Argentine phase 1 is complete. Outstnading payments to the contractor are stil needed to be issued. Aside from that all works for this phase have completed. Phase 2 is moving along smoothly, construction should start early next week. construction Documents and proposals are being put together for phase 3.
From our last construction update report, progress has been made significantly to the point where bidding docs for phase II have been sent out. An illustrated summary of the work completed in the last 6 months can be read below:
Beginning from where we left off, on july 1rst 2013, the camp officially started clearing out. One by one the little shelters that once served as homes for hundreds of families started disappearing. By July 5th ¾ of the tent were removed.
Photo taken on August 6 2012. School site serves as front and backyards of countless family homes .
On july 1rst, the camp removal operation kicked off. We can identify in above picture the layouts of tents that stood ground at those spots not long ago.
Hundreds of earthquake refugees being displaced.
July 10th Camp cleared out
In the meantime back at the office clarifications to the specs, estimate and drawings of the site perimeter walls were finalizing. We performed a site walkthrough with the GC selected on july 12th and contract for the works stated above was signed on july 22nd.
Representatives of SDC Construction. Construction firm selected to build up site perimeter walls.
The contract fully executed, construction was at a standstill for about a month at its beginning as the GC studied different possibilities to cope with the stifling coming challenges of the often hotile neighborhood. Works finally slowly commenced on Augst 27th. By sept. 10th , about 600sqm of dirt and rubble were removed from the site.
Site rubble cleare out
At the same time, in the renovated classrooms, repairs and finishes to the windows were being executed according to conditions outlined in the punchlist.
Due to preceding site difficulties encountered in the first phase of the Argentine project, we obviously did not expect for the works to go smoothly and to be completed on the agreed completion date. All the existing walls were meant to be demolished and rebuilt at the same time but due to the site conditions and insecurity reigning in the area, the demolition and rebuilding work were done portion by portion. During the month of September, October and November, not only have the crew on site faced with the eminent construction site challenges and the irrevocable unforeseen conditions, it also dealt with casual run ins with bandits and a number of site disruptions by neighboring gang cronies.
footings all set
blockwall building up
forms for concrete walls up
grouting the blocks
Front gate installed
A terrible incident was reported to us in December when 2 members of the SDC crew was beaten and held at gun point. Event which forced all works to immediately discontinue on site and compelled the GC’s to pull out his crew.
A verbal agreement between the school director and the firm was made where the school director agreed to provide the labor to finish a week’s left of work and to manage the new hired site crew. In other words, SDC sub contracted the school director to finish the job.
As of January 14th, all works have been completed and a punchlist walkthrough was executed. Minor items needed to be fixed are presently ongoing.
last touches_Barbwire up
On another note 2 temporary bathroom stalls were built and a water tank installed in order to provide sanitary service until the new toilets (phase 2) are erected.
Although we were assured that the camp would be moved by May 15th at the latest, there has yet to be any movement. Several weeks ago we were told that the registration process had been completed and that cheques were being written for those being displaced. However we have been given no indication as to how long that process will take, and when the move will happen.
In the meantime we are in the final stages of procuring a contractor to rebuild parts of the perimeter wall so that when the camp does clear the director will be able to secure the site. This is also an important step to be able to effectively build the second phase of the project once the camp has been moved.
The next immediate step will be to complete the repairs to the perimeter wall where they are inaccessible behind the tents, have a site survey done, and clear the rubble in preparation for the new construction.
Today the school director informed us that the process to move the tent camp from the school has begun. People were being registered to receive compensation for the move yesterday, and the work is continuing today. This is great news for the project as it will allow us to proceed with the rest of the project.
With any luck, the camp will be cleared within the next week or two. We will be working quickly to secure the site for the school and the rest of the project.
The first phase is just about complete. Most of the paint is on the building, the windows are all installed and the electrical work has been roughed in. The windows require some minor fixes - missing a number of the security hooks, missing handles, lock details. The fabric panels still need to be fabricated, but they cannot be installed until after the camp has been cleared because the director is concerned that the fabric will be immediately slashed with the current situation.
Paint is on and windows installed.
The new paint job stands out within the context of the camp.
Due to ongoing delays in clearing the camp, we have to install temporary wood block-out panels on the windows until the site is secured. The students are heavily distracted by the surrounding camp activity during their lessons.
The panels are also necessary for the classes near the adjacent toilets (a partially complete and non-functional biodigester that carries with it a potent smell) in an attempt to render these rooms usable. The instructors, understandably, refuse to teach in these classrooms because of the smell of sewage and garbage.
