Last lunch with Joe

A DPM and Shoprite carrier bag make a surprisingly good surface for eating Nsima and fish off. At least with the DPM in place you’re guaranteed no wasted relish! The word ‘relish’ here is generally used to refer to anything other than Nsima, usually the sauce, fish/chicken or vegetable.

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Slab Complete

Here’s a collection of photos from the last few days completing the main slab before erecting the columns and roof cassettes. It’s been quite a slow and complicated process setting the metal plates and bolts into the slab, but It’s been satisfying to finally see this complete and the slab ready for the timber components once the concrete has fully cured.

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Timber Workshop

Fabrication of all the timber elements is well under way now, in tandem with completing the slab and making SSBs. We decided to expand the timber shelter in preparation for the wet season, using the IBR iron sheets to make an expanded covered space. It’s a really productive timber workshop in here now, which Joe and Roberto have been overseeing with the carpenters whilst I push on with completing the slab with Mr Kalua.

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Nsima for lunch

We now have lunch with the builders every Friday and buy something tasty for us all to enjoy. Nsima, or ‘food’ as the locals refer to it, is the staple diet here, eaten with everything. Personally I love it, and even crave it some days, I like to compare it to a kind of savoury cake, it really fills you up and keeps you going all afternoon. Roberto had a stab at cooking and did a good job!

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Roofing Sheets

I finally got around to collecting our galvanised ‘Alu-Zinc’ (IBR – profiled, trapezoidal) roofing sheets, having ordered these at the end I last month before prices rocketed for this. I was informed when collecting these that these had increased by 30% in price since our order, so we did well to get the order in early. Most items are now shooting up in price as the Kwacha struggles to hold it’s value, partly due to the end if the tobacco and maize season and is apparently an annual occurrence.

We managed to order the sheets at full length for the clinic, which at 10.7m are apparently the longest IBR length that the manufactures have ever ordered! Good to be setting new ground I suppose. However it made my early morning truck selection and collection somewhat challenging. Handling the sheets was a bit if a H&S nightmare also. Thankfully I had a pair of gardening gloves with me (they’re the best you can get here!), to void injury on the razor sharp edges.

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Slab Casting

I think with any project, the one time you don’t want rain is when a DPM has just even sealed and secured in a shuttered scenario, in effect creating a huge water right pond just before the slab is cast. So of course after weeks of prolonged clear wether and sunshine, rain arrived! The ponding mainly happened around the slab edge where we have a stepped detail so we were able to scoop most of this out before casting and in fact the water was just displaced during casting.

Its rare for architects to have the opportunity to get so involved with these stages of construction, so it’s been great learning to work on the slab casting and re-enforcement process. I think we definitely had to let go slightly on some of the precise detailing due to lack of tools and equipment needed. Apparently on most buildings/slabs in Malawi neither a DPM nor re-enforcement wire is used, so we felt assured that we are at least exceeding the general standards, if conceding to accepting the odd area of damage to the DPM.

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Ministry Of Works

This is an interesting institution here in Mzuzu where I went recently to have some SSBs tested for their density and comprehensive strength. There was a slight air if abandonment to the facilities as I think the government facility is rarely used now a days by industries or locals who mould their own bricks. It’s is a shame as it was interesting to see the brick strengths in relation to their soil, sand and cement mix ( we have settled on a 5:1:1 mix, soil:sand:cement). They were testing some hollow concrete blocks for an infra-structure scheme down in Lilongwe at the time I was there, and it was interesting to see that the SSBs we were having tested came out in fact stronger than these!

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