The construction process is long and involves a lot of players–from architects to builders to consultants (engineers, surveyors, etc), and building owners and occupants (the "clients"). When reading about ours or other architectural projects, you'll run into some standard phases describing every step of how a building goes together, beginning to end. Of course, architecture always starts with someone who wants a building and has the means to have it built–be those means a land title, funding for materials, or sheer will. We work with all kinds of clients–school owners who more often than not do not have money to build (so they apply for our Haiti School Initiative Grant), but do have a land title–which is critical to starting a permanent building in Haiti or anywhere else.
Following are the basic phases of design and construction, and some terminology you will encounter when reading about our projects:
This is the opening conversation of the project between the clients/owners and the architect. The site is evaluated with by survey and soils crews (typically an independent firm) and maps are drawn up.
Schematic Design (SD)
The scheme of a building is the overarching concept that incorporates the needs of the clients and end users of the building. We work very closely at this stage with the school's community at day-long "charrettes" and other exercises to determine what the building actually needs to be to properly serve that community. Here designs are very loose as a lot of forces begin a process of resolution.
Design Documents (DD's)
Once the schemes and needs have been nailed down, the design gets developed to a point of articulation. The form of a building takes shape in drawings like plans, sections and elevations, as well as digital and physical models.
Construction Documents (CD's)
The CD's are a set of pages that articulate all the specific aspects of the building, derived from the Design Documents. CD's are instructions for the folks who actually build the building–builders who are rarely the architects who originally designed it, so the instructions need to be very specific. There are very refined "sheets" (pages) of building plans, sections and elevations, all of which are annotated with what kinds of materials and hardware need to be used, and details showing the more nuanced aspects of the building, like how a rain gutter is attached to a roof, or how reinforcing is tied into a block wall.
RFP, Bid/Tender & Award the Contract
When the CD's are complete, the architects, along with the project client, release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to the construction community. Contractors then bid on the design–responding with what they will charge the client for the cost of construction–materials, labor, equipment and consultants. Sometimes the bids submitted are also called tenders–the words are interchangeable. Then the architect and client select which bid proposal they would like to move forward, and award the contract to the deserved contractor.
In any architectural project, the full material cost of a building is assessed via "Bill of Quantities." In a BOQ, every single bag of cement, length of wood, concrete formwork panel, every nail even, is accounted for, and the prices added up. The Rebuilding Center asked each bidding contractor to put together cost estimates based on their going rates for any or all materials, and these costs fluctuate between contractors. It's up to the architects to put faith in the contractor to stand behind their estimates. The faith is sealed with a contract, making the contractor legally responsible for the estimates they've proposed.
Construction/Construction Administration (CA)
The contractor organizes a build crew, materials and equipment to go to the project site and put the building together. Build crews for our projects consist of mostly unskilled labor (who have completed two-week orientation/training sessions) right from the community where the project is located, and a skilled job foreman ("boss") likely based in Port-au-Prince. The duration of construction will vary depending on complexity of the design (and other factors), but will take around three to four months for an average-sized permanent building in Haiti.
When construction is finished the building can be used! Bring on the ribbon cuttings and community festivities–it's a pretty joyful moment.
Post-Occupancy Evaluatopm (the "Post-Oc")
Six to twelve months down the line, we send someone to inspect the project–how it's been used, how it's been worn, how it's worn down, if at all. This is a critical part of the design/construction process, where the designers study how their designs meet their intentions and how the community actually uses the building and where their needs are actually met, or exceeded by, the building.
The whole process could take a year, or longer. When ground is broken on the Round 1 schools later this month, we can start getting exciting construction updates like the ones from Ceverine. We anticipate the buildings to finish before the start of the next Haitian school year, at the start of October, if (fingers crossed) all goes well (knock on wood) and no complications (pat belly rub head) emerge.
Pictured above is the latest from the new construction of the Ceverine school, recently visited by Students Rebuild partner Ben Stiller. At top you're looking at what will be one classroom of the two-classroom expansion. Design Fellow Darren Gill took this picture from where the wood frame partition between the classrooms is coming in. The woman is cleaning up the project before Stiller's team touches down. Immediately above is a shot of the two-classroom block as roof trusses are being raised.
Darren had a lot to point out in this particular image, including a bit of courage and innovation on the part of the build crew. What may not seem unusual to a North American office is the timber framing–but a very foreign concept to the Haitian crew accustomed to masonry! Through the last weeks Darren guided the masons and the truss carpenter to building stick-frame walls. At first the masons were skeptical–first with needing to assemble wall panels on their sides on the ground, then when the panels went up ("in one go"), at the wobbliness of the whole thing. Soon though the panels were all tied together and the trusses are put up and the walls become rigid. The masons have augmented their skill sets. Darren also points out the critical juncture of the timber and concrete portions of the wall. Haiti doesn't have all the fancy hardware that we're accustomed to so the masons tied the timber wall down with bent-over rebar continuing from the concrete wall and foundation–a creative fix to be sure!