AVN one of six Finalists in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2015
After being a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2014, AVN has just been announced as a 2015 Finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a prestigious annual competition named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award”.
Each year, The Buckminster Fuller Institute invites scientists, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world to submit their innovative solutions to some of humanity's most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.
Six Finalist proposals, including ours, have been selected out of an entry pool of over 400 applications from 135 countries, and have undergone a rigorous review for adherence to the seven-point Challenge criteria: Visionary, Comprehensive, Ecologically Responsible, Feasible, Verifiable, and Replicable. Our application has been through four rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge Review Committee, including analysis and evaluation by an interdisciplinary team of experts and advisors.
"Each of these projects deserve the attention of the world for their commitment to 'solving for system' – an approach that takes an unusual degree of insight, patience, tenacity and courage", said Elizabeth Thompson, The Buckminster Fuller Institute's Executive Director. "The teams behind these initiatives have made extraordinary efforts to define the systemic context underlying the problem they are seeking to solve, and have designed strategies that provide enduring and sustainable solutions. Each is a remarkable example of the transformative power of individual initiative and provide much needed hope by demonstrating that solutions to our most entrenched problems are indeed at hand."
After being a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2014, we are delighted to have been chosen among the finalists of this 2015 competition and would like to thank the jury for the honour. We hope to be able to attend the final Award ceremony in Nw York on November 12th.
Where we stand, fifteen years on
The AVN program, launched in the year 2000, is creating an expanding market for Nubian Vault construction, with an average annual growth rate of around 30% for the numbers of NV masons trained through the program and the numbers of NV buildings and beneficiaries. By 2015, 380 NV masons had been trained through the AVN program, and a further 300 apprentices were in training.
There are over 20,000 direct beneficiaries of the AVN program (representing the people who live in and/or use a NV building). Altogether, NV masons have worked on 1,500 NV construction sites in 700 different locations in 5 different countries, each site including at least one building, representing a total built area of 68,000 sq metres. The majority of NV buildings (1,300) are rural houses, the remainder include 20 classrooms, 57 barns and chicken houses, 13 medical / health centres, 27 mosques, 6 churches, 11 community and training centres, 25 hotel / restaurants etc.. 76% of the clients for NV buildings represent AVN's core target population of subsistence farmers and rural families.
Cumulative cost savings, compared to alternative techniques, are of the order of 2 million euros, representing a significant boost to local economies. Furthermore, compared to altetrnative construction methods, 55,000 tons of potential CO2-e can be saved on the basic structure, and in energy efficiency, over the expected lifetime of the existing NV buildings.
The AVN program is now formally established in five countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana), with five national offices and 13 regional teams . In 2015, 55 salaried local staff were employed in these teams, supported by the actions of 120 volunteers (local village 'champions' promoting the NV concept). The main role of these teams is to establish and nurture local autonomous markets in NV construction through awareness raising and promotional activities (the 'kickstart' method), development of partnerships with local organizations, putting NV masons in touch with potential clients, identification of potential apprentices, support and training of NV masons to help them become independent entrepreneurs, monitoring of results, and technical R&D work.
By 2015, around one-third of the NV construction market is autonomous, with NV masons finding their own clients without the need for intervention by AVN. 15 NV masons have set up their own NV construction enterprises.
6 NV buildings completed
AVN's first construction season in Ghana has just finished, with impressive results. NV buildings range from a chicken-house to the wing of the royal palace of the traditional king of Kazigo. In between these two extremes, NV masons and apprentices have built a dormitory, a computer lab in an eco-village, an office for a local library, and, finally, an office for the local AVN team in Bolgatanga. This wide range of buildings has helped to convince local people in the Upper east region around Bolgatanga – including the Department of Rural Housing - that the NV concept is a valid, affordable, and appropriate alternative to current construction techniques (corrugated iron or reinforced concrete roofs on cement block or mud brick walls).
12 Ghanaian apprentices in training
Training of local NV masons was kick-started by a team of 5 experienced NV masons fronm Burkina Faso. Despite the challenges of language, different units of measure, building techniques, and currency, these Burkinabe masons managed to establish successful relations and train 12 Ghanaian apprentices. The chief mason, Drissa Guira, supported by the Training Manager Bruno Vialaret, ran several 'accelerated training' workshops in AVN's new office, which the apprentices say effectively complemented their on-site training.
First national AVN-Ghana masons' congress
On June 9th, the AVN-Ghana team and the trainer mason from Boromo, Drissa Guira, met the Ghanaian apprentices for the first national congress of AVN-Ghana. 8 apprentices and 2 trainer masons from the Department of Rural Housing shared their experiences on the NV building sites, and discussed the NV concept, its diffusion strategy, the pivotal role of NV masons and their relations with AVN. The congress was also the occasion to take stock of the past season's results, and to prepare for the next season's demands for NV buldings from people in the region, - especially for village houses for local families.
As always, we are very grateful for your continuing interest in AVN, and look forward to receiving your support for the further development of our work in Ghana – our first programme in anglophone West Africa.
