Lab testing of the bottle wall technique

The past week we have been construction a bottle wall in a structural engineering lab at Aalto University. The wall has been constructed with the purpose to test the load bearing capacity of the technology, for the team to gain hands-on knowledge and to record material for an instructional video.


We started to collect the necessary material for the construction of the wall: plastic water bottles, sand, cement and plastic string. We also bought some tools and protective clothing: wooden sticks to stick the bottles, gloves and protective masks. Tools to mix and apply the cement where provided at the lab space as well as a spirit level to check that the wall is straight.



When all the material was collected we started stacking the bottles. It took us approximately 2 days to fill all of them (320) and we refined our staking technique quite a bit during the work. When we started we calculated that one bottle took more or less 10 min but by the end we had managed to refine our skills so much that it only took us 3 min per bottle!

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When all the bottles where stacked we started to build the wall. With the help of the workshop personell and a stuctural engineering student called Johanna we decided to build it between to fictional pillars and to stack the bottles diagonally instead of one on top of the other. The construction with the bottles took approximately 1,5 days, taking into consideration that we were very slow in the beginning before we learned properly.

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4. TA DA! 🙂

We learned a lot during the construction and where very glad that we took the time and effort to construct the wall to gain some more hands on konowledge about this technique. One thing we  had miscalculated was the use of cement for a 1,25 m x 1 m wall. In the middle of the construction we had to rush out to get more material to be able to continue the construction. Finally, though, we had a finished wall standing there proudly and we even managed to write a message in the wall. Can you see what is written there? 😉


Stay tuned to find out how the wall reacts when loaded with weight during the upcoming week!

Thank you so much to everyone who made this construction and testing possible!

Laboratory engineers:
– Veli-Antti Hakala
– Keijo Hanhirova
– Jukka Piiroinen
– All other laboratory personel!

Stacking bottles and sharing expertize:
– Zita Floret (from the saniation project…)
– Johanna Mero (structural engineer)
– Anni Valkola (From the previous years Chamazi project group)
– Elisa Andretti (From the previous years Chamazi project group)

Material donation or advice:
– Palpa (Donating 320 plastic bottles)
– Rudus (Donating 3 cubic metres of sand)
– K-rauta (offering advice about cement + a discount)

Presentation and networking with Architects without borders (ASF)

In mid November Amanda was invited to Gotheburg´s local chapter of Architects without borders (ASF) to hold a presentation about our community centre project in Chamazi. ASF is an international organisation working with different projects very similar to ours all around the world, including Tanzania.

Webpage to the local chapter:
Webpage to the international site:

The presentation was held in the architecture office Okidoki Arkitekter in central Gothenbug. There were about 15 to 20 persons in the audience and some of them were active members in the association while others were just interested to know more about the organisation. They all seemed very interested in our project and after the presentation I got to talk to two girls working on a project on Zanzibar constructing a self sufficient cantine for S.O.S child villages, called Green Canteen. We decided to keep contact and to exchange knowledge during our projects since we are very much in the same situation!


2 expert meetings in Dar es Salaam

Meeting with Tim Ndezi founder of Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI)

Amanda had the opportunity to meet with Tim Ndezi one of two founders of the organisation CCI that is supporting the work of the Federation of The Urban Poor, were the New Chamazi community are members. We had a thorough discussion about our plans and ideas and discussed the affordability of the water bottle construction compared to the current construction materials. Tim was very positive to construct the community centre as a pilot project to test the bottle wall technique; both regarding strength and stability and affordability.

“Let´s do it and let´s find out if it is much cheaper or not!”

He also gave us a more thorough insight into the organisation of the Federation of the Urban Poor and Muungano Housing Cooperative and how the Community Centre in Chamazi could be managed well. Seeing that CCI are positive to the project is crucial since they will be supporting it further after we have finalized the construction and the trainings.

Meeting with Schola Sticka from Eco Design Consultants, Dar es Salaam

Finally I also had the great opportunity to present our ideas to the architect who has planned the current master plan that the new Chamazi community is following. She was also very positive to the project and provided us with a better understanding of the process of receiving building permit for building a Community Centre with water bottles in Chamazi.


All these meetings gave us a real boost for continuing to look for ways of funding this project and realize the ideas! Soon Lea will be travelling to Dar es Salaam and will continue the work locally. Meanwhile the rest of us will work on detailing the plans, do fundraising and continue the project from Finland. Keep following our blog to stay updated! 🙂

2 meetings with the Chamazi community members

During two days Amanda had the opportunity to go to Chamazi and meet the people there and talk about our project. During the first visit Muungano Housing Cooperative, who owns the land in Chamazi, had an official meeting with around 60-80 participants. I was presented to all the members and found that they had already been discussing the project we are working on – to build a Community Centre in Chamazi. The meeting was held in a big rented tent that had been placed in Chamazi. This showed a clear need for a community centre for hosting these kind of events in Chamazi. I presented all the parts of our project: the partial master plan, the Community Centre built with the bottle wall technique and the new housing typology focusing on affordability. Since the continuation and focus of our project mainly lays around the construction of the Community Centre we focused the discusson on that. We had a look at the model we have built and talked about the spaces and the activities that they are designed for. We also discussed strategies for receiving building permits and how to conduct the trainings. It was very very nice to meet the people that we met during our last trip again and also to meet other members of Muungano housing Cooperative that has not yet moved to Chamazi but are looking very much forward to it.


Muungano Housing Cooperative Meeting


Amanda presenting the project ideas to members of the Muungano Housing Coop

I also had the opportunity to walk around in the community and was very happy to see that one more full house has been constructed were someone will move in very soon. Also the rental houses that are constructed to allow the people waiting to build their house are quickly growing up. These houses are build as a row of 4 houses and are therefore more affordable than the houses constructed by the community members. Hopefully they will learn from this construction and be more open to change in the future constructions.


