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!


Chamazi visit – Meeting with Said Seif

Léa went to visit Chamazi with Sajie Nswebe, one of the CCI team leaders and project manager for Chamazi community.

After a meeting at CCI office, they went there together using only public transports. It was quite interesting to realize how the distance is long from CCI office, which is situated near Millenium Tower, to Chamazi. It requires four dalala (public bus) changes and takes minimum two hours.


When we arrived at Chamazi, we met Said Seif, the chairman of Mungano Housing Cooperative. During the discussion, we get news about the actual situation of the constructions : now, four houses are fully built, the eight rental houses are almost finished, and they are continuing slowly to build other houses. Still, because of the lack of funding the constructions are too slow. But the good thing is they have strategic plans. For example, they were focus on building many foundations first before to start to build the walls. That is why, today 35 foundations are ready to use. The second step, when future inhabitants finish to pay and to choose their houses, they can start to prepare bricks and tiles.



Later, we walked around the community to visit the new constructions, still with Sajie Nswebe and Said Seif. It was interesting to observe all the evolution since we came in February and also since Amanda visit the place. We were a week day so not so many people were around but we get the chance to meet some community members and discuss with them. I was surprised and glad to see the happiness on their faces to recognize that I am part of the “Finnish girls” working on the Community Center. Moreover they remember that Amanda came a few weeks ago so they seem to note our real motivation for this project.

We hope to see you soon Chamazi and start the Community Center’s construction !

Let’s keep patience still a few months.





Training Workshop – Water bottle wall at Madale

During her trip Léa organized a workshop in collaboration with Art in Tanzania (AIT) and CCI in order to give a training to the Chamazi community.


Currently AIT is building a new volunteer house in the area called Madale. In order to protect the house again the rain water, they needed to build a small wall behind the house. That is why I decided to provide the Chamazi community members to come there and build this wall with plastic bottles. Everybody get advantages : AIT has the wall they needed and Chamazi community a training to prepare them to build the future Community Center.

The workshop was unrolled during two days, the 18th and 19th of August.

Participated also some people from the communities of Karakata and Mabwepande, which CCI is working with. Sajie Nswebe, the project manager for Chamazi community, stayed with us during all the Workshop.


Everybody worked very well and was fully invested on the construction. We made the wall step by step including sticking bottles with sand, preparing the foundations, the cement mixture, etc. We finished to create a wave shape for the top of the wall and plaster it : one part with cement and the second part with clay. We keep diagonals without plaster to show to the neighbors and passers how this small wall was built.

We had the chance to have the visit of a journalist, Robert Temalilwa working for Nipashe Newspaper. A few days later an article about the water bottle construction workshop appeared in the newspaper.

Moreover, I contacted Elias Kwanama from National Housing & Building Research Agency and told him that he is welcome to visit us during the workshop and see how the construction made with plastic bottles is going. So, I was happy to see Amri A.Juma, Simon Mushi and Pato Ninje working for NHBRA coming to visit us and discover the new construction materials with the bottles and also with bamboo that Art in Tanzania is using for the second floor of the volunteer house. They looked very interested. Now, due to the workshop, NHBRA is in contact with AIT.


Marjut (from Art in Tanzania) with Amri A.Juma, Simon Mushi and Pato Ninje (from NHBRA)

I think the result was quite positive. The organization worked well from the beginning to the end, the goal has been reached, participants learned more and seemed happy about these two days. Everybody left with a personal certificate and a large smile !






Meeting with NHBRA – Elias Kwanama

During the summer time, Léa went to Dar es Salaam to spend two months as a volunteer in the NGO called Art in Tanzania.

The 15th August 2014, she had a meeting with Elias Kwanama, an engineer working for National Housing & Building Research Agency (NHBRA), at their office at Mwenge in Dar es Salaam.

We get his contact from Schola Sticka, the architect following the Chamazi community project.

This meeting was very important and useful for our project.

NHBRA is the company who found the inter-locking bricks technique and integrated it for the Chamazi community.

The NHBRA’s main idea is to looking for new construction techniques. In the company there are engineers, architects, social scientifics, and ecologists. All of them work together. They apply for research to find solution for housing. One of their ideas is to use the material they find on the site. So each site has a specific solution. Always, they wish to build cheaper and stronger.

During our meeting, I presented to him our project since the beginning : who we are, what we did with Aalto University, our trip in February, etc until now. Elias Kwanama seemed to like our project and the design (Community Center and Housing).

After a visit of their office and factories, we spoke about what we can do together.

Elias told me that to use plastic bottles is a good project and could be an alternative for this country. They can test and promote this new construction material with us. Elias Kwanama said : “It will be interesting to go with you. We are definitely interested”. They are researchers so they would like to try in anything. The bottles are also good for environment because we recycle it. He purposed to provide us people to work during the construction of the Community Center : engineers, technicians, supervisors, guides. They can contribute them for free.

At the end of this positive meeting, we concluded that we will keep in touch until the beginning of the construction if we get the funding from the Finnish ministry. And we will see how we will organize this new collaboration 🙂

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Léa and Elias Kwanama during the meeting at the NHBRA office.

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

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Application

In order to prepare the construction of the Chamazi Community Center, we applied to get some funding close to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. We prepared intensely this application during the last weeks to send it before the deadline, the 30th of May. This project support application permits to help some new projects as our. We needed to complete a form with different specific questions permitting us to explain the details of our Chamazi project.

The process is long but the community center realization depends largely if we get the the money we asked.

To prepare this application we evolved a lot in the project process and we planned the two next years to organize all the construction steps.

Now we cross our fingers waiting the answer in a few months.

Meantime we are continuing to improve the project and prepare applications to get some other fundings.

Final presentation

The 12th of May we had our final presentation at the Aalto University. During all the day, each groups of the Sustainable Technologies Studio presented the work they did during the semester. We were in total six groups working on four different countries : South Africa, Mozambique, Lebanon and Tanzania : Urban Scenarios of Dar / Waste Managements / And us, Affordable Housing in Chamazi.

Each groups had 50 minutes time for the presentation including questions and comments.

Many people were present in the public. For the event, we tried to invite the maximum of the persons who helped us during the entire project. We were glad to see the presences of some of them like Genku Kayo and his wife Nop Suzuki, but also some of the students who did the same project than us the last year, like Qidi Jiang and Zita Floret.

Our time presentation was at the end of the day but the public looked interested about our work and we received some interesting comments and questions. The result was quite positive.

Moreover at the end of the day, Zita Floret presented quickly the project she is doing in continuation from the last year. Her group is building some dry toilets in different places around the Dar es Salaam city. Even if we are already in contact with her, through this concrete example at the end of the projects presentation day, she gave us directly a full of hope and many good advices.

This share day was really interesting for all of us, firstly because we discovered the final work of everybody did during all the semester but also because the comments we received was really useful for us who are continuing the project.

Shortly we will upload the presentation and the final report of our project here on the blog, stay tuned! 🙂