Geoff Piper's blog

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Always learning

One of the benefits of an ongoing relationship with a non profit, or any other client for that matter, is the ability to visit past work and learn from it. Stephanie Ingram, Court Harris and myself, Geoff Piper, had the opportunity to do just that when we were in Nicaragua this past month.
In 2006, Matthew Sullivan and myself took 10 students down to Nicaragua to help Agros plan the first of their villages in Matagalpa, named El Eden. This was our first abroad studio as instructors and our first partnership with Agros. As with many projects in developing nations, our information going in was a little bit sketchy, and we didn’t know exactly what to expect.
It turned out that we had a great bunch of students and the project went smoothly…. Well, smoothly for a development project. We also had the good fortune to be working on a project right down the road from a beautiful ecolodge where we could stay. Since that trip, we have looked back on those accommodations fondly, as we tried to figure out how to keep the rats, rather than merely insects, out of our beds (tip... you can't).


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The joys of keeping the roof up

It’s a fairly common scenario. Fresh off the plane and ready to get started on a project. On the way out to the project site you start to get a funny feeling in your stomach. No, it’s not that. You haven’t eaten anything other than airline food so far although Continentals ‘snack packs’ could certainly present a risk. What is making you nervous is the fact that none of the buildings here are built out of wood. Not a stud in sight. All you see is…. Confined Masonry.

Turns out, a good chunk of the world does not build with small dimension wood lumber. We in the United States do so mostly because our construction methods and industry developed around our most readily available resource. Wood framing is an extremely versatile system but it does have its drawbacks. One primary drawback is that you need a large supply of softwood.

 The way people build and what they build with is closely tied to where they live. Locally available materials, climactic conditions and cultural preferences all determine how and with what people build. For a good part of the world, that way is confined masonry. We often get questions about confined masonry, starting with : ‘what is it?’ So, in the interest of sparing people that sinking feeling, here is a quick primer on confined masonry. Sorry, nothing we can do about any other sinking stomach feelings.

Stage one: The foundation and slab has been poured with rebar poking up so that the column reinforcing can be tied into the foundation.
Stack the masonry, leaving gaps for the columns.


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SIDAREC 10-13-2010 construction progress


The construction of phase 1 is nearing completion. The building has been painted and paving is being installed for the veranda and entry court.
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SIDAREC Ribbon Cutting & Phase 1 Nearing Completion

View from front entry courtyard of Early Childhood Development Center (ECD) on right and Cyber Cafe on left. The Ghetto FM Radio Station will be a second story above the Cyber Cafe as Phase Two funds become available through additional funding raising. The rusty orange color was selected rather than the white, as shown in the renderings, due to concerns of the white becoming quickly dirty in the dusty environment of Mukuru. We hope that the vibrant color which compliments the brilliant blue Kenyan sky will help SIDAREC to stand out as a landmark in the community it serves.
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SIDAREC 9-20-2010 construction progress

SIDAREC construction progress from 9-20-2010. Check out the progress.
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SIDAREC 9-6-2010 construction progress

Construction progress from 9-6-2010. The buildings are nearly fully enclosed. Check out the more of the images.