These roofs are extremely durable and practical, and have been used around the world for decades.
The basic process involves building a wood or bamboo frame, stretching nylon plaster mesh over the frame and stapling in place, and then coating the roof on both sides with a slurry of Portland cement and latex/acrylic admix.
The earthbag walls are massive, substantial and resist all kinds of severe weather.
Our EMI team will be designing and building a "green or substainable" building system that will be using elements from the forest with minimum outside (or ported) materials.
The end product will be weather tight, well vented, resist jungle rodents, cool to work, low cost and can be erected simply / quickly.
For permanent structures the bags will be covered with plaster for protection.
It takes one porter to carry 2 sheets of 3 x 8 sheet metal roofing or 3 porters to carry one bag of cement.
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