We are contacting the organization that built the toilets to see if we can get someone to clean them up for the school.
After almost two months of relative calm, we have had yet another security issue in the area. Once again, it was not directed at the site, however the proximity of the incident forced all work crews to abandon their work.
At approximately 12:30 shots were fired in close proximity to the school. The shooting went on for some time, with about a dozen shots in total. One of the community leaders was on hand, and advised both construction crews to vacate the site.
Both crews and our outreach employee fled the site, doing their best to avoid the danger areas. No one encountered any issues leaving the zone.
We had a meeting with the window contractor last Friday in an attempt to clarify the window installation schedule as the installation deadlines have been missed consistently. No new windows were installed over the Carnival long weekend, despite assurances they would. They restarted the installation process last Friday.
The schedule we have been given is that the last two rooms of the first building will be complete by today, and the second building complete by next Wednesday the 27th.
After today's report, they are running approximately a 1/2 day behind, as they have not yet installed the doors in the remaining two classrooms in the first building.
Once this work is done, the locking systems still need to be installed, the frames painted, and the fabric installed. As an interim measure, the windows have been tack welded together for security. The locking/finishing work will be completed after the contractor has secured all the rooms.
The structural work is closing in on being finished. The last two walls have been poured, however the concrete beam overlay of one of them has some significant problems. We will be visiting the site tomorrow with the structural engineer to develop a strategy to fix the issue.
We anticipate that the remaining crepissage and enduissage work will be completed by Saturday, leaving only the electrical work, drain work, finishing behind the window installation and final coat of paint to complete.
After a long struggle, the window contractor secured the first room yesterday to allow construction to proceed in one more room. As is always the case, the first one set is the hardest. They ran into some issues with the window opening not being square, and with understanding the installation process. Now that the first set is done, the installation should become faster and cleaner.
We will be changing one or two connection details to make the process faster and easier. We are hoping that the other two rooms in the first building can be completed next week.
Our outreach employee is not on site today because the contractor is not on site because the contractor's foreman was threatened yesterday.
Last week the foreman agreed to hire an individual from the area, however over the past week there has not been work to hire him. The man became impatient and threatened the foremean physical violence.
Although the contractor had a meeting with the community leaders, and has resolved the issue, this was not done in time to continue work today. Construction will continue tomorrow.
We have gone yet another two weeks without the windows being installed. The window fabrication has been plagued with delays. We received the first prototype January 18th, gave the go-ahead to fabricate on Monday the 21st, with the intention of having the first classroom installed on the 28th. The installation date was pushed back again until the 31st, which point we were informed that the contractor had fabricated the windows but not the door for the first classroom.
The new estimate for door installation is either Monday or Tuesday, pushing well into next week.
Although the finishing touches are being put on the crepisage, and small repairs, these delays are now seriously holding up the rest of the construction as the remaining two classrooms cannot be emptied until we have a secure room to store them.
After the first set of windows were fabricated incorrectly, and therefore unable to be installed, CLYF has gone back to building a full window prototype with the fabric installed as that still has not successfully been done. The lack of installed windows is now affecting the overall construction schedule as the last two rooms in the second building cannot be emptied and finished until there are secured rooms in the first building.
Classes now being held in open rooms until windows can be installed.
After the Christmas break, we were told that the prototype would be available January 11th without the fabric and January 14th with the fabric installed. As of the 15th we still have not seen the prototype and are now being told the completed prototype will be available January 16th.
The window frames have been fabricated, but the prototype needs to be completed before the infill can be finalized. It now looks like the windows will not be installed next Monday as stated last week.
During this time, the school needed to be in opened, so classes are now being held in two open classrooms, with the desks being moved from and to a secure room at the beginning and end of each day.
Classes now being held in open rooms until windows can be installed.
Security issues have been escalating on the site over the past several weeks, coming to a head last Saturday when our outreach employee's life was threatened. Unknown to the rest of the team, the employee was giving small amounts of money to people on site in an effort to protect himself. The bandit that threatened him had been paid a small amount of money, but was demanding more. He told our employee that if he wasn't paid the sum he wanted by Monday, he would kill our employee if he came back to site.
The AfH employee contacted the project lead. Because the threat was done in public, both the school director and the person in charge of security on site contacted him shortly thereafter. They both instructed the employee to disregard the threat and to return to site, however the employee correctly refused to do so. The director was contacted to let him know that our people would not be returning to site until we met with all parties come up with a solution.
Earlier in the week police were called to site to calm a situation involving rock throwing and material destruction.
