Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ACDP Conference

This past weekend was EMI's annual Association of Christian Design Professionals conference. Every year it is held in a difference city across the country, but I had the great luck of being in Colorado Springs the year it is held in Colorado Springs!

Prior to the official start of the conference, I was part of a 3-day mission hospital design symposium. This symposium aimed to develop an online resource that can be used by our staff and volunteers when  designing a hospital in the developing world. There is a large gap between the quality of hospitals in the United States and those in countries that our projects are in. It was our goal to determine an appropriate level of design that improved their current healthcare conditions, but was reasonable for the type of equipment and services they would be able to offer. We even discussed topics such as the Ebola outbreaks that will surely change the way mission hospitals are designed and operated. With input from several healthcare professionals, both from the US and Africa, we were able to make some progress towards creating standards to follow for future projects. In the coming months I will continue to work on this mission hospital resource.

On Friday, the ACDP conference began with lectures and activities for a special arm of EMI, the Disaster Response volunteers. EMI has been responding to disasters worldwide since 1981, and has a great network of volunteers who are ready to drop everything at a minute's notice to provide immediate aid to survivors of disasters. As part of this, the conference also offered emergency preparedness training. Our favorite part of this was when the interns stalked and photographed different volunteers as they walked around downtown Colorado Springs in order to point out the volunteers' levels of awareness. Not one of them were caught taking photos! I guess we should all be more aware of our surroundings…that creeps me out!

On Saturday, lectures ran from 8:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. Participants could choose from a wide range of topics including design in the developing world, cross-cultural ministry, water sanitation and hygiene, appropriate technologies, and information for new volunteers, staff, or spouses. At night, we got to hear an amazing talk from Nabeel Jabbour, a Christian man born in Syria, raised in Lebanon, educated in Egypt, and now working with the Navigators in Colorado Springs. Nabeel gave us a glimpse at some cultural differences between the Arab world and the US. He even offered us copies of his book, The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross! I will be reading this soon as I am so excited to hear more about Islamic culture in the midst of so much news on ISIS and the Middle East.

Dirk & Rex discussing the design of Mission Hospitals:

I got to see all of these girls that I hadn't seen since we interned 2 years ago!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mali Design progress

I'm having so much fun designing a community center that will be built in Mali! I had no idea what Malian architecture was like before this project, but look at this gorgeous mosque! I have a new bucket list item:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sustainability in the Developing World

In the architecture community today, sustainability is one of the biggest buzzwords you will hear. Both designers and clients are obsessed with making buildings Green, LEED compliant, and Sustainable. So I started reading Sustainability and Scarcity: A handbook for green design and construction in developing countries. Not three paragraphs into Chapter 1 did I realize an answer to a question many have asked about EMI's designs in the developing world: Why do we give ministries such basic designs when we have the ability to design much more complex, interesting, or stunning structures? The following is what I gathered from this book and my knowledge of EMI to answer this question.

The definition of Sustainability consists of three dimensions: environmental, economic, and social. However, the architecture industry is most often concerned only with the environmental and economic aspects. Sustainable design usually focuses on money-saving energy techniques or the size of footprint on the environment. However, for EMI to go into a foreign context and try to offer a sustainable solution for these ministries, it must also address social sustainability. One definition of sustainability is "to maximize human well-being in the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (OECD). Addressing human well-being in the present can look like so many different things: water quality, education levels, health, security, jobs, energy availability, and endemic poverty.

We acknowledge that it is impossible for us to affect wide-reaching change on all of these areas. But, it brings up the question, how can building design and construction have a social impact?

First, EMI works for Christian non-profits who are invested in the growth and success of their community. The clients may be needing a hospital, orphanage, school, clean water project, or countless other project types that work to directly improve human well-being in the present. EMI brings expertise of how spaces can be designed to work most efficiently, while the client provides input for how their particular community functions. Together, a building is designed that will hopefully improve the people for the present and into the future.

Second, EMI is growing in numbers of local design professionals. In all of our field offices there are volunteers and employees from that country, as well as on many of the project trips. We recognize that Westerners cannot be, and are not desired to be, a "savior" for developing communities. Rather, we hope to train and encourage architects and engineers from underdeveloped countries to carry out the design principles that we know will help their communities flourish. The most sustainable way is to help people help themselves.

Lastly, it is important to keep buildings local and keep them simple.  In this way a building becomes sustainable and accountable to local people. EMI always goes to the project site to develop an initial design, in order to understand the local cultures, building histories, social values, security concerns, and so much more. It is imperative that architects understand how the buildings will be constructed and maintained so as not to provide something outside of the capabilities of the client. Although I love the Rural Studio, its use of odd materials and confusing shapes often make it hard for the client to maintain and sustain. EMI strives to use local building techniques and materials, with an increased level of design to help the clients, not experiment on them.

