Back to Blog

Update on our pilot SSB build at Nankhono Primary School

Posted on 26th August 2019

In April 2019, we began our first SSB pilot which has been a huge success. It was key for us to establish whether the SSB’s could be used to weight bear on a larger build. Most of the builders in Malawi using SSB’s use concrete and iron girders to make struts to weight bear, rather than relying on the SSB’s. However, iron and concrete is expensive, and concrete ecologically unfriendly.

Our goals from this build are to test if we can really make a sturdy school build out of SSB’s, which look more like traditional bricks and thus are more acceptable to local communities as a alternative to the standard kiln dried clay brick. We hope we can prove to communities this technique can provide future opportunities for development.

Charlie Bowles, The Building Project Manager at The Mlambe Project

As we started the project, Cyclone Idai hit Malawi, so Charlie Bowles, the Building Project Manager, reviewed designs to make them more flood proof following the devastation of Cyclone Idai, and increased the depths of the foundations for the building. This was an important feature in future proofing the school builds, as over 50 homes in the area were destroyed from flooding.

Man working with earthbag bricks
Steven, our building projects manager, demonstrating the brick mould for SSB production.

Making the bricks for SSB’s requires each one to be pressed in a SSB Machine, which to start with, took a couple of minutes per brick, and with around 60,000 bricks, and a curing time of a month for each brick, meant there were some stops and starts in the build, sometimes having to wait for bricks to cure.

The build really did work

So we worked out a way to deal with the corners without having to have iron girders and concrete, and bought a circular saw. Our Engineer, Henry, trained the team, who visited from the UK to do some training for our Malawian building team.

Corners, corners

Engineer Henry designed a great new way for the corners to interlock.

Building up

The team developed brilliant new skills in this build, and we think the build really worked well.

The finished school block for Nankhono will become two classrooms for 120 children.