Bangla Bari’s construction team recently built a homestead for two families with a toilet, kitchen, storage and wash space. Amazingly, we built it with less than four thousand euros in less than a month. The house is sturdy, weatherproof, environmentally sustainable and beautiful to look at.

unofficial blog of rural construction

Day 2: COMPLETE CHAOS The first week of rural construction is the most exciting, most expensive and most troublesome. Its like launching a space shuttle. You need a hell lot of explosive energy to thrust that rocket, but once it reaches the space, its smooth sailing. Rural construction or any construction for that matter shares similar fate of a rocketship. If there are mistakes during liftoff, There’s a strong chance of crashing.This is one place, democracy does not hold a paramount value. Someone has to be in charge, make decisions and be firm. “Sir, the breaker has arrived, but the bricks didn’t”, ” Sir, there are cracks in the bricks”, “Sir, there’s water coming out when we dig”… Almost endless stream of confusion among workers which one has to handle with strength. The first truck of cement blocks came and they had cracks. Maybe it happened during transportation. The truck labors were tired. They just wanted to unload, the contractor just wanted to start laying blocks and the supplier jusr wanted to get paid. A group of twenty some men wanted to convince me, ” It’s fine”. I smiled and politely said, “No”. This house will have to last for a hundred years. I will not start with cracked block. I revert to the smiling bastard mode. The more these burly men tries to convince me, plead loudly or threaten with sweaty angry face…I give them a fake smile and say ” No”. I need good blocks, else nothing continues i can wait. It was getting late. I ordered lunch and drinks for everyone. We all eat and calm down. They take the blocks back to the factory and agrees to bring back good ones. One of the great joy of the day was to teach the kids about architecture and about drone videos. They loved to see how to build something virtually on the computer. All kids are brilliant. If you can have fun with them, they open the doors of their mind and learn new things. I have had so many bad teachers in life. They tried teaching by threatening, punishment and fear. I guess they had insecurities. We did our homework with fear, but never learned anything, never remembered anything. The ignition is on, rocket is thrusting explotion, base has been dug, concrete is getting poured, rocket is lifting…boom boom boom.

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We first got interested in cement block watching a video of Architect Mustapha Khalid Palash. Palash bhai ardently appealed to the architects to use cement blocks. The truth is Cement is not 100% environment-friendly. There are significant carbon emission to produce cement. However, in Bangladeshi context, it is far better than bricks. Kiln fired bricks are the worst pollutant. Brick fields produce more pollution than any other industry. Moreover, they destroy the topsoil rapidly. Without relying of perceptions, I have checked internationally published journals. Fortunately, the researchers have methodically proved that a concrete block is more environmentally friendly than kiln fired bricks. The best alternative of Kiln fired brick would be compressed earth blocks (CEB). However, we tried to promote earth blocks for years without much success. It is not always about technical achievement. The aspiration of rural people are different. It seemed they could care less about environment or aesthetics. They want stability and strength. They want a house that can survive ten monsoon.

Concrete block construction have a sharp learning curve. There are technical issues that needs to be mastered. But once these idiosyncratic ways are learned, the construction is super fast, environmentally friendly and according to major contractors, reduces cost by 30%. We found the ‘rapid construction’ reduces labor cost significantly.
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