Bomnong L'or Week 8 - Finish Line
After eight wet and challenging weeks, we were delighted to welcome the children who had so eagerly been awaiting the opening of their new centre. With a large number of local children spending the majority of each day either playing or learning at the community centre, there was much excitement to explore and discover the range of new spaces on offer.
Before that however, the team entered the final week with an intimidatingly long list of outstanding jobs to complete. With that, large flood lights were set up on site, dinner became a rushed affair and the team pushed on through the evenings grabbing just a few hours sleep before the early start the following morning.
The team numbers swelled too as we welcomed a team of electricians on to site, who set to work running cables to link up our network of lights, fans and sockets. From the outset, one of the key aims of the project had been to design a building which utilised today's popular building methods (concrete frame, brick and steel) in a way which was significantly more environmentally efficient and comfortable to inhabit than the poorly designed buildings going up all over the rest of the city and country. As the insulated roof sheets were installed we already felt the initial benefits of our work, however, it was the fitting of the hanging fans in each room which really confirmed our success in this area. When switched off, the fans still rotate at a steady pace as they get caught in the cool air which is being constantly drawn through the short section of each building and up through the opening in the off-set roof. The fans themselves are largely unnecessary yet contribute towards internal comfort, giving the user the ability to control the level of air movement to a greater extent.
Two of the largest jobs in the final week were the fitting of split bamboo strips and leftover/ re-used fabric from the concrete formwork to clad the steel framed sliding doors and windows. The bamboo was tied with a malleable wire onto security bars set within each frame. The bamboo lends a largely solid appearance to each door yet still allowing plenty of light and air to move freely in and out of the space behind. As a durable, widely available and highly inexpensive material, it should enable easy future maintenance and repair if required.
On the other side of each frame, we made use of the leftover and re-used fabric with which we had cast our concrete frame. With many lengths washed thoroughly to remove the grey patina left by the concrete during the pour, the fabric's white tone will help indirect light (the roof eaves block almost all direct sun-light) to still pass through into the internal space. Achieving the desired tension and secure fitting of each piece of fabric with the limited resources available to us posed the biggest challenge and though the building is now largely complete, we hope to adjust this in the near future to ensure the longevity of the design.
On the final day, with the odd bamboo strip still being fitted to the IT room, we were able to enjoy the excitement of the children playing in the significantly increased playground space, and careering up and down the stairs and around the raised walkways. The teaching staff were on hand too and had already chosen who would take which classroom.
The opening was dotted with frequent rainfall (of course) which seemed a fitting end to a very wet two months on site. The significant challenges posed by the weather throughout this project greatly impacted our schedule and we are very grateful to four members of our team, Josie Doherty, Ryan McGaffney, Linnea Rönnquist and Jen Taggart, for staying on for an extra four weeks to ensure most loose ends were tied up and finishing jobs completed. They were joined by many from our local team and head teacher, Sokheang Ham, who has been an unwavering support from start to finish and a great friend to all of us.
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in the project and to all those who supported it. Particular thank yous must go to our key sponsor Drum Property Group, our patron Mark Beaumont and his Africa Solo World Record Cycle in support of Orkidstudio, our structural engineers StructureMode who worked tirelessly on this innovative and experimental design, Proserve for their advice and generous donation of the fabric formwork, and Morris & Spottiswood for their sponsorship of our local construction team. We are confident that the new building will provide a great new home for the Bomnong L'or Centre and look forward to revisiting and supporting them as they settle in.
Photographs by Lindsay Perth.