The site security seems to be directly linked to whether one or more of the school director, or the two community leaders are present on site. All serious incidents that have happened on site were in the absence of these players. We have determined that our employees are not to be on site without the presence of these people; if none of them are present our employees are instructed to leave the site, and to instruct the contractor to halt work until they return.
We are scheduled to have a meeting with all parties this morning to resolve the issue. If this sort of event happens again we will be forced to shut down the construction site until the security issues are resolved by the community.
Andrea will go to their depot in the morning to explain the window/door drawings to the CLYF people so they can start producing.
Fleur will make two more detail drawings on a bigger scale of the top and bottom part of how the windows are fixed to the building.
At the end of today of tomorrow morning Brett and Fleur will go to the CLYF’s depot to check on the work.
CLYF will install the windows and door of the first classroom on Friday the 11th of January 2013.
Andrea and Fleur go to the site of Argentine to take again the measurements of the openings of building A. They see that the measurements taken today are different from the measurements taken by CLYF on the 21st of December.
Fleur will make drawings with the exact size of every window and door to be made for building A.
Fleur explains and gives the drawings to Andrea at the end of the day.
The doors will be made with a key lock. There wasn’t foreseen anything in the previous drawings.
The doors and windows will be made with louvers instead of separate turning frames and fabric. This is done to make the design easier, to have the school more secure and to have a bigger change for CLYF to make the doors/windows fast, right and as quick as possible.
Fleur is having a meeting with Andrea to talk about the problems and to explain the window/door drawings again. Fleur also tells Andrea that CLYF is delaying the project from today.
On Monday the 7th of January AfH is going to have a meeting with CLYF to see what they need to do, and how fast they can have all the windows of building A installed.
For Pirotech there will be enough work this week on finishing building A and the first two classes of building B before they can start on demolishing the other two classes of building B.
Steel inspection on site by Pirotech, Degenkolb and AfH. The people of Pirotech have finished nearly all the steel work of building B the last few days. With a bit more work done today they can start pouring the concrete of the walls of the first two classes of building B next week. Also next week they will to the other work, like crepisage and making the walls underneath the windows, that is necessary to finish classroom B1 and B2. Pirotech hasn’t started yet with the separation wall in between classroom A2 and A3. They promise to have the wall in there on Monday and have the wall fully finished next weekend. (to make the connection to the upper beam another steel inspection is necessary. This can hopefully be done on Friday the 11th of January by Abe.
At 10.30am CLYF arrives with the first set of windows to be installed in classroom A1. They tell me these are the only windows that are ready at the moment. They start installing and tell me classroom A1 will be ready at the end of the day. They tell me that somebody needs to buy two locks for the door, as they don’t have them. (otherwise the classroom will still not be secure)
Around two first Balan and after that Taina call with me to tell me that the windows don’t fit. They can make it fit if they ask Pirotech to demolish some concrete above the windows. Fleur doesn’t think this is a good idea. Because, if you do that the doors and the windows won’t be on the same line anymore and it will be extra work for Pirotech which was not foreseen by AfH.
The main problem is that there will be no classroom ready on the 7th of January. But the other problem is that obviously CLYF still doesn’t understand the window drawings how to make them.
Telephone call with Balan. They are working on site. The steel work on building B is nearly finished and he thinks they will be able to make the separating wall in building A today.
Telephone call with Taina. Taina is sick today, so not able to go on site. She tells me that people of CLYF will start today on installing the windows.
Telephone call with Balan. Not much work has been done on site yet for it to be worth to come down for a steel inspection, but materials have arrived on site. Pirotech will work today and tomorrow to have everything ready for a steel inspection on Saturday the 5th of January.
Telephone call with Taina. The windows aren’t ready for installation yet, so they won’t be on site today.
Telephone call with Balan. Although there are still not many materials on site people of Pirotech make one concrete wall on the outside of building A and B. And they do half of the inside wall of classroom B2. (as agreed on the inspection of the 21th of December)
Telephone call with Balan. Nobody is working today there is too much tension in the neighborhood of Argentine.
Balan and Fleur are on site for an inspection. There are a few people of Pirotech on site, but Pouchon their foreman is not there. There are still no materials delivered. Only one person is working wile I am there to take of a bit of the stucco/ crepisage.
The tension in the city increases. Today on Pan American a boy, max 20 years old, is beaten to death by bystanders when he tries to rob somebody who is buying some metal art. (only two stands away from where I am)
Because of all the tension in the area Fleur and Taina agree that it is to unsafe to install the windows at the moment, but that CLYF will continue producing so they can install all the windows and doors of building A on the 3th and 4th of January 2013. On the 3th of January CLYF will also take measurements of the first to classes of building B. So they can have these two classes installed on Saturday, the 5th of January.