Rental houses constructed in a row in Chamazi

The second time I arrived to Chamazi for a more in depth meeting I found a lot of activities going on in the community. There was full production of the roofing tiles, children running around and a training of the new water project committee conducted by Saije Nswebe the project manager from CCI. I participated for a while in the training and got inspiration and ideas about how the trainings around the construction and management of the Community Centre could be conducted by us and CCI together. Afterwards I sat down with 5 members including the chairman of the Muungano Housing Cooperative to discuss the details of the Community Centre. We discussed issues like the implementation strategy and time plan, how to set up a system for bottle collection, how to select the members who will receive construction training, how to form a management committee for the Community Centre and about the location. The members were very happy about our plans and were very motivated to continue the discussion. When me and the people from CCI left from there they were still widely discussing the ideas and looking at the plans. This was for me the best confirmation about their interest in the project. It became their project!

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Meeting about the Community Centre

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Meeting participants on the site for the Community Centre

Back in Dar es Salaam!

The past ten days Amanda has been back in Dar es Salaam to present our plans and ideas to the members of the new Chamazi community, our local partner Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) and the architect Schola Sticka, from Eco Design Consultants, who is working on the plans for the new Chamazi area.

All the meetings were very fruitful and all the people I met were very happy about our plans. This was very motivating and made us really feel that we want to continue with this project and do our best to make it happen. More insights from the meetings are described in the comming blog posts.


A scale model of the Community Centre for the Chamazi Community


Project summary translated to Swahili handed out to the Community members

Mid review – Pecha Kucha presentation

Yesterday we had Mid review with presentations of all the projects in our course. In total there are 6 different projects in the Aalto University course Sustainable global technologies: facing local and global challenges; three in Tanzania, one in Mozambique, one in South Africa and one in Lebanon. It was very interesting to see the other groups presentation and discuss our project and ideas with them.

The presentation format was Pecha Kucha which is a Japanese presentation format with 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. Preparing the presentation was a good way for us to refine the objectives and outlines or our project and to plan the work for the upcomming 2 months before the final presentaion, 12th of May. To structure the scope of our project we developed a visual model that describes the different parts we will be working with. We will make suggestions for a partial masterplan of the area, the design of the community center and also some designs for multi-family housing. Implementation strategy will also have a key role in our project. The different parts are described bellow.

Skärmavbild 2014-04-01 kl. 16.04.52Project structure for our project

Masterplan: The design of the revised master plan began with some research about what’s happening around the Chamazi area. The site is located about 20km from the center of Dar es Salaam and sits in a peri-urban setting. The location is not very central, yet it’s obviously an area that is in the process of strong development. In our project we will focus on developing the area that is marked with a dashed red line and located close to the main arrival to the site (from the top right corner). The previously mentioned community center and multi-family houses will be located in this area. The objectives mentioned on the right are things that could be improved with deliberate planning of the area. We will focus on these.

Skärmavbild 2014-04-01 kl. 16.14.53Skärmavbild 2014-04-01 kl. 16.18.39Masterplan in Chamazi and our objectives for the part we will work with

Community centre: Our main focus will be around the community centre building in Chamazi since it will serve as a pilot for the bottle wall technique. The community centre would serve as a meeting and conference space for the people in Chamazi. There would be an office for the Federation and for the Muungano housing cooperation. The community centre would also have a bar or café and some shops. The plan is to make a very simple design that can be built in steps by the community themselves. We will develop architectural drawings, structural drawings and calculations for the building. The idea is that the Community centre will be placed on an open platform with a big roof, different boxes, built with the bottle technique, will serve as conference room, office, bar, and shops. In addition to this we will also suggest a system for water harvesting from the roof of the community centre building, since the big roof is a suitable place to do so. We will also draw a model for a business and management plan that describes how the community centre could be maintained and how it can benefit the community by generating some income, education and a place to meet.

community 2Construction Rain water harvesting 1Community centre building: First drawings, construction method and water harvesting

Multifamily housing: As a continuation of the previous group from Aalto University we will be developing the plans they made for multifamily houses. The redesign will be based on the discussions we had with Chamazi community about their ideas.

house 1First drawings of Multifamily houses

Implementation strategy: The construction with the bottle wall would be done incrementally and with a trial and error strategy. To start something smaller like a dry toilet would be constructed, then when permit, funding and knowledge is enough the centre could be built step by step. Eventually in the future the housing concepts could be developed more and the bottles could be used to build the 2-in-1 family houses. At the moment we are in contact with partners who can assist in training and looking for places where we could apply for funding. To do this we are also planning to refine our projects communication by for example developing a simple descriptive video.

Skärmavbild 2014-04-01 kl. 16.43.29Project phases for implementing the bottle technique in Chamazi

Use this link to access the whole presentation: Mid review_Chamazi project

Kickstarting our project!

Hello world and everyone interested in following our project!

The first three weeks have been dedicated to background research and organisation within the group consisting of me (Amanda), Vilma, Lea and Annica.

Until now we have tried to create  an understanding of Tanzania, the city of Dar es Salaam, the Temeke district and the Chamazi area where our project takes place. So far we have kept our research open to learn about things such as climate, culture, livelihood, politics, develpment, etc. We have also started to practice workshop methods to use when we work with the community in Chamazi to formulate problems, objectives and strategy together with them. Furthermore me have met with the previous group of Aalto students who worked with the Chamazi community spring 2013.

Step by step we form a picture of the exciting experience we have infront of us!

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