Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week 6

Gersione returned for an extended stay meaning the large generator has finally been fixed. After blowing 3 outlets and one cord, we (really, Gersione) finally figured out a way to get the bitornera (concrete mixer) going. He also happened to bring an electric water pump with him. With these developments, concrete for the interior columns and mortar for the exterior have been at our disposal without too much extra work. On site, the columns are going up quickly as they have been the primary building focus for the three architects and Joam. This has allowed a couple of us to focus on interior columns and a couple of us on exterior columns.

Other major events:
_While James was performing the job of eco-tour driver (for the second time since we’ve been here) during a night ride, we saw a taper
_We managed to stop working for a bit and catch the second half of overtime of the final match to see Spain win the world cup for the first time ever
_The GIEU has departed and in 3 weeks time, another pedreiro (Elano, who, we mentioned before, is working on a project up the road and has provided a lot of helpful tips and tools to us) and his two men (they call men who work for pedreiros “servants” here) will arrive and focus on constructing Phase 2

Working It

We have finally been joined on site by a pedreiro (or building master) named Joam from the city. He has been working in the field of construction for 30 years but never with a woman or with Americans, both circumstances he seems to welcome. The communication was very difficult at first as he didn’t speak the clearest Portuguese (Ethan went so far as to claim that he was speaking another language, altogether) and our Portuguese is relatively slow but soon enough we were able to understand each other and communicate by showing/doing as much as possible. One of our biggest challenges is to keep up with the pedreiro’s very fast pace of working. This requires that we adapt quickly to his work methods while foreseeing the next step in the process. Once finishing all of the bond beam rebar towers and remaining column rebar towers, the next logical step for Joam was the exterior veranda columns (pier footing, rebar, retention brackets, mortar, oito furo bricks). In the meantime, we poured all footings for interior columns, constructed formwork, and began to pour the columns (composed of wood formwork greased with expired soy bean oil, vertical rebar, rebar retention brackets, rebar braces (15 X 20) to hold the formwork in place, and concrete). Another major task on site concerns the water team. They have been working away (with the helping hands of GIEU students) on the construction of the septic tank/leeching facility which is made from oito furos with the occasional brick turned sideways in order to let materials seep through. They have also been cleaning materials for their water filtration system. Both of these tasks are near completion. We also fetched the wood from deep in the forest where it had been cut and moved it to the roadside. This required a lot of bug spray and some night time adventures to move the wood from the side of the road to the building site.

Clockwise: Our “metal shop”: cutting rebar for the rebar towers, bending rebar retention brackets, assembling rebar towers; All hands on board for the pouring of the first column (we were determined to pour it that day and were trying our hardest to beat dusk); Construction of a veranda column; Placement of formwork for interior column

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 5


We have had a good push on the excavation of both phase I and II with the helping hands of the GIEU crew. Large septic pits have been dug and the trenches and footings are near completion. All the while, the in-ground brick work that acts as both a structural footing for the infill wall system (tijolos) and a form edge for the interior slab has been completed on Phase I. Excavation cut from the septic and structural systems digs has been reused as fill in order to reach an FFE (finished floor elevation) that is consistent with the existing house. Infrastructural columns of rebar (ferro) have been built and installed. They are set in concrete footings (40x40x60 cm) and braced to establish an accurate stub out at the footing. Rebar above the footing will be manipulated at a later date in preparation of column formwork. The production and process of building and setting columns has been one of invention, correction, and common sense. Local knowledge and advice has been graciously availed to the crew and employed in most cases. It is sometimes the case that we utilize different tools or techniques than suggested as our own experience prevails in the decision making process. It is also common that suggestions vary from pedreiro to pedreiro (construction managers) and the locals. As it stands now we are moving vertically out of the ground with the main structure of the interior structural frame and setting up for the veranda brick work to begin. Nights are often spent drawing details that have evolved, discussing strategies for organizing a large unskilled labor force, and deriving cut lists for materials and a lumber package. We met with our local lumber supplier/millwork and discussed the derived cut list for the roof system (four structural trusses in the north/south direction that carry three beams (vigas) in the east/west direction, that carry all the rafters (caibro) in the n/s direction that carry all batons (ripom) in the e/w direction, on which sit the dry stack roof tiles). We were able to get a look at some of the vigas that have been cut for our job and so far the cuts look good and straight (reta). The vigas are being milled at 6m lengths and are coming from a local tree species called Piuva, which is a dense hardwood. The rafters will be of the same species at varying lengths and the batons will be of a softer species due to the amount of nailing involved to secure it to the rafters. All other materials are being delivered at a steady pace at one to two deliveries a week. We expect the deliveries to slow due to the fact that much of the necessary materials are currently on site. Occasional trips to Pocone are used to blog and pick up some needed tools and materials and this trip we will swap out the motor for the concrete mixer that had never operated properly.
Plumbing stub outs for in ground wastewater are being dimensioned and two options for water delivery are being weighed. As for the luxury of a concrete mixer, the primary generator is now up and running but the motor on the mixer is and has been in no shape for operation since it arrived on site. All of the concrete mixing remains on ground. Our current water supply for mixing concrete and mortar is coming from an existing well that was at one time the source of water for the existing house. Initially we lowered buckets into the well but have since moved up to a new manual hand pump that operates as if it were as old as the well. The water systems team is currently working on a bio filter that is made up of varying sizes of aggregate and sand that is sifted through a series of meshes that they brought with them.
General Notes:
_It is this week that Brasil was knocked out of the World Cup by Holland. It is a disappointment to say the least.
_The daily schedule for the design team (John, Nisha, and James) is now 6am-12pm 1pm-6pm
_Laundry gets done rarely and often only when it is absolutely necessary. We have all squeezed it in this week.

Local Knowledge

There have been various locals who have played key roles in advising us towards a more efficient way of construction as well as operating in the local field condition. Tito who has left for Cuiaba in anticipation of a newborn has been integral in a wide range from proper fence construction to plumbing repair to fashioning stakes. Gerstioni is the Jack-of-all-trades and one of our go to guys. He keys us into some of the other field conditions such as operating the generator and maintaining some of the equipment around. Elano is a pedreiro who is working at a lodge (posada) that is up the transpantaniera highway about 3km. He has lent us and fabricated some tools that have proven to be more efficient and fast (rapido) in the construction process. For example: We were using some found pipe to bend .42 cm steel for the retention ring assembly that is part of the rebar infrastructural column. Elano provided us with a bender that is made up of one piece of angle iron, three nails, and a board of wood. It works great. Images: From the left: Gerstioni (Driver and guide for Jaguar Ecological Lodge) with the water systems team, Gerstioni working on the concrete mixer, Tito (Very talented guide for the Jaguar Ecological Lodge) cutting stakes, Elano (local pedreiro) setting up and showing us how to use a local small gauge rebar bender, The wood milling crew.