AVN at COP20, Lima, December 2014
AVN was invited to attend the the 20th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Lima, Peru, Dec 1-12, and was awarded the prestigious Momentum for Change Prize
The Prize was awarded to 12 innovative projects concerned with attenuation of, and adaptation to the effects of climate change. These are distinguished as "Lighthouse Activities", which have developed economic, social, and environmental solutions to the problem. AVN's work has been recognised as of major importance in the Urban poor category for its success in disseminating the NV concept:
the relevance of the NV concept for resolving the urban housing problem
an effective dissemination strategy which has resulted in the emergence and growth of a NV construction market based on trained NV artisans (the offer) and local clienteles (the demand)
the replicability of this strategy conceptually, geographically, and through effective partnerships in the field
the autonomy and durability of the NV markets leading to an endogenous, home-grown solution to the housing problem.
The prize was received by Thomas Granier, CEO of AVN, and Cecilia Rinaudo, our Development Director (see link to a YouTube video of the ceremony)
New AVN Country Programs in Benin and Ghana
In Benin, the AVN team of two (Benjamin Lebault & Narcisse Saré Ali ) is installed in Djougou (north-west Benin) and is guiding the first 2015 NV construction sites and setting up the first partnerships. A couple of NV buildings had already been constructed in Benin in 2011-13, by Pascal Tagali, an NV apprentice from Benin (see photos).
In Ghana, again a team of two ( Giulio Cocchini & Giulio Cocchini )has been established, with an office in Bolgatanga city center, in northern Ghana, not far from the the frontier with Burkina Faso. A first NV building, an IT Centre in Karimenga, is currently nearing completion (see photos).
Any support that you can provide to these new country programs is, as always, very welcome and much appreciated.
The new AVN Program in Senegal is firing on all cylinders!
In addition to the first family houses being built around Thies, where the new AVN Senegal headquarters is based (see my last report), masons trained through AVN have recently completed three important projects:
- a maternity clinic in the village of Nguendar, near Podor, in the north of the country (see the photos, including the one of the first baby to be born in the Clinic),
- a primary school in the neighbouring village of Kodith (photo),
- a prayer room in the first motorway (freeway) service area to be built in Senegal, at Cambarene, near the capital Dakar (photo).
The maternity clinic and school were built through a collaboration with Le Partenariat, a Senegalese / French NGO workingi n the Podor region. The motorway prayer room was part financed by Eiffage Senegal, part of the Eiffage group of construction companies (and a 'descendant' of the original company that built the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York!)
These three buildings, so different in their functions, share features which their users really appreciate, especially the fact that they are nice and cool indoors, and the thick walls deaden any external noise. However, the primary mission of AVN, of course, is to promote a market in affordable and long-lasting Nubian Vault (NV) housing for rural and peri-urban families. But community use buildings such as schools, clinics, churches etc are important because, in addition to their primary use:
- their construction provides opportunities for training of local apprentices, who can progress to become NV masons in their own right
- they are highly visible demonstration buildings for local people, who, having realised how affordable, attractive, and comfortable they are, then contract locally trained NV masons to build family houses.
If you want help us in the challenge of scaling up our Programme in Senegal, any funds you may want to give will be allocated to increasing the recruitment and training of young men as apprentices, and to our work in supporting trained NV masons to become independent entrepreneurs in the country's housing market.
On May 24, 2014, AVN inaugurated its permanent office in Senegal, built by NV masons from Burkina Faso and Senegal. So the AVN-Senegal team, created in 2013, now has a permanent office and show-house, open to the public, to be used as a base for promoting the NV concept throughout the country - in particular in the regions of Saint-Louis and Thiès where AVN is already active, and, soon, in the regions of Diourbel, Fatick and Tambacounda.
The first AVN office built in an urban context
This is the very first time that a team of NV masons has built an AVN regional office in a town centre. It is a two storey building, with a roof terrace, sanitation, and external staircase. The external walls and roof are rainproof, using a technique developed by AVN, using pebbles embedded in the bricks' surface, thus allowing for waterproof cement rendering to be successfully applied. The building is a showcase for the successful use of the NV technique for modern urban housing.
Many local stake-holders attended the inauguration ceremony
The inauguration ceremony (see the photos) aroused a great deal of interest from NV clients, partners, local builders, and many people from the town, impressed not only by the thermal, acoustic, and aesthetic features of the building, but also by the fact that a basically mud-brick house can be made weatherproof, and include modern features and fittings.
Khady Ly & Ndiamé Fall, extension agents with AVN-Senegal said :
" People who had never seen a NV building were much impressed by the concept. Some of our friends had made fun of us when we told them that we had joined AVN, but on the inauguration day they were overwhelmed by the quailty and style of the building, and at last understood our enthusiasm for the technique. "
Comments from visitors:
"No need to talk about what we saw that day - the building speaks for itself: you see it, and you want a house like that for yourself."
"It's lovely and cool inside the building - no need for aircon or fans. We were really surprised by the technique !"
During the inauguration, two new partnership agreements were signed with:
- the Belgian NGO Aide au Développement Gembloux (ADG), active in Tambacounda and Thiès,
- the Association Jaambar, a farming organisation in the region of Diourbel, near Thiès.
Building on these new and existing partnerships, the scene is now set for a rapid and successful extension of the AVN Program in Senegal, not only in rural areas, but also, eventually, in the overcrowded urban slums of many of Senegal's towns.
Any help you can provide, as always, is much appreciated.
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