We have the skills, knowledge and experience to design a range of building types to the highest standards. From houses and schools to centres for community, health, agriculture and faith, we work across a broad range of countries, pride ourselves on engaging communities with a people-centred design approach and recognise the importance of climate-suitable and environmentally-friendly design. We understand our clients’ needs to get the most from their budget and we strive to provide attractive and cost-effective building solutions, utilising locally available appropriate resources.
Site Planning & Phasing
We have experience planning and organising larger complexes of buildings that fit within the natural landscape. We look at the broader picture, always valuing observation over speed as a key planning tool, and wherever possible observing the site for up to a year prior to starting construction. For example, when we approached the design of ‘The Agri Tech Centre’ we were careful to stay mindful of each phase of the project, drawing up site plans for years 1, 3 and 10. These need to be kept in mind particularly because funds tend to arrive incrementally and the flow of money influences the time-scale by which onsite micro-businesses can become productive and profitable.
We believe it is imperative to spend as much time as possible on site where we can test things, experiment with mock-ups, and ultimately live and breathe the qualities of the site in order to gain the necessary awareness of each unique contextual situation. Through this immersion in the field we use the construction process itself to make more informed design decisions.
It is important for us to learn from where materials can be sourced locally and what impact we would have on the environment. When we worked alongside the villagers of Ntrama for 3 months facilitating the ‘A House For A Victim’ Project, we saw the quarry from where the stones came, the forest where the trees we harvested had been growing, the hole from where we dug lime etc.
We take people-centred design seriously and while we know that working with different communities is usually rewarding, it can also pose challenges. We have a toolkit of different ways in which we have engaged communities in the process and it is clear that learning and sharing in the local culture and finding key motivations is critical for success. We have run workshops, forums, and model-making exercises as well as offering free volunteer engagement opportunities. We have gained so much simply by sharing food, visiting the homes of local people, attending a funeral ceremony or taking part in local customs.
Natural Building & Permaculture Design
We have built several earth structures which we know how to test and ensure have the quality and durability. We have studied natural building methods, worked with local farmers to look at environmentally-holistic life cycles of materials, and three of us have completed our Permaculture Design Course and now teach the certified PDC. We consider life and work to be continual learning experiences and so we are testing, improving and realising our designs all the time.
For example, we observed how the water flowed and changed its flows across The Agri Tech Centre site so we caught the rain from our roofs, let it fill our tanks, then allowed it to over-flow onto the land so we could channel it to our water-hungry banana trees and then let that over-flow into our 3m deep pond, storing it for the long term throughout the dry season.
Workshops + Mutual Learning
We have run workshops and given lectures to children, adults, students, professionals and all. Firstly to engagement in the process of making but also a teaching tools to broaden the learning of students. There is a whole host of pragmatic alternative design solutions which are cost effective and energy and cost saving. From vertical growing gardens to compost heating systems we are constantly researching and learning and teaching our process collectively for the benefit of all.