(IAP ’16) Kristina Eldrenkamp, G
Kristina Eldrenkamp (G, Architecture)
Kristina will spend January working on a collaborative design project with the Olive Branch for Children, a non-profit in Tanzania. The organization is constructing a complex of buildings that will allow them to operate all of their projects out of a single site. Kristina will design details and test material performance for the buildings that are currently under construction. This will include assessing ways to mediate overheating through measuring the indoor thermal comfort. She also plans to work on a design proposal for a new building on the complex that explores different methods of ventilation. This project continues the work begun by two recent MIT Architecture graduates and will contribute to their research into cross-cultural design processes.
Check back for her updates!
Back to the States
January 28th, 2016
In 24 hours, I will be leaving Tanzania. I will be leaving behind a passionate, relentlessly hard-working group of friends, a family, and a home. I have learned so much this month (including more facts about snakes than I ever cared to know), and as sad as I will be to go, I’m excited to bring these lessons back with me (not the snake ones).
The past two weeks have been about moving forward with more detailed designs for some of the buildings in the masterplan that I worked on in my first week.
During an electricity outage in my second week (and with about a 30-minute battery life on my laptop) I spent an afternoon hand-drafting ideas for the library and computer lab and outdoor eating area that will be shared by the primary and secondary schools.
I wanted to design a very simple structure after seeing some of the construction problems on the Zion Home, so the building is rectangular with a gable roof, similar to the kindergarten buildings that the Olive Branch builds in villages throughout the region. I also wanted to build on elements that have been very successful in the construction of the classrooms, so I incorporated a low, curved brick wall patterned with perforations that connects the indoor and outdoor spaces, and creates a reading nook in the library and a circular seating area outside.
This week I created digital presentation drawings for them. This isn’t a final design, but something that Claudia, Susanna, and I will continue to develop.
I also worked on developing the secondary school classrooms. The masterplan showed the secondary school as a duplicate of the primary school (which is two sets of two classrooms, each joined by a circular courtyard) but in reality the programmatic needs of these subjects are a little different. Building on the forms and patterns in the primary school design, I designed a set of smaller buildings for science labs and gave the English and arts classroom an amphitheater-like space outside.
Other work from the past two weeks focused on the design of the Peace Home, the home for younger children that the Olive Branch runs. Claudia and Susanna developed a scheme for this building in 2014, so I built on that form and focused on the construction assemblies. Until an exact site is determined for this building and the actual topography reckoned with, this design will stay schematic, so there will be changes to this as it moves forward, including adding some outdoor shading with a porch roof.
Lastly, I finally got to see the results for the temperature monitoring that I’ve been doing at the Zion Home. This coincided with a Skype call between me, Deb, Claudia, Susanna, Ivan, and Paul (a builder and engineer who have also been volunteering on this project, also all part of the Kujenga Collaborative) where we discussed the next steps for the Zion Home construction. This conversation primarily focused on resolving the top half of the building, which is what my monitoring device was also testing.
As a recap from my first post (with a better drawing), the Zion Home was designed with open trusses and gaps under the roof to allow air through, and these clerestories would be fitted with mosquito netting in frames. The goal was the cool the underside of the metal roof to prevent it from radiating heat into the space.
At the outset of this trip, I had proposed testing three conditions: 1) the existing state (a bare roof), 2) a woven mat on the underside of the roof, and 3) a woven mat suspended at ceiling height. I hypothesized that the second condition would be the most effective, since the third condition would prevent the air through the ventilation gaps from reaching the occupants below.
As a note, you can see in the photos that the ventilation space on the lower end of the roof is bricked up. This was something that was mistranslated between design and construction, either unintentionally or in anticipating wind uplift. Because the window doesn’t have glass in it yet, however, for this experiment air was still able to flow through in a pattern similar to the original design intent.