Telephone call with Balan. There is nobody working on site.
There are still no materials delivered on site by Pirotech.
The other reason is that nobody dares to work because of the fights between the clans of Belair and Delmas 2. Shootings started on the 24th and quite a lot of people were killed that night. You can feel the tension in the whole city.
Telephone call with Balan who is on site. There are only a few people of Pirotech in site. The other problem is that there are hardly any materials available, for example no blocks or metal bars. So there is not much work they can do.
Balan measures the window openings of building A and sends the photos to Fleur, who forwards them to Taina. Fleur calls with Taina, to make sure she received the photos. Taina tells that it is more clear now having the photos.
The design for the windows is simplified so the classrooms will be more secure and it will be easier to produce them by CLYF. It is explained and approved by CLYF that they are going to make the windows like this.
Pirotech, Degenkolb and AfH are on site for a steel inspection. A schedule for the next two weeks is explained by AfH to Pirotech and CLYF to be able have 5 classrooms ready before the 7th of January 2013. Both Pirotech and CLYF agree on the schedule.
CLYF is on site to take the measurements of the window opening of building A.
The school director called to inform us that the IFRC had been on site and was interested in doing some work for the school. They had already pumped out the toilet block septic tank that had become unusable as it had been overwhelmed by the large number of people in the camps on site. The director mentioned that they were interested in helping out with sanitary systems and some site grading for drainage.
We were in touch with the IFRC representative, who was leaving the country that day for a few weeks. We have arranged to meeting in the new year to determine if there is a way for them to collaborate with us to help support the sanitary requirements of the project.
We have been struggling with the contractor to improve the quality of construction, and increase production. After they removed the formwork on the first two walls, we were very unhappy with the quality of the work - the concrete was honeycombed, and the surface irregular. Although the work is structurally sound, it is not the level of work that we were expecting from the company. The construction problems were repaired, however it is not a quality of work that is acceptable.
Insufficient formwork bracing led to a heavily bowed wall
The other issue continuing to plague this part of the project is continual delays. The work is not progressing anywhere near the rate at which it should be. One of the critical path elements was delayed by well over a week, which is a problem for an 8 week project. Although we have come up with several strategies to speed up construction, they have yet to be successful. The school director has bumped up this semester's exams to free up the second building for construction a week earlier.
We had a meeting with one of the company's partners to inform him that this cannot continue. He was in agreement with both these observations, and committed to personally focussing on the problems. He noted that part of the difficulty is due to the insecure and difficult nature of the area. They are employing many people from the zone, and with the history of gangs and violence in the area, don't have the same level of control of their workers that they would working on more secure sites in safer neighbourhoods. Regardless of this, they will increase efforts to get the project back on track.
At this point it seems unlikely that the project will be complete by January 7th when the school re-opens for the new year, however we are still all pushing to make that happen. If the construction is not done on time, we will identify strategies to avoid further interruptions to the school.
After a short period of negotiations, we have signed on CLYF, a local steel fabricator, to build the windows. The contract was signed a few days later than hoped due to the company's owner being out of the country.
They will be ordering the materials within the next day, and will have the prototype completed mid next week.
They have committed to installing the windows in the first room on Monday, December 17th, at which point we can completely free up the second building to complete construction.
After working with the window contractor for two weeks, we have finally had to go with another contractor. After two weeks the initial contractor had still not completed the prototype that they said would take two days to produce. Although they were helpful determining what materials were locally available, and were engaged in resolving the window configuration within the budget, we had to move on to someone else after they missed 4 deadlines in 2 weeks without explanation. During a meeting last Friday, they also started to express concerns regarding their ability to complete the work in a timely manner.
This may result in a slight delay for the project, however we already have another contractor on the line to do the work. We are awaiting confirmation regarding the new contractor's schedule for producing the windows, which we should receive by the end of the week.
We have had two security incidents on the construction site in the past 4 days of construction. The first one happened on Wednesday November 21st at around 3:30 in the afternoon, and the second one on Saturday November 24th at approximately noon. Although these incidents were not directed at our workers or the construction crew, they resulted in the construction site being evacuated on both occasions.
Both incidents involved an altercation between two local groups. These groups started becoming aggressive towards each other, yelling and throwing rocks, which progressed to both sides producing guns and threatening each other. In both instances, due to the high tensions and armed nature of the incident, the contractor shut down the work and evacuated the job site.
