Posted on August 14th, 2017
When HYT graduates arrived at Iowa State University (I.S.U.) campus in Kamuli, Uganda, they were not greeted by the flurries of students, society gatherings and introductory seminars that might be expected. A troop of monkeys larking around in the trees was the closest thing to student life in the area, and the only learning taking place was how to leap safely from one branch to the next. That’s because construction had not yet begun. It was HYT’s job to build the campus’ hallowed walls, and to do so with as little disturbance to the natural environment as possible.
I.S.U.’s campus in Kamuli is to be an agricultural training centre, where rural farmers and their families can learn how to grow food more effectively and sustainably. It makes sense for HYT, as recent award winners in sustainable building, to take part in the project, ensuring that construction doesn’t spell destruction for the local environment.
The first semester, typically for HYT, began with making blocks for the wall which, like the rest of the campus, has been expertly designed by Studio FH Architects, and skilfully managed by Dudley Kasibante & Partners Ltd. Once the manual press arrived from Makiga, red marram subsoil, dug from the site itself, was mixed with sand and a little cement to make compressed earth blocks (CEBs). These are more conventional, cuboid versions of HYT’s innovative interlocking stabilised soil block (ISSB). The masons may have been CEB freshmen when they started the project but, as seniors in sustainable construction techniques, it didn’t take them long to study up and master this new challenge.
In fact, the group has taken to the new method like a college rowing team to water, making as many as 500 blocks in a day, and a total of over 30,000 during the course of the project. Manufacturing the same amount of fired bricks, the traditional building material in Kamuli, would require 42 tonnes of firewood, or more than ten mature trees!
Curing bricks, rather than firing them, is a great way of avoiding deforestation, but it’s not the only one. Every tree on the ISU campus has been numbered and, where possible, preserved in its original position. Project Manager Johnny Nsubuga is particularly proud of where the wall has moved to accommodate the existing foliage. His conscientious approach to building proves that you don’t need to move mountains to protect the planet, only a few bricks.
The term is not yet over for HYT masons at the Iowa State University campus, and they are committed to maintaining A-grade construction throughout. Until the campus comes to life as a centre for education and innovation, HYT will continue to work diligently and create an accommodating environment for the site’s future inhabitants, as well as its current ones!