I was surprised to learn that the third condition actually provided the highest level of indoor comfort. In the first condition, the average indoor temperature was 2.03 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the outdoor temperature; in the second, it was 4.73 degrees F cooler; and in the third, it was 5.45 degrees F cooler inside than out. That means that the third condition provides the coolest (and in this climate, the most comfortable) indoor air temperatures. There is definitely more to study and understand with this data, but at the most basic level, we are interested in how the indoor temperature compares to the outdoor temperature.
After discussing this with an energy consultant (my dad!), I learned that part of this result may be because the greatest impact felt by ventilation is through feeling a breeze on your skin, so with the breeze entering the building high, and then being directed higher, this never actually reaches the occupants. While the breeze will cool the underside of the metal roof and prevent some of the radiant heat transfer from reaching the lower spaces, this has a minimal impact. There will also be large, operable windows, which will let breezes enter the living spaces and provide more comfort than air flowing closer to the roof.
So, bringing this back to design decisions. In our conversation with client, architect, builder, and engineer we faced the challenge of balancing different interests and goals. Deb, unhappy with the aesthetics of the trusses, wanted a ceiling. Claudia and Susanna, who designed the Zion Home, wanted light to enter the building through the clerestories. We all wanted the most cost-effective solution for the Olive Branch.
With this temperature data, we can confirm that having a ceiling of some kind is a good idea, since that was the condition with the greatest indoor comfort. We now know that the air entering through the clerestories is not that important for cooling the building, but the light Claudia and Susanna were after is also important. We decided on a hybrid solution, which is to brick up the clerestories with gaps or bricks with perforated patterns, back these with mesh (which will be more cost-effective than fitted mosquito nets in a completely open clerestory, as it was designed), and install a loosely woven ceiling out of mats or bamboo. This will hide the trusses from view but also allow the light entering above to come through. Ultimately, I think this a solution that balances design, cost, and construction realities really well.
I’m looking forward to seeing this and our other projects realized and continuing to work with the wonderful people at the Olive Branch!
Life at the Zion Home
January 19th, 2016
I’m going to write more about people than buildings for this post, to show a little bit of what life is like at the Zion Home now, and what some of the hopes are for life at the new site.
First, the setting: the current Zion Home is near the center of town in Uyole, a suburb of Mbeya that sprawls out across a valley. It is home to Deb, her husband Putiyei, 39 of the kids they parent, plus two cats and a seemingly infinite number of dogs.
When the kids aren’t in school, the Zion Home is busy with programming to keep the kids learning and engaged. Deb runs an extra studies group where they are currently reading Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” together; they have organized reading time, homework review time, game nights, and movie nights; and Deb also leads exercise sessions and hikes into the mountains nearby. Many of the kids have long-term illnesses or medication side effects that are in some way improved or slowed by physical activity.
At New Year’s this year, they implemented a new dinner arrangement. The kids are sorted into Hogwarts houses and sit at their respective Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin tables, while staff and volunteers sit at the faculty table. Dinner starts with a group song or a thanks and ends with dish-washing and clean-up shifts.
The Zion Home’s relatively urban setting limits the space available for a growing organization hoping to become more self-sufficient. The masterplan drawing I shared in my last post shows how much room the new Olive Branch site will have for all of its services, including the introduction of income-earning programs and the addition of farmland where they can grow a lot of their own food. Much of the 50 acres will still remain forest, so that hikes and outdoor activities can become an even bigger part of life for the kids.
One of Olive Branch’s primary goals is to provide the kids with a better education than the overcrowded classrooms and outdated curriculums that the local schools provide. Right now, the youngest kids learn in a Montessori class led by Lindsey, a long-term volunteer, and the primary school-aged kids are taught in a classroom in the Zion Home compound following a curriculum Deb has created, but the oldest kids attend a private secondary school nearby. During homework review time with the secondary school kids, Deb is frequently frustrated by the misinformation that is taught (the study of “protists” is not “proctology”) and the emphasis on memorization rather than understanding.