With all of this being said, environmental and economic sustainability are also crucial to EMI designs… but I'll save those thoughts for another day :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First days as a LTV

My official title with EMI is a Long Term Volunteer. It's a fuzzy gray area between intern and staff that has not existed before in the Colorado office. This leaves me with a very loose job description that will hopefully be fine tuned over time. Until then, I am bouncing between a whole host of roles.

To start my time with EMI I am working on two really awesome projects. The first came to us last Friday from YWAMEmerge (an arm of the organization I designed a school for in Uganda). This is a very unique project for EMI, though, because the site is in Colorado Springs! YWAMEmerge has a new 5 acre farm nearby that will house several families, offices, a hydroponics greenhouse, and chicken coops. Not only will the YWAM employees benefit from fresh fruit, vegetables, and other produce, but the site will also serve to train aquaponics and chicken farming to those wanting to build similar systems in unreached people groups around the world. The farm has an existing barn that the client wants to turn into offices, so all of my interior tenant fitouts with Hughes Group are coming in handy! I also didn't think I would ever be reading books on raising poultry, but you never know what is to come with EMI!

To read more about YWAMEmerge go here:

The second project I'm working on is a more typical EMI client: a hospital in Ghana. One of our teams is headed to Peru later this week, so I will be finishing up their work while they're gone and getting a final package together for the client. The only problem so far is that the architecture portion is complete...leaving me with engineering work to do! (I will refrain from any comments about how architects are so much better at time management and getting work done that needs to get done!) Luckily one of the volunteers that went on the Ghana trip came by and tell me where to put electrical conduit. I love a volunteer that stays invested in a project beyond the trip!

Yesterday I took a big leap and got my first apartment! The unit is 1/4 of an old Victorian just 1 mile from my office! Kudos to my mom for finding it! I was worried about finding a place while living off of support, but the property manager didn't ask too many questions ;)

These are the events happening in the Springs...does it get any better than this!?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Return to EMI

Two years after my first week with EMI, I am happy to say that I can't get enough of my time with them and will be committing to another year! As always, I will be updating the blog so that everyone can see the work that God is doing through the organization. I don't have many details of the projects yet, but stay tuned! If you haven't look at their website before, you should! It is full of great information about their (our?) work.
This will also be the longest I've ever lived off of support raising, so I'm selling the homemade pottery and cards you see below (and many more) as a fundraiser! Let me know if you're interested in something :)

8x10 or 5x7

Sunday, October 6, 2013

With A Vision Comes Provision

So far most of my posts have been about the cultural experiences in Uganda, but now I will share about the design work we did *for those of you interested in architecture*.

When we arrived in Uganda, the EMI team was only aware that we were being asked to design a primary school and master plan for the organization Youth With a Mission. A few of us were nervous that five architects were going to have to collaborate on the design of one school and actually agree upon a design in one week. However, as always, God was a step ahead.

On day one we had a programming meeting with the YWAM directors. They were extremely excited for the design of the primary school, but added that they had dreams of a "hospitality center" as well. They didn't seem confident that we would have time to do both projects, and they were aware that it was kind of throwing us for a loop...but they explained their visions anyway:
In the past, YWAM had been approached by different groups and organizations interested in holding events at the existing YWAM conference center, only to be turned away because there was no room [in the inn...get it?! How metaphoric...]. Further, the directors had detailed thoughts of what this hospitality center would look like...a cross-shaped structure with a common area at the intersection that had a fountain and plants...a real oasis for their guests to gather around. The hospitality center would not only be a blessing to the people interested in using their conference center, but it would also be a huge financial blessing to the YWAM ministry. If they were able to charge fees for groups holding conferences, retreats, or on vacation, they would be able to better support the construction of the primary school, and possibly even cover school fees for the kids.

The idea for a primary school came about as a request from parents. YWAM currently has a daycare on their site with almost 150 children in attendance. The children receive a solid Christian education that they would not otherwise get. After daycare, however, there is no Christian primary school for the kids. The education received at a government school in Uganda is basically useless, if not harmful with false teachings, and private schools are expensive. Therefore, there was no question that a school must be built!

With two projects on the table now, we were perfect in numbers. Split into two teams, we got busy with the designs.

This is Rose, who currently runs the YWAM Hopeland Pre-School

We interviewed Rose and some of the YWAM staff to understand what their needs are, how classes are taught in Uganda, and what they hope to see in the primary school

 We also walked the site to understand where the school is going to be built. The property is adjacent to a sugarcane farm - you can see in the the photo above we're standing on the property line, grass on one side and remnants of harvested sugarcane on the other.

