By Alistair Coulstock
Of all the Christmas cheer, some say nothing is more important than the feeling of giving. In January 2016, I will be travelling to Cambodia along with 27 others including architects, engineers and students from UNSW and UTS to help instil the dreams of children in rural Cambodia.
Co-ordinated with RAW Impact and UNSW, from the 4th to the 14th of January, we will be in the village of Krangraluah in the Kampong Speu Province. Located an hour and a half south-west of Phnom Penh, Krangraluah lies among a group of five small communities which are in dire need of education, electricity and clean water.
The project not only benefits the Cambodian villagers, but gives UNSW students a chance to compete in a specifically designed elective, Sustainable Energy in Developing Countries. This course, offers students real world opportunities to work within the limitations of a project brief, budget and material availability, while competing to have their project funded by RAW Impact. 85 undergraduate and postgraduate students from various engineering, science, architecture, commerce and law disciplines entered this year’s competition, all working in groups to produce winning designs
The Project Brief
Cundall, RAW Impact and UNSW’s “Build Against the Traffik 2015” project highlights the need for a sustainable kindergarten school building for the village of Krangraluah. This includes the provision of a classroom building with two rooms and a kitchen, a veranda and playing area, and clean water supply all year round, as well as a food growing area and a toilet block with bio-digestion system. The design brief also included an energy project within the budget of $10,000. This covered the creation of an energy system using photovoltaics, providing the classroom with electrical lighting and a charging station for mobile phones and other devices.
The Benefits of the Project
The average salary in Cambodia is just $2.50 per day (a mere $45,000 per lifetime) and access to basic education is limited particularly in rural communities. In Krangraluah, villagers are able to send their children to a school 3km away, however this involves walking through dense unpopulated jungle. This puts the children at risk of trafficking and many villagers are reluctant to expose their children to these risks.
Building a school in Krangraluah not only provides access to education, but also creates a hub that can be used by villagers for phone charging and electrical needs, as well as community events. Having access to clean drinking water, kitchen and toilet facilities is incredibly important to the villagers and has been incorporated into the designs.
In the process of choosing the eventual design, three designs were shortlisted, Khleng, Cam Solis and Petit Sabay. Each group took a unique approach to the site and the brief, providing different ideas and ways to use the resources at hand.Khleng
Khleng offers a unique perspective on the build, integrating a fun atmosphere for children into their design. This is particularly demonstrated by the coloured rope screens, a functionally innovative and playful idea inspired by an ancient festival of the kites. Khleng has also commandeered the concept of the ‘bridge to nutrition’, creating a link between the classroom and the kitchen. Not only does this separate the food from the education area and remove distractions in the learning environment, it also provides a link to the community and secure area for storing the batteries and charging equipment.
Khleng incorporated the concept of return profit from the school, including projected earnings and pricing for various services that will be available. Offering a trading fertiliser scheme gives villagers an incentive to contribute to the school’s bio-digestive system and partially subsidise the teacher salaries.
It is amazing how different teams can approach projects differently Cam Solis had quite a different approach, offering different ways to finance the school and supplement the bio-digester excesses.
Unlike Petit Sabay and Khleng, Cam Solis opted for a single room classroom which can then be divided by screens at the teacher’s and community’s discretion. This system offers more diverse usability for the building and community events, with more total undercover area. They have also included in their budget, a rice husk stove in order to help generate revenue and increase self-reliance.
Cam Solis, focused on the impacts after NGO withdrawal, ensuring the community could be kept afloat with their own revenue generation, and cultural adaptations included. They have also considered the inclusion of fans to increase comfort in the school room.
Petit Sabay opted to make their buildings out of bamboo. Their roof design centered around using the Bamboo’s natural curve as a drainage system.
In their design, Petit Sabay opted for three separate buildings unlike the other groups. These buildings are connected by a series of stairs and decks, the hierarchy this creates, offers a different cultural approach. They also incorporated a Playscape, a series of bamboo structures much like a play equipment. This has been designed to increase the children’s activity and fun.
While the other teams focused on cleaning the water only to increase the health, Petit Sabay included a medical room/office space, for storage and aiding sick children. A different approach was also used in regards to water collection, opting to place a rainwater tank in the kitchen as well as the customary storage tanks below the deck.
Undoubtedly all of the groups have put in an amazing amount of effort and done an incredible job of designing their schools. The final decision from UNSW, myself, and the RAW Impact team came on 11 November. The choice was difficult but we have decided on Khleng! With it’s rope netting, bridge to nutrition and secured separate room.
The other designs have not been left completely behind; Petit Sabay’s inventiveness with bamboo will be transferred to Khleng, where RAW Impact will carry out a test with bamboo as a building material. The aim will be to grow bamboo at Ko Ki, generating an industry for the villagers there and providing materials to RAW Impact and other’s projects for long term sustainability .
From Cam Solis, the Khleng design will incorporate, the store behind the teaching space for the teacher’s use, as well as the seating on the verandahs. The detail in this design was excellent, backed up by some very fine renders articulating their vision extremely well.
The team of 27 and myself will be flying to Cambodia in January 2016, to build this amazing project.
If you’d like to donate to the cause, you can through https://collaborate2016.everydayhero.com/au/AlistairCoulstock