One of the biggest advantages to the new site will therefore be the kindergarten through secondary school that the Olive Branch will run (I talked about the construction of the first two classrooms for this school in my last post). The organization already has a reputation in the region for being able to provide a better education than other schools in the area, so this new school will also draw paying students from wealthier families, which will help the Olive Branch run its programs.
The human aspect of this project had been somewhat disconnected for me before arriving in Tanzania, like another studio exercise. Hearing Deb and the kids talk about the new site not just as “the site” but as “our new home” has completely changed my thinking about it.
To get the kids more involved with their new home and to show them what it will be like, we decided to put together a site model with their help.
I made coloring book pages for each of the buildings on the site, unrolling the building form and adding tabs so they could be cut out and folded and glued into little boxes
On Saturday we had a big coloring session with the kids. Some of them really designed the building facades with textures and patterns, and some simply enjoyed coloring in shapes.
The finished model has helped the kids visualize what we are building. Many of them have seen the masterplan but it’s hard to conceive of a two-dimensional image of rectangles as place to live. I think the construction of the model has also gotten some of them excited about architecture!
Sunday night at dinner we put the finished model out in the hall and it was so fun seeing the kids look at it and follow their route from the new Zion Home to their new school, and talking about what life will be like on the new site.
Aside from the model, last week I spent two days on the site, where I marked out where the foundations of the next two classrooms will go and did another round of temperature testing with a woven mat attached to the underside of the metal roof (more on that in my next post). Between electricity outages at the Zion Home, I also worked on the design for the library and computer lab, and started to revisit Claudia’s design for the Peace Home and the problematic roof at the new Zion Home. This week has already included an adventure into Mbeya to buy roofing and for the rest of the week I’ll be continuing the design work I started last week.
On Tanzanian Construction
January 11th, 2016
I’ve arrived in Tanzania and have been living at the Zion Home for six days now, though it’s easy to settle in to the welcome environment here and it has felt like much longer. Deb’s energy is pervasive and we quickly jumped into my to-do list and have some new ideas simmering as well.
On Thursday, my first full day, I accompanied Putiyei (Deb’s husband and co-founder of The Olive Branch for Children) and Freddy, one of the older Zion Home kids, to the construction site. It’s about an hour drive from the Zion Home and much longer on public transportation, so I’m lucky that Putiyei is there frequently as project manager for the school construction. (Also lucky because Putiyei, unlike the other builders, speaks English!)
I expected differences between this site and the construction sites I’ve been to in the US, but hadn’t known exactly what I would see. Some things I hadn’t thought of, like the fact that they have to construct their own ladders, or that, in the absence of fast food and Tupperware in the villages, they have a cook who comes and makes lunch for them on site. Other things were more familiar, like the measuring, building, re-measuring, and adjusting that are typical to make sure things are level. The power tools were familiar, but not to them – the builders don’t look natural yet using some of these donated tools, but they’re learning.
Some of the discrepancies between design intent and construction technique were apparent in the school in the curved walls. The curve was drawn by Claudia and Susanna as a radius from a point, so that the builders could measure out the point, and then use a string of radius length to mark out the wall. From the US, this seemed like a straightforward tactic, but it was unfamiliar to the local builders and based on the way we laid out the next two classrooms today, they most likely eye-balled it. You can see some of the curved walls are not very smooth and show a tangency jump between curve and straight.
Other curved walls turned out very well and overall, the classrooms are turning out really beautifully.
While on site, I talked to Putiyei about what has been the hardest about the Zion Home and the classrooms from a construction perspective to better understand how to design these buildings going forward. I was curious if it was the novelty of some of the techniques (like if they were to build the classrooms again identically – which they will, for most of the rest of the school) would it go more smoothly, or is there something inherently difficult about the design? The answer was a mix. Some things will be easier the second time, but others, for example the roof forms, have been inappropriate for the climate.
Several of the roof panels of the new Zion Home flew off in December during a storm (I will write more on the new Zion Home and the temperature monitoring I’ve been doing there in my next two posts), which is partly due to the fact that the building was designed with the roof lifted to improve ventilation, but inadvertently created too much wind uplift. Anticipating this, they made adjustments to the classroom roof before starting it, changing it from a gable (which was intended to be open on the ends) to a hipped roof with four sides. We will have to hope that the windows provide enough air flow. There will need to be a balance going forward between all these factors.
