OUR INAUGURAL PROJECT
We are thrilled to showcase our inaugural project. A series of four classrooms for a secondary school in Northern Cameroon.
Our inaugural project was a huge success for 4 major reasons
1. We lowered the interior temperature of the classrooms by up to 10F
2. We built the classrooms with 100% local labor using local materials whenever possible
3. We implemented simple construction methods that local laborers can easily replicate in the future
4. Our design was 45% cheaper than the standard government designed classrooms
The final Product
Our original goal was 2 classrooms but we surprised ourselves and were able to fully construct 4 classrooms. It took three full months to construct this block. Although the final design is quite different than the original it was embraced by the local community, which is our largest measure of success.
The Original Design
Ngong is a small village in the Northern Region of Cameroon
The Northern Region of Cameroon faces a harsh arid climate and very high rates of poverty. There is a lack of infrastructure, limited access to medical and sanitation services, and few options for a quality education.
The site plan provides large assembly and small gathering spaces
planning the site to accommodate exterior shaded gathering spaces, that are an important part of Cameroonian culture, is crucial. The intense erosion is mitigated through intentional tree and building placement
Using local materials and labor
Using local labor and materials is an important part of the design. Beyond the locally created metal windows and doors, the major building material is soil stabilized bricks, a modern version of clay fired bricks that are sustainable, fairly inexpensive, and cooler than concrete masonry units.
Extreme temperatures make ventilation and cooling critical
Larger windows and ventilation through the ceiling, an overarching shading roof, and soil stablized bricks that release cool air during the day all work together to create a comfortable learning environment for students and teachers. In a region where temperatures routinely reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit cooling is a priority.
Inside a classroom
Classrooms open into a large assembly courtyard
Design Cause is partnering with the local Catholic Church in Ngong to ensure that this project is a success. The church has a long standing positive relationship with the community making their involvement crucial in the acceptance of the project. The church will run and maintain the physical campus, faculty, and student body. Their involvement will allow the classrooms to be used for their intended purpose for a long time without the continued assistance of Design Cause.
Now that the project has been build our work isn't over. We need to see how our design is making an impact on the students, faculty, and community. We would like to know how many days of the year students missed class due to the heat, how the total number of students attending Saint Andrew's of Ngong has changed, what students and teachers like or dislike about the new design, and what they would like to see changed in the next version. We would also like to look at how the classroom is affecting students' ability to learn, what the grade average in the new classrooms is, how many students drop out during the school year, and overall student performance and attitude during the year.
Collecting these metrics set us apart from other nonprofits and gives us the ability to test and constantly improve our designs to be able to benefit others more effectively.
Long Term Goals
The long term goal for this project is to build St. Andrew's into a full co-ed institution that includes, a full secondary school, a vocational training school for adults, live-in accommodations for students who have relocated to learn, sports facilities to encourage athletics and overall health, and a farm where students can learn critical agricultural skills and provide nutritious food for their own cafeteria. The design of each space will focus on the cultural and climatic concepts employed in the initial classrooms, making this institution far more effective in helping children and adult learn.
Beyond the goal of building out the school, Design Cause is hoping that the new infrastructure will become the new standard for educational buildings in the Northern and extreme North regions of Cameroon. Unsuitable infrastructure is adding to the education crisis in this area of the world and that by adopting better design and construction practices this region can begin to see a positive shift.