In response to this, we met with the contractor, the school director and one of the local leaders in an attempt to resolve the issue. The contractor noted that there are never any issues while the local leader was on the site, and as such requested that she be present during all construction hours. She agreed to this and will attend to the site during those times.
The school director also pointed out that the contractor should finish the construction in the shortest period of time possible, in an attempt to mitigate the problems that come with being on site for a prolonged period of time. The contractor agreed to speed up construction as much as possible.
After further investigation, the engineers determined that a wall had to be built in the cistern to support the wall above. We have come to an agreement with the contractor for a price for the change in work, and the additional demolition that Viva Rio had previously agreed to do.
The work has progressed and most of the steel has been set in place to pour the reinforcing concrete for 2 of 4 walls. We are currently approximately 2 weeks behind schedule, however the contractor is confident the the overall work can still be completed by the end of December, before the students are scheduled to return in the new year.
Steel readied for concrete overlay.
We have discussed options expedite the schedule, starting construction on the new building without having to move the students. We are expecting a detailed schedule today to confirm the timeframes for the remaining work.
We also had an initial look at the window frame prototype. Some of the dimensions were off, but the overall concept seems to be working and the quality of work seems good. The contractor noted that the frame is stronger that he thought it would be when he looked at it on paper. They will have the prototype complete by tomorrow, complete with fabric clamps, and pivot hardware, to allow us to mount the fabric to get a feeling for the overall form.
Clarifying some of the details for the window prototype.
We will try to sign a contract with them Monday next week so they can start fabricating the frames for the first building.
We discovered that the cistern under the building is about 1.5m wider than expected, which has required changes to the structural engineering of the project. It is no longer feasible to span the distance with a beam, so we are looking into alternative options.
We are hoping that we may be able to replace the heavy concrete wall with a light weight partition wall, but that is to be determined by the structural engineers. This will add some expense to the engineering fees for the renovation.
If the light weight partition wall is not an option, we will likely have to build a wall in the cistern to support the wall above. Final word should come down from the engineers in the next couple of days.
We recently found out that Viva Rio, who had agreed to do all the demolition and rubble removal ran out of funding at the end of October. This was a complete surprise, as we had been asking them to do the majority of the exterior work for months. The final portion of demolition on the building currently being worked on is critical so that it doesn't stop construction. Timing for this project is critical as the school director has had to ship several classes of children to another school while construction progresses.
This new development has both temporal and financial implications for this project. We are currently exploring options to keep the project going, and to mitigate financial issues.
After delays due to the storm, and a slow start on demolition, the construction has begun. The first day of construction was hindered by people from the area stating that nothing would happen if they weren't given work. This was quickly handled by the crew on site, and the local representatives letting them know that there would be work available to people from the area.
The first areas tackled were the leveling of the floor in the middle classroom, and the wall preparation including removing most of the existing paint, and securing the rebar hooks to tie the old and new sections of wall together.
The remaining demolition has not progressed quickly, but approximately 75% of the first building has been completed.
As the week progressed, the approaching hurricane Sandy has put a damper on progress. It started to rain Wednesday, which forced us to delay a meeting between the contractor and engineer to lay out some of the structural aspects of construction. The rain and winds grew during the week until they peaked Thursday, effectively shutting the city down.
Hurricane Sandy slows progress.
Work crews were forced to stop work early Tuesday, and due to continuing rain, affecting road and site conditions, will not be able to continue until Monday. The onsite engineering meeting has been reschedule to Monday when the crews will be back at work.
We held a construction kickoff meeting at the site today to introduce Balan, our construction liaison to all the construction, demolition and community groups.
Upon arriving at the site, we discovered that Viva Rio had not started the demolition and rubble removal over the weekend as hoped, and they had not yet arrived on site, which will cause some unwanted delays. Once they did arrive, they informed us that the selective building demolition would take 5 days rather than 3, but after some negotiations agreed to complete that part of the demolition in the 3 days we had previously anticipated.
The demolition started that day, while the contractor prepared construction mobilization for a Wednesday start.
After making some final changes to the drawing set, asking the engineers to revisit some of the details to get the costs down, and negotiating the costs and scope with the contractor, we've signed the contract with the builder. This contract is for all the structural work to be completed, which will be followed by another individual contract for the work on the doors and windows.
The contractor has agreed to start next Monday, October 22nd. They will be coordinating with Viva Rio to do the demolition just prior to the renovation work.
The school director has been informed of the start date so he can make arrangements for the two classes to be temporarily moved to another school. He also needs to arrange to move his office to the other building, and to relocate the kitchen and the previous guardian's family to new locations.
