Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Starting the Next Group of Houses

So I guess it's a good thing I'm leaving.

As I've indicated in past posts, the direction that NPH Nicaragua seems to be going is both forward and back at the same time (I use the word 'seems' because as construction coordinator hired by NPHI to manage the construction, I'm not actually informed of construction decisions, meetings or directions by NPHI).

Since I began, I have always fielded the question 'Why doesn't NPH have a standard home that it builds in all countries?' And it's a good question. It's a question I asked too. And it's a question NPHI seems to be starting to address.

First the reasons why a standard home hasn't existed until now -

When I first began, NPHI couldn't provide me with plans of homes for 16 children it had already built in other countries. This was because either a particular country didn't have a home like that, it had lost the drawings, the drawings never existed in an official form or the leaders in that country never responded.

Also, there is desire to recognize that each country has a distinct culture, climate and history. When I began to work with the design that had been used in Bolivia to make it work well for Nicaragua, I was told we needed to find our own architect and design by NPH leadership even though with proper planning, all local factors can be taken into account with a standard building with modifications.

So, even though it isn't NPH's tradition, many of us believe the idea of standardization is still good, so why not start now?

And that's what NPHI is working on. Yay! Good forward thinking step for NPHI! (We won't mention that thousands of people already thought of it right off).

Next step? What will this standard design consist of? Well, here's model of the current idea -

Model provided by NPHI to visiting donors during the International Meeting

I'm not sure if that's the final version or not. I had been given this in plan, but then received subsequent versions. None of the revisions were translated into this new model which was brought last week by NPHI.

I'm not sure if things went backwards, or there were just more communication problems.

This design is not bad. It's actually extremely close to the modified design we had done last October from the original houses built.

Nicaragua House Design
Nicaragua design modification from houses at Casa Padre Wasson. While directed to make the design with architects and engineers (and already paid for), this design will not be used.

The main differences are that in the new model: there is no storage room, the caregivers' room gets lot's of natural light (even though they're supposed to be taking care of the kids, not in their room during the day), but the kids' study area doesn't and the windows area is so small that electricity will be used more for both light and fans for ventilation.

And there are probably other good ideas as well, one coworker at the office stopped by this morning and made other observances that would make him (as someone who had grown up in the home) possibly be okay with the design.

While these items can be changed to better the design, it doesn't make sense to me that we're throwing out the design we already have with these changes in order to use a design that still needs them.

I must admit, I am glad to be leaving the grid paper final drawing world of NPHI. It's fine to start with, but for a place that will house children, I really believe local licensed engineers are necessary as we had with the first four homes.

Standardized design from Honduras and the latest version I received. My guess is that this will be the next phase of home to be built. You can click on the picture to see a larger version.

For example, when we received the 'standardized' plan from NPHI, we consulted with a local engineer to get his read on it. He thought it was fine in general, but the foundation needed to be changed as the one drawn was illegal according to Nicaraguan building codes (they do have a few). None of those contracted by NPHI to built this next group of homes knew that.

Not that the detail doesn't function in general or would cause certain mayhem here (apparently it's been used in NPH homes in other countries that don't have as many earthquakes), but it's an unnecessary risk.

It may all be a moot point, however, because the last great reason for me to leave now (that happened after I gave notice), is that the word on the street (which is what I have since Marlon hasn't met with me or informed me of anything relating to construction in over a month) is that we are halting progress on the new property.

The gossip is that we will not be starting major new construction projects at Casa Padre Wasson until an understanding is reached with the national government with regards to 'Programa Amor'.

I hear that they are trying to hammer it out this week, but who knows when it will be completed, and then, even more unknown is when the next phase of construction would actually start (and if it should be started this year since we are just a few months away from the start of the rainy season).

I truly and sincerely wish the best to all the donors and the caring, hard-working people within NPHI.

It's clear that I have had my fill of frustrations in this particular locale, but the NPH mission is important.

And I believe that with enough loud and reasonable voices (many of which I have had the fortune to meet), NPHI can start to take baby steps forward without any major steps back.

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