So how do we build?

Photo 12

Our building will be a solid, well-built structure that will last for years. Getting it there is quite a different story than what happens in the Western World.

Building is literally done by hand here. The rule of “only touch once” for stones, sand, ballast (pieces of stone in cement for reinforcement) doesn’t work here.

The trenches for the foundation are dug out by hand. That’s easily said, as they had to go down to six feet to reach the rock base solid enough to carry the load of the building. For the pillars they actually went deeper. Try throwing the dirt out of there with only a shovel!

As the road is often a muddy mess, the truck goes as far is it can, often getting stuck, and the load is unloaded there. That means that the stones, ballast, steel reinforcement, etc. have to be carried to the building site. It is then put in front of the site, and often later, because of building constraints, to be carried to the spot it where it will eventually be used.

The leveling of the land, bringing in ballast and later cement, is manual labor. The ground is compacted with a large stone on the end of a stick. The cement is mixed with a shovel; the steel rods for reinforcing the concrete are cut and tied by hand.

The entire area for the building will be surrounded by a stone wall, the courtyard concrete. That concrete, as well as the foundation of the building, has a polyethylene sheet under it to keep moisture out. When poured the concrete dries quickly in the warm temperatures (around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit), so they pour water (out of the ditch running by the lot) on it to slow the drying, so that it dries evenly.

Natural, machine-cut stone is used for the walls and foundation. The pillars in the corners of the building, a couple of spots in between, and for the outside walls are made of concrete, manually made and poured into wooden forms.

All wheelbarrows, shovels, and other tools are rented, but also the wooden forms for the concrete and those needed to support the upper floor while making the steel reinforcement and pouring the concrete.

Those forms for the upper floor are made with flat metal sheets, held up by wooden poles cut to length, and placed under the sheets. Those poles are then fixed to the correct length, if necessary, with a small flat rock under them. The poles are then nailed together with interconnecting poles or pieces of wood.

For the upper floor they had a cement mixer and a lift to get the cement upstairs.

This sounds very simple, and it is, as well as being very heavy and exacting work. On the other hand, the local people have a job, so the trade-off of not having to hire expensive equipment and tools takes longer than we would expect in our world. In the end the walls are perfectly straight and very well-built.

Just recently it made world news that an apartment building crashed down in one of the neighboring slums during heavy rains. It was not the rain, it was bad building, probably helped by the ever-present corruption. A shallower foundation, a lesser standard of building, etc., accompanied by paying a civil servant sent to assess to look the other way, making the building cheaper and profit higher, a nice share of which goes into someone’s pocket along the way.


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