We have also met with Viva Rio and asked them to start the rubble removal and demolition of the other buildings over the weekend so that their crews will be up and running prior to the Monday start date.
We had a final meeting at the site today to start the coordination between the contractor and the two local zone leaders to supply workers as previously agreed. Although actual numbers were not discussed, the finer details of the arrangement were agreed upon. One of the key points was that the leaders would negotiate labourer rates with the contractor, and would receive their own payment taken from those base rates -- the contractor will not pay the leaders and local foremen individually.
The other reason for the meeting was to provide the two leaders with the sensitization flyers that they will distribute to the local community. This is part of a sensitization initiative to inform people about what is happening to the school, some information around it (who it is for, the benefits to the community, etc) to help avoid problems from within the community during construction. Many of the people involved in this project believe that this type of effort is key to avoiding issues during construction (theft, threats, etc), many of which we have seen in some of the other projects.
The flyer to be distributed to the community by the zone leaders.
Our community outreach leads - Sony Noel and Jean Carmel Laneau - wrote the text after having numerous discussions with some of the people that live and work in the area. They also drew from the experience they gained during other projects such as the Villa Rosa community engagement project. Two of our volunteers - Tyler Wied and Radim Tkadlec - did the drawings, digitization, colouring and layout. The flyers were distributed to the community by the two zone heads. We'll do a follow up with them at some point to see how it all played out, but I did see people carrying them around before we even left the site.
It is critically important that this type of engagement be ongoing during the entire project timeline to help ensure it is a success.
We met with the contractor (still to be signed on), VivaRio, and the school director today to start to coordinate the schedule and phasing. Because we were unable to start the construction before the school year starts on October 8th we need to ensure that the construction phasing and coordination goes smoothly to avoid major disruptions to the school.
We have just about finished the negotiations of the scope and budget of the renovation phase of the project with the contractor, so we have targeted September 15th for the start date. We still need to confirm that Pirotech can start construction before their first payment, as it could take up to 2 weeks for the first payment to happen, which would require a delay to the start date.
Due to budgetary constraints, we have asked Viva Rio to do the demolition and and rubble removal, which they have agreed to do at no cost to this project. They have agreed to start next week (October 8th) with the rubble removal, demolition of the old toilet block, and a small foundation in the northwest side of the site. They will then proceed to do the demolition of the necessary parts of the first building just ahead of Pirotech. The director indicated that the toilet block should be demolished - the camp currently on the site overwhelmed the capacity and mistreated the toilet facilities to a point that they have become unusable. Viva Rio has provided a temporary bio-digester toilet system for the students to use.
The school director has arranged for 2 classes to be held at a nearby school while the construction happens, allowing each building to be done in its entirety. After the first building is complete, the students will be moved from the second building to the first to complete construction on the second building. Each building should take about 4 weeks to complete.
The director also advised that certain holes in the perimeter wall should be repaired before starting the rest of the construction.
We have also setup a meeting between the contractor and the zone's group leaders for Tuesday to start the process of selecting local workers, and to provide them with flyers to inform the neighbourhood of the upcoming construction.
Seven of 12 teachers attended the session.
We were please to have 19 parents attend the charrette. We were unsure how many would attend as the request was sent through the students from the previous charrette so we had no confirmation or feedback as to who would be able make it.
The parents identified the following priorities for the school:
There was a small disturbance in the middle of the charrette when a number of people that live in the tent camp on the site started saying in a loud voice that nothing could happen at the school before they received their 20,000 gourdes they were promised. This was coupled with a passionate discussion amongst the parents stressing the need to remove the camp from the school site. These disturbances were quelled by one of the zone's group leaders, Simone, and the school director respectively. It was made very clear that moving the camp was not something that this project was responsible for, but there is a government initiative that is handling it. These incidents are small indications of the tensions that exist because of the difficult living conditions everyone has been forced to deal with. In the end, they both ended peacefully, but the situation with the camp will need to be resolved before any work beyond the renovations happens.
We had approximately 27 students in attendance for the charrette. None of the classrooms had been cleaned for the new school year, so rather than wait to have one prepared, we opted to do the charrette outside in the courtyard between some of the temporary houses and the school buildings. The public venue attracted quite a crowd of observers of all ages.
The charrette went well with an excellent level of engagement from most of the children.
Students getting into the ice-breaking activity.
The top priorities identified by the students were:
Presentation of the list of priorities.
Presentation of one group's visioning activity.
The students were asked to have their parents attend the charrette at the end of the week.
We will finally able to start the community charrettes next week to help us understand the needs of the different communities that will use the new buildings. We have started by planning three initial design charrettes with different user groups: the students, the parents and finally the teachers.
