Monday, July 29, 2013

Realities of Experimental Building Projects

Last week we got a real lesson about what it means to take up an experimental building project. If you take a close read at our project abstract, you'll notice many variables and challenges: earth construction, complex geometries, tile vaulting technology transfer, building in the developing world, among others. 

We've moved along rather smoothly through the various phases so far: soil testing, block production, footings/foundations, structural wall construction, and tile vault prototype construction. When it came to building the vault at full scale, it did not go as smoothly.

July 17: we began construction of the vault using the stabilized compressed earth tiles we fabricated with the sub-soil from the site. We focused on building arches over the rebar formwork.

by the end of the first day, we completed arches
across the length of the vault

July 18th: we worked on extruding the arches off of the rebar.

by the end of the second day each arch was now two tiles wide
and a first course of second-layer tiles was laid 
along the base of the vault

July 19th: we worked on closing the second layer of the arches over the rebars and continued to extend the middle arch.

by late afternoon we had a major collapse right where we had 
been extending the vault and building the second layer. 

Since it was Friday afternoon, we cleaned up the wreckage and ended the work week. Over the weekend we continued to see signs of the structure getting weaker and by he following Monday much more of the structure collapsed leaving just the 2-layer arches supported by the rebar formwork. Upon close inspection we realized that due to lack of curing and many other factors, even these arches were very weak and had to be taken down.