By Yusef “Flex Dan” Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Research on Strengthening Mud Structures in The Gambia using Sustainable Materials
Every year during the rainy season in The Gambia numerous building collapses after experiencing heavy downpour of rain. The rainy season usually commences from July to September and this year was no different. On July 4th, 2017, Standard Newspaper published a story highlighting that “at least 40 families whose houses were destroyed by the rain and windstorm on Saturday are undergoing some difficult times”. According to the article, the collapse was caused by heavy rains and wind which blew the roof sheets away. [Standard, June 2017]
This type of failure where the wind blows away the roof is referred to as uplift. Above is an image of a Mud Hut [Adobe] with its aluminum sheets blown away. Aluminum sheets are very light by design as this reduces the amount of weight on the structure, however, they can also be blown off if not held down with sufficient fixings [fasteners, nails etc]. A possible solution could be to use a slightly heavier roof material [such as Bamboo]which will act as a counter weight against the wind forces trying to lift off the light sheets. Another possible solution is to have a high pitch roof which will reduce the impact of driving rains and wind acting on the roof. This article aims to highlight the issues affecting mud huts and to call for information from victims to further this study.
The above image is from a fundraiser initiated in July 2017, after heavy rains. [Support Jarra, July 2017] A few more fundraisers have been initiated which also aim to support disaster victims in The Gambia. One such organization is the Household Disaster Reliance Project, aptly called HELP-Gambia. HELP-Gambia’s mission is “to strengthen the resilient capacities of households and reduce their risks and vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and extreme weather events within communities in The Gambia”. [HELP-Gambia, July 2017] The sheer number of houses affected every year highlights the importance of the lack of Building Codes in The Gambia. There are no building codes for contemporary steel and concrete structures, instead, the Department of Lands and Planning reviews and approves buildings according to their internal processes. This highlights the need for appropriate building codes in The Gambia for contemporary structures and more traditional mud huts.
So far I have prepared some recommendations which I believe can improve some of the buildings being constructed. The picture below summarizes some of my early recommendations.
- To avoid roof uplift – Aluminium Rooves are very light and are very susceptible to uplift (wind induced failure). An alternative could be to utilize Bamboo Roofs as they are slightly heavier, however, Bamboo needs treatment to make sure it is water resistant.
- To avoid roof uplift – Having a steep roof pitch can reduce the impact of rain which will fall at an angle instead of rain acting almost perpendicular to the roof as observed in a nearly flat roof. This is mainly for new builds or instances where the roof needs to be reconstructed.
- To avoid water intrusion at ground level – Mud huts are susceptible to water intrusions, therefore more resilient foundation course is required such as concrete, car tires and more water resistant materials. For an existing mud building, a possible solution is to paint the lower sections of the wall with tar or to fix strips of car tires at the lower sections of the mud hut.
Call for Information
Having completed my undergraduate research on “Coastal Erosion in The Greater Banjul Area”, I’m close to completing a study investigating the collapse of mud buildings with the aim of recommending solutions. I was deeply inspired by a song by Killa Ace titled “The Rain Came” which tells a story of how rain affects people’s lives in The Gambia. Of late I’ve been further inspired by resident and Diaspora Gambians raising funds to respond to disaster victims in The Gambia. One way I can help is to prepare recommendations and solutions to avoid such disasters in the future.
To further my understanding of the main causes of failure I’m calling for information from victims and the general public. At the end of my study, I intend to present recommendations and solutions of how to design and construct more resilient mud huts. To help me make this a reality I would greatly appreciate more information such as images and interviews with victims. To date I have interacted with some victims, however, I need to interact with more victims to develop more detailed recommendations and improve my understanding of how mud huts collapse. If you can assist in any way, I will be very pleased to hear from you.
- Our Hearts Go to Jarra http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/our-hearts-go-to-jarra
- Support for Disaster Victims in Jarra Fundraiser https://www.gofundme.com/supportjarra
- Help for Disaster Victims-Gambia https://www.gofundme.com/help-for-disaster-victims-gambia