We were unable to start the process earlier as school was out for the summer, and it is difficult to contact anyone as next year's enrolment didn't start until late August and the teachers are generally not available during the summer vacation.
All the charrettes are to have the same format as follows:
Bel Air is known to be one of the less well off and rougher neighbourhoods in Port au Prince. For these reasons, and from lessons learned during our Ecole Baptiste Bon Berger project in Pelé, near Cité Soleil, we have started the community engagement process and strategizing early and thoroughly.
We started by contacting an organization called Concern Worldwide, who have had significant experience working in the adjoining neighbourhoods of Saint Martin and Martissant. Although they had never worked with Bel Air, they were knowledgeable with the issues, and were able to give us the contact information of a group leader in the area.
From there we had a meeting with the school director to discuss the best strategy for working there. To our surprise, after a short conversation with him, he contacted the leader of both groups that operate in the area to bring them in on the meeting. Both leaders were very positive about the work to be commenced, and we had a good initial meeting with all parties. The following are the highlights from these two initial meetings:
In addition to the above, Concern Worldwide had the following suggestions:
Upon request from the engineers, arranged to have the foundations of one column from each building as well as an interior footing exposed.
Although Viva Rio agreed to clear the rubble from the slabs to have a better look at their condition, nothing has been done since our last visit.
Spoke with the director about the door he is fabricating to secure the wall between the two existing buildings. The existing hinges have been removed from the wall, and he assured me that the door would be installed by Thursday or Friday this week.
The results from the exploratory holes:
The findings from the investigation have been sent to the engineer.
Despite previously being assured that the tents would be removed by the end of July, we have just discovered that the NGOs taking the initiative to move some of the smaller tent camps, like the one on this site, have run out of money. As such, they will not be doing this work. We now do not have an ETA for the tents to be moved, which is beginning to impact the project's schedule.
No tents have been removed from site. This is starting to impact the project schedule.
The school director was close to having a meeting with the Minister of the Interior, who seemed motivated to remove the tents from site. However the necessary documents were not delivered in time for the meeting, so it was unsuccessful in the end. To further complicate matters, there has been a major government shuffle, so we are now unsure of who is responsible for this ministry, and how responsive they will be to the situation.
It was made clear from the beginning that tent removal is outside of the contract scope, so we have requested that the client deal with the situation. If the situation is not resolved quickly it will start to severely impact the project schedule.
We met with Degenkolb, the structural engineer, on site to verify their strategy for the renovation of the surviving buildings, and to show them the rest of the site. The strategy of reinforcing every second bay with 50-75mm of reinforced concrete seems like it will work for these structures. This will be significantly less expensive and much less labour intensive than trying to reinforce all the columns individually. Other items of note were:
The existing slabs appear to be in excellent condition.
The bridged gutter between the two existing classroom buildings. No joints were built into them, which may explain why they are cracked and pulling away from the building.
We have instructed Viva Rio to hold off on demolishing the slab and foundations until we can have a better look at them. However they have agreed to clear away the loose rubble so we can have a better look at the condition of them.
We had a meeting with the geotechnical engineer today to go over the results. The results of the two bore holes they were able to do before having to abandon the site are as follows.
Bore Hole #1 - Good soil - hard clay
Bore Hole #2 - Not bad to 12', soft to 24', good to bottom of 24'6" - needs deeper bore
There is likely an underground water source (stream) running under bore hole #2. A third hole between BH1 & BH2 needs to be dug to determine expanse of unstable/soft soil.
It is possible that, depending on the depth of the footing, the top 12' of decent soil will support the building. A topographic survey needs to be done to determine the required footing depth in relation to the existing grade and soil levels.
The preliminary report is expected later this week. Unfortunately due to the gang situation on site, the final bore holes cannot be dug until September.
The first work to begin on site was the geotechnical surveys. After securing the consultant, they started digging on Wednesday. This morning and they had dug 2 of the 3-4 bore holes. We hoped to have the field work finished today or tomorrow to allow us to start to understand what kind of soils we were building on.
Near the end of the Open Office meeting today we received an email from our geotechnical consultant saying that they had a situation on site. He informed me that they had been dealing with several gangs on the site since they started work, however today they had been robbed and two of his workers had been threatened with guns. He informed us that they abandoned the site "with many difficulties". This is the first we had heard of gang interference with the survey so were were surprised to hear about it. The consultant is also experienced with this type of site, having worked on the Pélé school.