Since Thursday, I’ve been working with Deb back in Uyole on the masterplan (the plan for the whole site and its construction phasing). In my last post I said I’d be working on the design of the next two classrooms while I’m here, but in our design for the masterplan, we decided to repeat Claudia and Susanna’s design for the next two classrooms to complete the lower school (and likely extend the design to the secondary school as well). Instead I’ve been sketching some ideas for the library and computer lab and am brainstorming ways to build a site model here with the kids!
This week I’ll be on site, marking out the foundation for the next two classrooms, accompanied by the construction site dog.
Off to Tanzania!
January 4th, 2016
Tonight I leave for a month-long project with the Olive Branch for Children (TOBFC) in southwestern Tanzania. In three flights and twenty-six hours, Deb McCracken, the organization’s founder, will pick me up at the Mbeya airport and I’ll head to the Zion Home in the suburb of Uyole, where I’ll be staying for the next four weeks.
The Zion Home is headquarters for TOBFC and houses most the organization’s volunteers as well as thirty of the non-profit’s constituents: a group of children and youth who have suffered health and social traumas. The environment Deb has fostered is that of a family, and she and her husband Putiyei go by mom and dad by all the kids.
TOBFC’s work includes HIV/AIDS prevention and care, early childhood education, food security, financial empowerment for vulnerable populations, and community outreach. Right now, these efforts are operated out of disparate, rented buildings throughout the region, so my project this month will support the organization’s move to a 50-acre site they have acquired in the village of Ilaji.
Two former classmates and graduates of the MIT Architecture program, Claudia Bode and Susanna Pho, began this project with TOBFC two years ago and have designed and overseen the construction of the new Zion Home and the first two classrooms of the school. Eventually the site will eventually also include a training facility and resource center, housing for volunteers, staff, and residents, and livestock facilities.
I’ve been thinking about the work I’ll do over the next month in three parts.
1. School design
Claudia and Susanna conceived the design for a modular school that can grow as the organization’s needs and budget allow. They developed the design for the first two classrooms, with a single curved wall that forms three spaces (two classrooms and a courtyard). The idea is for the classrooms to continue to be built in pairs like the first two, forming a connected network of courtyards. I will be tackling classrooms three and four.
2. Temperature monitoring
The new Zion Home has been under construction for several months now. Claudia and Susanna designed this building to have a raised roof that will allow ventilation under the eaves and for more natural light. The metal roof is bare, so it’s possible that the space will overheat. In traditional Tanzanian buildings, they will sometimes suspend a textile or woven mat across the top of the walls. This will help with overheating, but it will also prevent that extra light and might make the ventilation less direct and effective.
I am interested in testing applying a woven material directly to the inside of the sloped roof as an alternative. To test this, I am coming equipped with a temperature monitoring device with four nodes that will let me measure outside temperature, inside temperature, top of roof temperature, and underside of roof temperature. I can program this ahead of time to take measurements every 15 minutes over several days. I’m hoping to test the existing bare roof, a suspended woven mat, and a woven mat on the underside of the roof and assess the temperature data I get to determine the most comfortable construction method.
3. Construction research
Communication between the architecture students in the US and the builders in Tanzania has been challenging at times. Design intent and construction details are easy to mistranslate between cultures. I am hoping to better understand the construction process in typical Tanzanian buildings by talking to the builders about how they would draw their own work. Claudia and Susanna have worked hard to rethink the traditional plan, section, and elevation drawings that we produce in school and consider the different backgrounds and tools of the Tanzanian builders we are working with, but there have still been occasional errors. I hope that continuing to explore new methods of communication will help in the future designs for TOBFC site.
I fully expect all these goals to change and develop as I explore my new surroundings. I’ll post again once I have arrived!