Walls finished!

A selection of photos bellow detailing the weeks activities. An active week of completing all the external brickwork walls and trips to the saw mill to prepare all the softwood architraves and beading for the windows and doors. We’ve had all the windows measured up now so once all the beading is in place and walls plastered we can have this fitted. Also some photos of mushrooms at the end which seem to be in season at the moment, there’s plenty in the market and I keep getting offered enormous specimens walking around town and campus!


Our temporary shelter built back in October has now become a central social scene around the site. The day watch women have fully moved in, chatting and socialising all day (intermixed with napping!) and cooking their nsima.


Our site chefs Chimango and Banda take over on the fire


Nsima and Oespia for lunch for the day watch-woman


…and the same for us


Starting the base wall for the external screen to the waiting area


Mr Kalua and Morton helping me with the ladder whilst inspecting the roofing sheets after heavy rains


Wezi, our plumber getting to work threading all the steel water pipe work for first fix hot/cold water installation. SSB walls complete on the West elevation


View out of a clinician’s room on the south. We have tried to balance privacy with view and daylighting. The rooms on the south are however a little on the shady side due to the pitch of the roof,  but privacy is still deemed as more important.


In contrast, the high levels of daylighting in the clinician’s room on the north elevation thanks to the high level windows and skywards pitched roof


View through the clinician’s and treatment rooms with our full frame doors and plywood over-panels (the over-panels are well insulated using SSB’s)


Further view into the corner of the main clinician’s room


View in similar room on the opposite corner


Same room looking west – we will benefit from doubled sided ventilation to all corner rooms



View from the proposed HIV testing room


Completed external walls and framing on the north elevation


Completed walls and windows on the west elevation


Walls completed to the south and a temporary shelter we have erected to begin forming the manhole to the south


South west corner complete



South east corner brickwork complete. The timber on the khonde is part of the batch of 50x150mm pressure treated/kiln dried timber we will prepare and use for the external doors


Walls finished on the east elevation, facing the new waiting area


South elevation


Temporary shelter no.3. I always enjoyed making these types of shelters out of beach towels on shade-less beaches on holidays when I was younger!


Morton starts work on the man and bellow ground drainage runs


….whilst Yotam and Chimango move forwards with the internal wall for the waiting area bench


Wezi working on first fix mechanical. First fix electrical now complete, as seen.



Mushroom season at market!


My guesthouse day guard: Queen Phiri and her friend collecting mushrooms on campus (the smaller variety)




Queen Phiri helping me prepare a fire this week-end during power cuts



More external walls…

Hopefully I’ve not put too many of you to sleep yet with photos of SSBs and walls – but they sure are helping to make the previous ‘canopy’ start to feel like a proper building now and satisfyingly starting to define the rooms and overall feel of the building. The guys really pushed on today, taking a bay each and by lunch (see menu bellow….) all the front elevation walls had been started. I also started to experiment with the SSB screen wall we’re looking to incorporate sheltering a new timber bench on the Khonde.


Main elevation walls well on their way



First complete wall in the middle


Almost a complete corner section around the sluice room and stores


Gable end wall. The SSBs have dried to a lovely soft red colour tieing them in pleaseantly with the sourrounding landscape, which you might expect with something made from the soil of its own site.


Startng to experiment with the waiting area screen. I’m planning on introducing some lintols to form openings at eye level as you enter the area – co-ordinated with the cross pieces in the columns, could look interesting


Start of the bench layout with Roberto’s idea of bring the SSB’s through as the face finish.


Typical lunch menu!

M&E setting out

A quick electrical layout – Hopefully Fordam’s won’t be too shocked (I think it may be getting revised as I speak!) I went around chalking all the walls with the runs which should provide us with nice concealed pipework, conduits and flush sockets/switches. I’ve hired a seperate guy to chase out all the runs this week whislt the rest of the team are on brickwork and I assist the carpenter (Dan) with the door/window framing – just one carpenter on site currently untill we have the wood prepared for door making – rain has hamperd efforts this week to take the wood to be planed and cut. So hopefully we can start getting all the M&E pipework underway by the end of the week.






Window views

A few photos from within the incomplete rooms, with the vertical slot windows starting to frame the views out of all the sharply vertical sourrounding trees – you just have to try and imagine the temporary horzontal braces not being there!





