School buildings in developing countries
windows or shutters which can no longer be closed properly, and infestation of pests, could
need a more thorough investigation by an expert and, possibly, quite extensive remedial
action. It is useful to keep a written record of the inspections and maintenance that are
carried out, what defects are found and what action is taken on them. If repairs are needed,
a procedure also needs to be in place for paying for the cost of the repairs, whether this is
charged to a government department, local authority, NGO or to the parents themselves.
The Construction Process
With a relatively small school based on one, two or a small number of classrooms, the scale of
construction and skill requirements are not greatly different from house construction - except
for the case, already noted, that classrooms are generally significantly larger than domestic
rooms. A local small building contractor, who can also be assisted to a large extent by local
people, can then build the school. In some cases schools have been built entirely by local
communities, sometimes assisted by an NGO or government agency.
Plans would need to be prepared for even a one-roomed school. This would need to be done
by an architect, draughtsperson or someone who has already been involved in a school
building project. However, if plans from another school building project are available, from,
for example, an NGO or a government department, it might be possible to use these, if they
are considered suitable, and this saves on the cost and time needed to prepare plans.
Once the plans have been prepared the quantities of materials and amount of labour required
would need to be estimated, and the costs calculated. It would also be useful to prepare a
schedule of construction activities and an estimate of how long each activity would take.
Someone who has been involved with a school building project before could most usefully
prepare these estimates. During construction ordering and use of materials, spending and
progress on building can be monitored against the estimates to assess whether the project is
ahead of, within or behind target. If problems occur, e.g. the project is costing more than
expected, more materials are being used than expected or it is taking much longer than
planned, an investigation would need to be carried out into why these problems are occurring
and what can be done to remedy them.
Once the site of the school has been chosen the boundaries of the outer walls of the school
would need to be marked out on the ground, according to the plan, and the area within the
boundaries cleared of topsoil and, levelled or, on sloping ground, terraced. Surveying tools
would need to be used to ensure that the site is level and that the angles between the walls
are the ones required, especially if the shape of the building is more complex and does not
use only right angles, though experienced builders might be able to lay out simple buildings
by eye and hand. Once the ground has been cleared and levelled, intermediate walls between
the classrooms and other rooms can also be marked out on the site.
Foundations and Floors
Unless raft or slab foundations - which are generally quite expensive options and not usually
used for low cost buildings, are used, foundations would need to be provided underneath all
structural walls. Note, however, that raft or piled foundations would be likely to be needed if
building on expansive soils such as black cotton soil to avoid excessive settlement of the
foundations. Structural walls are those which support substantially the load of upper storeys,
roof, or other imposed loads on a building. For simple, small, rectangular buildings they are
generally the external walls, though for larger and more complex buildings this would also
include some of the internal walls, which together with the external walls would form the shell
or structural form of the building.
Rectangular ditches for the foundations are dug to a depth until solid rock or soil with a good
bearing capacity is reached. For one to three storey buildings foundation depths are typically
0.8 to 1.2 metres. Exceptionally, if beyond this depth the ground is still not providing a firm