Monday, May 22, 2006

National Consultants, Ethiopia

With a staff strength of about 35 professionals and a head office located in Addis Ababa, National Consultants has established itself as one of the leading Architectural, Engineering and Construction management consultants in Ethiopia.

Established since 1968 National Consultants has been involved in a number of high profile jobs in Ethiopia which include the Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopian Airlines Maintenance Hangar and the Maritime & Transit Services Enterprise.

Managed by a number of talented Ethiopians,which include Mr Assefa Bekele. Their website says that "...Mr. Assefa Bekele has been with the firm for the past 34 years. He is the Chief Architect as well as the General Manager of National Consultants. He has over 39 years of experience in Architecture and Project Management. He has held numerous leadership roles in some of the largest projects undertaken in Ethiopia. He has a Bachelor of Architecture from Addis Ababa University and a Master of Architecture from Cornell University..."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

African heritage sites to go digital

AFRICAST says"...Scientists in South Africa are digitizing Africa's rich cultural heritage sites to provide a virtual tour to those who cannot visit in person, while benefiting preservation of the sites.

Using the latest laser-scan and computer technology, they are creating 3D models and virtual landscapes of the sites in Sub-Saharan Africa, including a coral-stone fortress in Tanzania, an ancient mosque in Timbuktu, Mali,and Great Zimbabwe, Sunday Times reported.

These digital models and historical resources will be stored inan African cultural heritage and landscapes database that African scholars, libraries and universities will be able to use free of charge, said the national newspaper.

Prof. Heinz Ruther, a project leader based at the University ofCape Town's (UCT's) Geomatics department, said they hoped to eventually create walk-through capabilities, like a computer game,to familiarize African school children with these sites.

The newspaper said the project has been approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which oversees the naming and preservation work of heritage sites around the world.

The UCT also co-operates with a project known as Aluka, which is tasked with building an "online, digital library of scholarly resources from and about the developing world, beginning in Africa."

The project aims not only at "virtual preservation" but also atassisting with the physical conservation of these sites, which arebeing eroded by the weather, time and human settlement, Ruther said.

The Kilwa fortress in Tanzania, made of coral stone, dates backto the year 1503. It is being eroded by storms and the wind.

Ruther explained that the accuracy of the 3D models, between one and five centimeters of the original, would assist with reconstruction should it become necessary.

The team has already finished models for four World Heritage sites, including Kilwa Great Mosque, dated about 1200 AD, and Kilwa Kisiwani Fortress (1503) in Tanzania; St Giyorgis, a rock-hewn church at Lalibela (dating

back to the 11th to 13th century) in Ethiopia; and the Grand Mosques of Djenne and Djingereiber in Timbuktu in Mali (14th and 20th centuries).

UNESCO convened the 29 session of the World Heritage Committee July in Durban, South Africa, finding that 16 of 33 endangered World Heritage sites are in Africa due to conflicts, lack of fund and protection..."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rammed Earth Structures

If the production of cement is one of the highest carbon dioxide emitters in the world today, how can we reform the way we build in order to reduce these emissions? One of the answers might lie in the use of rammed earth as a material for construction of buildings.

Julian Keable of Pearce Mccomish says "...Ramming earth has been a method of construction used for centuries in various parts of the world, and is commonly known by its French name Piseg .Earth is extracted from the ground and compacted in layers inside specially constructed formwork. After compaction the formwork is released and moved along to a new position in the wall, or upwards to the next layer. In this way the building goes up rapidly, layer by layer, row by row.

This technique can produce buildings that are strong, durable, safe and desirable. Above all, because earth is an abundant and cheap resource, rammed earth buildings are very economical; in addition, the majority of the investment goes directly into the local economy. The method has an essential simplicity, and with its unskilled labour intensity, rammed earth can be seen as a valuable tool in the generation of low-cost housing in developing countries, in both urban and rural areas.

Well built, rammed earth walls will compare favourably with other masonry materials, such as bumt clay bricks or concrete blocks, in compressive strength, erosion by moisture or seasonal changes of dimension. Costs will also, in most cases, be highly competitive..."

Photos and Illustrations courtesy of Pearce Mccomish