First external walls

After spending the previous Saturday learning to brick lay on the rougher soon to be plastered internal walls, I was slightly worried that the external walls may end up the same. It seems to be a typical detail here to allow 20mm mortar joints when using SSBs, but I was determined to get these down to 10, especially as ours are not going to be loadbearing. So I decided to build a small section of external wall as a sample/benchmark for how the rest of the walls should look. All the North and South bays are set out accurately to brick numbers; 5, 7 and 9 bricks depending on window/door arrangements, with the east and west bays slightly less restricted as the walls are being slotted and braced into the column cavities. There’s certainly something very satisfying about brick laying; standing back and seeing perfectly lined walls built with consistent mortar joints and starting to finally enclose the interior rooms. It was great seeing the guys taking photos of their own work to; they seem to be becoming very proud of what they are creating, especially as others on campus are starting to take interest with the project. Chimango, Banda, Morton and Yotam are really fun, positive forces on site, they work really hard and they’re always laughing and taking the mick!









Southern Malawi in trouble

Severe floods have tragically hit the southern districts in Malawi the last few days with devastating effects. A good driver friend of mine here told me of his nightmare journey to Mangochi recently, the lakeshore road had apparently been washed away around Salima.

The winds have certainly picked up here in Mzuzu, but any severe rains have yet to hit. My thoughts are with those lost and displaced in the south.


Rains…. but work continues

Heavy rains yesterday, but work continued in the dry under the roof. I will need to address the new Khonde drain detail soon, but we have at least made provision for this in the slab, so this should work OK. I will draw up a detail to have a metal grate fabricated and cast into the slab for maximum water clearance. I looked at incorporating this as a clay tile detail from the order soon to arrive from Dedza, but I’m worried this will not be robust enough and not give enough water clearance without un-hazordouse gaps between the tiles. I probably upset the brick layers a bit making a few changes to door numbers and locations, but I ran this through with the clinic and we all agreed that these are improvements (thankfully we’re not JCT contracting so hopefully no EOT claims here or client change requests… May incuur a few extra days labour charge, but at least without any contractor profit attached!). The new doors between internal rooms will form flexible ‘corridors’ on either side of the building, allowing the clinicians to pass through treatment rooms and into the wet/sluice areas. This will give greater flexibilty to the spaces and private internal movment when required. I’ve also moved a couple of the slot windows to give better views and daylighting and looking to incorporate a vertical timber detail along the external waiting area at high level to line through with the elevations and for better privacy.   IMG_4248_resized IMG_4257_resized IMG_4260_resized IMG_4263_resized IMG_4265_resized IMG_4267_resized IMG_4270_resized IMG_4271_resized IMG_4272_resized IMG_4274_resized IMG_4278_resized IMG_4283_resized IMG_4285_resized IMG_4290_resized

Brickwork and framing started

We all had a great day on site yesterday, staying satisfyingly dry working under the roof in the poring rain. Yotam and Mortan gave me a mornings crash course in brick laying and by the afternoon I had my first wall up, plump and reasonably level, they seemed happy with my effort so I’m looking forward to building more of these this week. Chimango and Banda were super efficient with the cement mortar making. Whilst this was happening Albert, Saddock, Dan and Martin have been pushing on with the the timber window and door framing.









Week 1 2015….

Welcome back Mzunguinmzuzu blog followers, wishing you all a very happy new year! It’s good to be back in Mzuzu after a few weeks break exploring Tanzania. I hope you all had a heat Christmas break too.

After a rather eventful return journey from Kilimanjaro – the plane in front of ours crash landed at Niarobi which meant a lengthy detour to Mombassa – thankfully no casualties. So I arrived back in Mzuzu 5am Monday 5th Jan, with the builders ready and waiting at 7:30am!

Unfortunately due to some issues in transporting the SSBs across the campus just after I left meant to Khonde slab did not quite get finished pre Xmas. However we have moved quick this week and managed to complete this end of day Friday. We have got started with setting out and construction of the internal SSB walls.

The plan currently is to complete as much as possible by the end of February, with March as a buffer if needed, but I’m feeling confident that the Christmas break has given everyone a good recharge and the guys seem really motivated to move things on quickly.

Finally, it’s been very satisfying being able to work under the roof in the dry whilst the rains have now begun, which was a key aim to starting the project at the time of year we did.


Setting out the brick walls, window and door frame locations


Piles of SSBs on siteIMG_4140.JPG

Un-planed window and door frame timber from Raiply waiting to be taken for planing

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