Architecture

Orkidstudio builds rainwater-harvesting orphanage in Kenya

The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The orphanage has four kids to each room and some additional quiet spaces for reading and studying (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The orphanage has four kids to each room and some additional quiet spaces for reading and studying (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Recycled timber was used in the build (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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Recycled timber was used in the build (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The St. Jerome's orphanage was constructed earlier this year over a period of just eight weeks (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The St. Jerome's orphanage was constructed earlier this year over a period of just eight weeks (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The orphanage cost a total of £50,000 (US$78,315) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The orphanage cost a total of £50,000 (US$78,315) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Interior shot of St. Jerome's (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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Interior shot of St. Jerome's (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The earthbags, operable windows and timber slats should all help maintain a comfortable temperature inside (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The earthbags, operable windows and timber slats should all help maintain a comfortable temperature inside (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Interior shot of St. Jerome's (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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Interior shot of St. Jerome's (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The finish is basic but appealing (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The finish is basic but appealing (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The project measures 396 sq m (4,262 sq ft) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The project measures 396 sq m (4,262 sq ft) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Orkidstudio had help on the build from locals and volunteers from the UK (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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Orkidstudio had help on the build from locals and volunteers from the UK (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
St. Jerome's orphanage, by Orkidstudio (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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St. Jerome's orphanage, by Orkidstudio (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The project measures 396 sq m (4,262 sq ft) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The project measures 396 sq m (4,262 sq ft) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The orphanage cost a total of £50,000 (US$78,315) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The orphanage cost a total of £50,000 (US$78,315) (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
A basic rainwater-harvesting system was installed on the roof of the orphanage that offers an independent source of water (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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A basic rainwater-harvesting system was installed on the roof of the orphanage that offers an independent source of water (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Recycled timber was used in the build (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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Recycled timber was used in the build (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
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Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
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Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
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Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
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Architectural drawing of St. Jerome's orphanage (Image: Orkidstudio)
The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
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The finished building is colorful and fun (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)

Humanitarian design organization Orkidstudio recently completed work on a new orphanage that provides disadvantaged kids in Kenya with a safe roof over their heads. The St. Jerome's orphanage was built using earthbags (bags filled with soil) and recycled timber, and also features a rainwater-harvesting system that offers residents an independent source of water.

St. Jerome's orphanage was constructed earlier this year over a period of just eight weeks, and at a total cost of £50,000 (US$78,315). The orphanage comprises a total floorspace of 396 sq m (4,262 sq ft), split over a couple of two-story buildings, and fits four kids in each room, plus some extra reading and study spaces.

The St. Jerome's orphanage was constructed earlier this year over a period of just eight weeks (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)
The St. Jerome's orphanage was constructed earlier this year over a period of just eight weeks (Photo: Odysseas Mourtzouchos)

During construction, a large amount of clay-based soil was produced while excavating the foundations required for the orphanage. This soil was then packed into 4,000 grain bags and stacked like bricks to build the orphanage's structure.

This low-cost building method seems more suited to the area than housing the kids in shipping containers (like the New Jerusalem Orphanage, for example), as earthbags offer comparatively good heat retention and should help keep the interior temperature relatively stable. The earthbags were clad with waste timber from veneer processing, and a basic rainwater-harvesting system was installed on the roof.

Though a solar array might have made a nice addition to the orphanage, it would doubtless have increased the cost of the project too, so it operates with grid-supplied electricity.

Orkidstudio employed local men and women to help in the build, and the firm reports that these locals have since been commissioned to build more earthbag structures in the area using the skills they learned during the project.

Source: Orkidstudio via Arch Daily

1 comment
Mel Tisdale
Thanks to Ebola and our lacklustre efforts as a global community to fight the problem, orphanages like this are unfortunately going to be required on a large scale throughout Africa, so projects like this are particularly interesting. I would like to know if there is anything technologically special about the rainwater harvesting. Despite the title of the article, there is no specific mention of any, other than it being a "basic" system. Whilst a photovoltaic solar electrical system would add considerably to the costs, they are falling in price, so perhaps it might be possible to go off-grid in the future. In the meantime a solar hot water system would surely be possible. The 'earthbags' construction technique is interesting. I wonder if it is possible to stabilise sandy soils to allow earthbag construction in other areas where there isn't any clay - such as being mixed with cattle dung, perhaps? As for the external sheathing, I have no idea as to what might be available, especially for free as is the case here, I imagine. I would suggest old plastic shopping bags inside the grain bags, but they are nearly all bio-degradable these days, so of no use. Also, what is the roof made from? Some form of thatching, perhaps? Any 'developed world' companies with suitable scrap/waste materials might like to consider 'hitching a ride' so to speak in half-full containers destined for the area affected by Ebola.