These buildings will most likely be built in phases due to the availability of funding, so that became one driving factor in the design. We imagined that the school could be built one classroom at a time so that each year the oldest students move up into a new building, until the P-1 students are in the P-7 building 7 years down the road. Shana and Pearly spearheaded the design of the school and came up with an awesome scheme that takes into consideration many things that YWAM hadn't even thought of. The unfortunate reality in Uganda, is that security is a major issue, yet it is not always addressed. Currently the site has a really ineffective "fence" around parts of it, but it is not adequate. We were told that school children had been kidnapped in neighboring areas to be offered as human sacrifices, and the YWAM staff were fearful that this could happen to their own. To address security, the design creatively uses the site layout and building plans to provide more protection.

Master Plan of the School and Hospitality Center

The northern-most portion of the YWAM site will be dedicated to the grade schools. The EMI team proposed that the existing pre-school be re-purposed for use in conjunction with the Primary school and that a new pre-school be built. This concentrates the older kids into one area, and the younger kids into another. A new administration building will be built between the two, to act as an entry point and teacher workspace.

Plan and Section of two classrooms

The proposed primary school consists of the above plan duplicated four times. Each of the four sets will have two classrooms with a descended courtyard in between. The design of the school lends itself well to indoor-outdoor living, as the Ugandans love to do. With this design, it is easy for teachers to open the wall of doors and spill outside. The courtyard steps down so that kids can sit along the edge while the teacher talks. A solid wall along the exterior of the site is incorporated for security, while the opposite side opens towards the campus and the covered walkway that connects all 8 classrooms.

Rendering of the Primary School

The cross-shaped hospitality center actually lends itself really well to phasing, as each wing could be built separately, if necessary. Since Uganda is in a seismic zone capable of producing earthquakes, it was also important that each wing be structurally independent of each other. Initially, the YWAM staff expressed interest in having a 4-story building...initially and every day since. Taller buildings are seen as a symbol of status in Uganda, and it was simply their interest in an awe-inspiring structure that fueled this desire...however EMI would not comply. It is so difficult to regulate the construction practices in Uganda that the only way to ensure a safe structure is to build a maximum of two-stories.

Aerial view of the Hospitality Center

The cross-shape does have a major inherent problem in that no matter the orientation there will always be at least two wings with poor sun exposure. To mitigate this, our design uses loggias on the west sides to block the hot, setting sun. At night, therefore, when most time is spent in the bedroom, it will be as cool as possible. We also recommended locations for trees to be planted, which will work perfectly because any seed dropped on the ground will grow a tree in Uganda.

The long, narrow wings were extremely helpful for cross-ventilation. Without a double-loaded corridor, it is possible for air to flow in one side of the room and out the other. It also means that the toilets can have exterior access (necessary in Uganda for plumbing and ventilation), but not open out onto the walkway.

Cross-section of the bedrooms. On the bottom is a typical dormitory-style, single-loaded corridor. On the top is a two-person room section that explains how the roof allows for ventilation in the circumstances where it is not a single-loaded corridor.

A lot of effort was put into determining what kinds of bedrooms were needed in this hospitality center. Since YWAM hasn't hosted too many events and conferences before, it was hard for them to know what types of people and groups would be using this building. After much conversation, three general room-types were determined: A dormitory-style room with hall toilets, a two-person room with an ensuite, and a larger, two-room suite for families, guest lecturers, or chaperones. An effort was also made to explain the possible furniture layouts of each room type. The dimensions of the rooms were based off of typical bed sizes, so that each room was as efficient as possible. We diagrammed several room layouts to explain the different numbers of inhabitants each could accommodate.

two different dormitory furniture layouts

The two-person room with two twins or a double bed

The suite-style room opening out onto an end terrace.

The overall floorplan

These local cast-concrete blocks are used in several of the YWAM buildings, so we were excited to incorporate them in our design as they are an affordable way to add beauty.

Rendering of the Hospitality Center's central atrium. The red handrails are intended to be built out of the cast-concrete blocks.

Dr. Tim, the director of YWAM Hopeland, had a distinct vision of what the central courtyard space would look like. He wants a fountain in the center that has a large set of sculpted hands above, meant to symbolize God, with water pouring out over smaller hands in prayer position. He imagined an opening in the roof to allow rain to come down into the fountain, although we agreed with his wife that it wasn't quite practical to have a hole in the roof. We compromised by suggesting they build the framework for a roof over a small hole in the center, which could be tiled if the rain turns out to be a problem, but looks pretty cool if it's not. 

After 7 days of designing, Michael ironed a sheet out on the wall, and we presented to the YWAM staff.

