Honey We’re Home: Let’s Get Started!
Back in November when I launched this baby I put up my first post in my “Honey We’re Home” section that’s set aside to follow the process as we develop and build the new mission property. It was SO exciting to be starting the process, even if it was just the getting ready kinds of things.
Well, here we are almost two months later and there’s progress to share! It’s my goal is to do at least one post per month as an update, but I have a feeling there will be quite a few more in between as things really start moving, especially with the house.
A lot of people are familiar with wood frame construction because that’s what happens all around you whenever anyone is building a house, but concrete construction is a whole different ball game. It’s definitely more permanent in nature so every decision we make in the planning stages needs to be really well thought out. It’s VERY hard to get 5-10 years in and decide to take down a wall. Structurally things are entirely different too, because concrete is so much heavier. Also, we’ve seen the effects of a devastating earthquake 5 years ago, and while we didn’t see much damage in our area, Haiti is right over several fault lines and has now been deemed an earthquake zone and we need to plan accordingly. We’re very grateful for our engineer friend. He does a lot of government contract work, including military grade stuff, and I’ll admit, we kind of thought it was overkill when he kept insisting on LOTS of re-bar during our last construction project. But, as I sat at my desk while the earth shook and not a single thing fell off the walls I was VERY grateful and we’re once again following his recommendations because we know it’s worth it in the long run.
So, where are we at now?!?
Our original plan was to start with the house and office, but because of some hold ups for our engineer friend we decided to go ahead with the work yard area. More specifically, the main shop and storage area, staff bathrooms, and the main filter construction area.
I should take a minute to give you some background on our current situation vs. what we’re aiming for.
Right now at the current mission site our property is cut in half by a government ease way. The residence part is on one side while the work yard is on the other.
The work yard has a shop area (depot in Creole/French) where we house our generator, inverters and battery system. In this area we also store all our tools, equipment for welding and other work, and filter construction supplies. There’s a covered work area in front where the guys weld our molds, and right next to it is the area where we wash, dry and bag sand and gravel for filter installations. Because these areas are together there’s literally sand everywhere.
The filter production area is in another area of the yard, but is uncovered. There are some shade trees, but the sun moves through the day. We’ve talked about building a covered area, but since we’d bought the new property we didn’t want to invest in the project when we knew we would be moving eventually. All in all it’s fine. We degaje (a really great word that means “make do”) by hanging tarps, but it’s not ideal. We’re also growing and running out of room. This year will mark the 14th year that Clean Water for Haiti has been in operation. Right now we will max out our space with about 200 filters produced each month. At the new site we’ll have the room to build a work space that will allow us to produce up to 400 filters per month.
The new property has enough room that we’ll be able to spread things out and give each part of our program it’s own area. To give you an idea of how the property will be developed here’s a little diagram I made up that we’ve used in fundraising and promotion efforts:
In the past two months the construction team, made up of some of our regular staff as well as hired contractors, has made good headway on the filter production area. In December all the foundation trenches were dug. We were originally planning on hiring a backhoe to dig all of this, but the time it would have taken to find one and make arrangements became an issue and our team was ready to go, so we did the digging by hand. They’re amazing!
Re-bar was tied for the support posts that will hold the roof for the covered work area. This is one of our biggest changes at the new site and we’re so excited about it! As I mentioned, right now the guys build filters in the sun, or whatever shade we can get from an overhead tarp. Caribbean sun is HOT, especially in the summer months. They work really hard. And we love them. So, we want to be very intentional about providing a work space that is not only functional, but pleasant to work in. We want them to know that we really, truly appreciate all their hard work, and them specifically.
The new work area will be a 30×60′ pad with a roof over it. The roof will be about 15′ high, so lots of air movement. Not only will it shade the workers, but it will actually help provide stronger filters because the cement will be able to cure more slowly. When the filters are drying in the sun it can speed the process up too much and cause cracking later on. So, less waste, and donor dollars will go further. Because we’ll have a roof we’ll be able to install industrial ceiling fans, which is such a fun thing to be able to do for the guys. Along with good air movement it will also help keep the work area dry. We use a lot of water, and right now it just soaks into the ground, but because we’ll be using a cement pad we’ll need to have good drainage and air flow to keep things dry.
In the past two weeks the foundation of the shop was done.
It’s all done by hand. They mix the mortar in the cement mixer, put it in the hole, then place rocks. The rocks, if they aren’t the right size, get broken into smaller chunks by hand with a small sledge hammer.
Before the rocks are put in the mortar they get wet down. This helps them adhere to the mortar better and it slows the drying process so the foundation doesn’t crumble.
The re-bar forms for the roof support columns has been placed and the footings have been poured.
Trenches for running the electrical and plumbing conduit from the generator and power center have been dug.
That’s the progress as of last week. I need to go out later this week and take some new pictures. I’m trying to do it weekly so we have photo progress to look back on and because we can use these photos to show mission supporters as we go, but it also means I can share them with you!