Winner of The Australian Designed International Project Award, 2011
This community-run project consists of a classroom, two dormitories, a mess hall and a teacher’s house. All buildings have been constructed using local hardwoods by local volunteer labour, with a majority of the trees purchased from families located within close proximity to the school site. All the trees were milled by hand, using a chainsaw and a local operator, using cutting list as to ensure that each tree was cut as efficiently as possible.
The use of timber construction allowed local carpenters to utilise skills which they had already had, as well as learning new design principles to mitigate risk in this earthquake prone location. This rural location without electricity meant all the buildings were constructed using handsaws, chisels, and hammers with a limited use of a generator and electric tools. Three types of timber were used; Vasa (Vitex cofassus), which is a dense timber, was used for the main structural and exposed components. Buni (Calophyllum vitiense ) and Gema (Pometia pinnata), which are lighter hardwoods were used for the framing and cladding.
The main design principals of each building consists of a strong base, through a post, bearer, and cross bracing construction, with studs, noggins, and trusses, all structurally tied together with bracing, forming the skeleton of each building. Each detail where timber meets timber is notched out and half housed to create strong junctions throughout. The framing is then clad with vertically run timber boards and battens which again bind the structure together further.
In collaboration with the local carpenters, the window design was an important part of the overall design of the buildings. Three of the buildings have fixed louvered shutters, which open outwards on a top pivot point. Prototypes were mocked up to ensure that the finalised design allowed for the most efficient use of timber. This level of refinement of the design ensured that each window brought light and ventilation into the internal spaces, as well as offering a robust and easy system to construct.