Designing and Building in Central and East Africa

Building a Butterfly

The decent down to Mwenga Centre

The descent along Route 2 to Mwenga Centre

Mwenga Centre is one our most remote outposts.  A six- to eight-hour drive to the south west of Bukavu, Mwenga is surrounded by dense forests and impressive mountain ranges beyond.  The modest town center is home to approximately 5,000 people with a handful of shops and restaurants along the main Route Nationale 2.   Two of our Tuungane communities, both named Kalole (neighborhoods of Mwenga Centre), participated in the governance program and determined that they both would like to use their grants to build a large market in their town center.

When this project landed on my desk in July of 2012, I realized that not only did we have a beautiful and prominent site, but with a budget of $45,600, we would be able to do something special.  I spent a Saturday preparing a modified set of drawings of our standard market design.  I found myself drawing an inverted roof with a descending king post to support the center of the structure.  I also took the time to clearly lay out the dimensions of the needed trusses – labeling truss type “A” and truss type “B”.

Drawing: Diagram showing truss locations

Market “Option 2”

I sent the plans down with my technician the following Monday along with a copy of the standard roof designs – and asked for the community to review both before choosing one.

About 10 days later, word came back: “They loved it!… But they decided that they would rather have two market structures than one market with a unique roof.”

A roller coaster of a response, but – in adherence to the Tuungane principals – the client is always right. The contract was prepared and as it came across my desk, I noted that the drawings included in the document were that of the typical pitched roof.  Another slight heartbreak – but gave my signature and moved on.

C:Documents and SettingsCharles.NewmanMy DocumentsProjects3

Standard Market Design

Over the next few months I heard the occasional updates and signed off on payments.

“Foundations complete.”

“Columns in place.”

Fast forward to December 2012 – and I received these pictures:

I was ecstatic to see that the community had built the structure almost exactly according to my “second option” drawings.  I was surprised because I only printed the drawings once – never to have seen them again.  The contractor must have held on to these documents with the intention of following them…

Now, first off, I had to have a solid conversation with my team.  I should have been informed that the community had planned to proceed with the inverted option the moment the trusses were being constructed.  Had I been informed, I might have insisted, for example, on a certain connection detail between the reinforced concrete beams and the wood super structure.    Looking at these photos my first thought (and perhaps yours too) is the threat of wind.  This region is not prone to large gusts of wind and the site is also flanked by structures on either side – but precautions must be taken to ensure the structural stability of the roof against lateral winds.

My staff is currently working to prepare an amendment to the contract for the addition of protective panels along the sides of both buildings.  This is an unfortunate need but a positive development.  These panels will be perforated to minimize pressure on both the side panels as well as the underside of the primary roof – which will come at a cost.  However, these perforations will be an opportunity to add decorative patterns along the sides of the buildings.

Regardless of these complications – the community is over the top with pride about the beauty of their unique market.  Located in the town center, it overlooks the main road and has earned the nickname “Le Papillon” – The Butterfly.


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