We are meeting with the consultant, and hopefully the school director tomorrow to try to figure out a way to proceed. Security issues will become more and more important going forward, so we need to understand how to resolve the issues. The school director will need to lead this process, and wil have to help us understand how to operate in the neighbourhood. In light of this, we will likely have to expand the community engagement portion of the project to help us understand and respond to the concerns and issues of the community.
Over the past couple of days, we have been in contact with two engineers regarding the retrofit of the existing buildings to make them safe for occupancy. The good news is this is finally starting to progress. The bad news is it looks like there will be much more work to be done that previously hoped.
We have been told that the structural deficiencies of the buildings are:
We are currently exploring two different strategies for the retrofit. One is essentially strengthening current structural system, and the other is creating an alternative structural system which will provide the strength to make the buildings safe.
At first blush, the first strategy looks like it may be prohibitively expensive, but we are waiting for final structural requirements and then material quotes to confirm. It is also a labour intensive and technically demanding approach. For the second approach we need to better understand what will be required for footings to make it work. We are hoping to have settled on a strategy next week so we can start talking to contractors about the work.
We met with Viva Rio on site to discuss the rubble removal. They are keen to do the demo/rubble removal, and said it could be done in about 3 days. They require a letter of permission from the school director, Dany, and one from AfH before he can bring his equipment onsite. We sent our letter off the next day, and hoping that Dany will provide his this week.
Once that is complete Viva Rio should be able to start within a couple of days. Here are some images of the areas that they will be clearing:
We also had a conversation with Dany about the outstanding perimeter door that is required to secure the site. To date, we have been unable to find a reasonably priced metal door. Turns out Dany is a metal worker, and is able to fabricate, purchase hardware, and hang the door for a fraction of the price of the other quotes we have. He said it could be done in 2 weeks, upon mobilization payment. He is also interested in doing some of the metal grill work for the windows, time permitting.
Still no movement with the tents. It seems unlikely that the current occupants will move by the end of July date we were first given. We have survey quotes ready for when the site is cleared.
Although still awaiting final structural report for the existing buildings, it has been determined that the buildings have both undersized columns with unsatisfactory re-bar and undersized foundations. We are still waiting for final report to understand what exactly needs to be done to make the building structurally sound, but it doesn't sound like it will be an easy process.
The structural report is now a month in the making - much longer than what we were expecting. We've been informed that the engineer won't be able to provide us with the report until next Friday, which is making it difficult to have the renovation work done before school starts in September. We will need to produce the drawings, go to bid, and try to have the work done with what will be left of August, which is becoming a large issue.
Met with Geotech consultant today to determine hole locations for soil tests. Identified three hole locations, however there is concern because of the current residents, and particularly children living on site, and the hazards that the open holes would create.
Once again, crews were removing rubble from the site. Still no word on who it might be. Apparently Viva Rio has been working in the area clearing rubble so it may be them. Yet to be determined.
We went to site today to pull measurements for as-built drawings to start the process of understanding what renovations and retrofit will be necessary to make the surviving buildings safe for occupancy.
Upon arrival, we noted that the site was still being inhabited by a fairly large number of people. Tents covered the existing basketball court (which was a new discovery because of that), some of the courtyard, as well as in the south-west corner. Tap-taps, vans and busses were parked near the entrance. Most of the site is bare dirt, which must turn into a muddy soup when the rains come.
Rubble remaining from collapsed classroom building. Tents covering existing basketball court in the left background.
While on site, we were surprised to see that there was a group of workers clearing the rubble from the collapsed buildings, moving the debris into large bins. We had been actively looking for contractors to do this work, so I wasn't sure what was going on. The school director knew nothing of this either. Having heard of other situations where multiple groups ended up working on the same site, unbeknownst to each other, it was somewhat worrying.
While taking the measurements of the building interiors, I noted how hot it was inside. And that was without 40 students' body heat to add to the mix. The fully-concrete building absorbs the sun's heat and radiates it inside.
Exposed concrete roof absorbs the heat and transfers it inside. Minimally, painting it white would reduce thermal gain to help keep it cool.
The previous week a hole had been dug to look at the state/size of the foundation. We discovered that the concrete had been broken away to reveal the re-bar. At the previous site visit, the engineer had asked the crew to reveal the re-bar in the other elements - columns, beams, slabs, etc. so there must have been a miscommunication with the directions for the footing work. This was problematic as we were unable to determine the footing thickness or width. It is also problematic as we will have to figure out a way to repair the footing as part of the renovation.
Concrete footing broken out to expose rebar.
Exposed re-bar work which caused the confusion with the footings. Note the smooth surface of the rebar - a common problem found in construction here.
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