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Project Focus

Building for Resiliency: Scalable Construction in Colombia

By Carl Fosholt · June 7, 2023

Construction projects in disaster-prone developing regions face both technical and non-technical challenges. Investment in materials and labor to construct a building can be jeopardized by natural disasters if resilient systems and detailing are not prioritized. Professional designers are seldom available for consultation and state resources insufficient to provide effective construction oversight. Social engagement and partnership with local NGOs, communities, and builders is the first step to ensuring resilient infrastructure development, but gaps still exist in the ability to provide technical oversight for many project efforts. CRAFT has partnered with Bay-Build, a San Francisco-based non-profit, exploring the use of detailed modeling technology and documentation to support resilient building construction in Mutata, Colombia.

Bay-Build is working to increase global access to resilient and reliable shelter. They offer a prefabricated framing system that can be assembled in a matter of hours. The frames can be fabricated using industry-standard equipment in over 100 countries around the world. Their projects involve partnerships with regional non-profit organizations to provide targeted support that is guided by the local community. The local partner in Colombia, PASO Colombia, works within rural communities to support the development of sustainable farming practices. They provide the knowledge and expertise to grow, process, and distribute sustainable products to the greater Colombian market.

For more information about the current collaboration, visit the project webpage here.

Construction projects without proper oversight commonly suffer from sourcing deficient materials. The steel frame system utilized by Bay-Build ensures material quality and the prefabricated design promotes a simple construction procedure. However, the steel frame system relies on post-installed anchorage into a concrete slab at column locations, a highly specialized detail difficult for local construction partners to execute properly.

The project program in Mutatá intends to include hollow clay brick masonry walls for storing agricultural equipment and supplies which can provide lateral support for the steel frame roof structure and eliminate dependency on specialized, post-installed anchors at the column bases. While unreinforced masonry structures are particularly susceptible to catastrophic failure in seismic events, confined masonry systems have proven successful around the world in high wind and high seismic regions. Confined masonry systems employ construction techniques familiar to masons and carpenters with a particular emphasis on detailing to ensure appropriate seismic performance.

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) and the Confined Masonry Network have developed excellent, detailed resources to support the use of confined masonry systems, however, the resources are difficult for non-technical persons to comprehensively understand. Without guidance from a site supervisor experienced in confined masonry systems, the technical detailing requirements described by available resources are unlikely to be accomplished correctly.

In lieu of a site engineer supervising construction, CRAFT has developed an image-based construction guide of the confined masonry structure, how it interacts with the prefabricated steel frame, and the construction sequence necessary to achieve a resilient build. Every component of the structure has been modeled in 3D so that critical rebar detailing, construction techniques, connections, etc. can be conveyed to local partners with contextual imagery accessible to non-engineers.

The Bay-Build Mutatá project is nearing completion. Final fundraising efforts to cover all material and construction costs continues; please considering donating here.

CRAFT will continue to partner with Bay-Build and local communities to increase global access and construction of strong and reliable shelters.

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