Me presenting

The YWAM staff watching and listening and sleeping

And their reaction was wonderful! The YWAM director of Uganda, Uncle Leo (front and center in the picture above), told a story about sitting in the same exact spot (which was a funny coincidence since we were supposed to hold the presentation in a different building) several years before, dreaming up the YWAM Hopeland site. The ground was only concrete and none of the windows or the blue wall in the back were in existence. It really made us all believe that it wouldn't be long until this school and hospitality center were a reality, because as he said, "With a vision, comes a provision". And God will provide!

the cute boys that might go to our school someday!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Architects: Because Engineers Need Babysitters

     One of the most unique cultural experiences of Uganda was Church. As I said before, we went to the local church that is attended by the YWAM director and his family. It was posted to start at 9:00, so we started left the YWAM base at 10:15 (It's like a Ugandan 9:00). Shockingly, we were the last people there! The church was packed, but the Ugandans displayed their generous nature by instantly shuffling the entire congregation around to fit our group inside. They pushed the kids to the floor and squeezed 5 to a bench, and once we all got settled the worship started.
     The songs were a mix of English and Luganda, some we knew and some we didn't. Once the sermon started, the service was about as far as you could get from the up and down dance of the Catholic church. In the Ugandan church you have to sit. On a very hard bench. With no back. Without crossing your legs!! It was so difficult. And the most amazing thing was that the children on benches sat completely still and stared straight ahead for the whole sermon. The 2+ hour sermon was not only long, but was preached in English and translated into Luganda, making it extra lengthy and hard to concentrate.
     Of course, the building was also a huge departure from the ornate churches we are used to. It was a simple concrete rectangle with a dirt floor or very dirty concrete floor. No A/C of course, but all of the windows and doors were open. The ceiling was clad in bamboo mats for some acoustic control. As always, the Ugandans were dressed very nicely... some more than others. I imagine some of the dresses probably made their way from a thrift-store donation made by American high school girls after they were finished with their prom dresses. I'm talking hot pink, rhinestoned, satin dresses. It was adorable.

Pearly's Photo - Walking to Church

After church we got straight back to work! It might have been Sunday, but we only had a week to design and draw up a whole school and hotel!

A unique thing about working with EMI, is that architects, civil engineers, structural engineers, electrical engineers, and geotechnical engineers all work side by side. I think we all found it exciting to see more of what happens in the other disciplines. Typically architects hire engineering consultants that they email with often and talk to on the phone in the case of confusion. Many of us didn't know exactly what the other disciplines do, but when we are all located in the same place we really got to see how each discipline contributes to the project.

So here's what I found the engineers do:

they test the water for e coli

they test the alkalinity, chlorine, nitrogen, and iron content in the water

 they dig grave-like holes...

...to test the soil

and percolation tests to determine the soil's ability to hold or drain water

they inspect the electricity on the site...in this case they determined that ants had eaten through a lot of the wires in the ground. This caused the electricity to NOT be grounded in some places. Which meant that when I turned on the hot-water heater in the shower (I was being SO hopeful that we might have hot water...what a silly expectation) I got a major shock that shot my hand back and left it tingly for a few hours.

And last but not least...
The structural engineers (Brad) present images of catastrophic collapses...
...and promise that we won't provide the same...or scare them to listen to our design know-how.

But of course everyone knows the architects worked the hardest and longest :)

     Although we know how important our role as designers is to YWAM right now...we are all very aware that the best thing that could happen to Uganda is to educate African architects and engineers. Hopefully, one day, trips like these aren't even necessary. That's why we were so excited when Joshua stopped by!

David (architect from England), Shana (architect from California), Joshua, Me, Sarah (architect from England), and Pearly (architect from Hong Kong)

Joshua is a 16 year old Ugandan boy whose mother works for YWAM. She told him that architects were going to be designing new buildings for YWAM and he was so excited! Joshua's mother brought him by on Sunday...and he came back ever day after that! Since the architects were inside on our computers every day we had the least amount of contact with local Ugandans. That's just one of the reasons we were so excited that Joshua kept coming by! He is a lucky kid...not only does he get to go to school...he gets to go to a school that offers drafting classes. He said that because of this class and something that he read once, he wants to be an architect, too. So we put him to work :) 
During the three days Joshua worked with us he proved his awesome drafting and design skills. He drew a building by hand that we ended up using as the proposed staff housing. Then we let him use SketchUp, a computer program that models buildings in 3d. He had never drawn on a computer before and he did such a good job. We encouraged Joshua as much as we could, so that he can add to the couple of hundred registered architects in Uganda (as compared to over 200,000 in America). The team was nice enough to leave him all of the drawing supplies that they could give up, and hopefully he will put them to good use!

I think I've lost everyone again...I'll finish this post another day :)