As I’ve been spending time here, working on a few projects, and trying to think of better ways to build things in our context I’ve come across a new realization. Simply building better buildings for ministries in Uganda isn’t enough. Giving an orphanage a properly designed home, free from the hassles of dealing with a developing construction industry, at times full of misinformed good intentions, and at other times well informed bad intentions, isn’t all we can do. We need to impact the whole of the design community to improve more campuses and improve the safety and efficiency of more structures in this rapidly growing region of the world.
I’ve now taken to mentoring a Ugandan intern and enjoyed our talks about the differences in our cultures and how best to follow God and His will. How do we know what’s right when our cultures can tell us different things are right? Is our construction background always wiser than what experience and training people have here? No, but our diversity of backgrounds can lead us to make more informed decisions. Also, we are at a precipice where we have a chance to be a great impact to the growing generation of Ugandan professionals. Presently, codes and standards of practice are being created to improve uniformity and ensure quality across the industry.
I also spent time with a local Ugandan Christian engineers group. It was sparsely attended, but the dream of these people is an engineering sector that seeks to be honest, well-informed, above reproach, and seeking the good of the people they serve. These are apparently rare ideals in the disjointed design and construction sectors in this region. There is a challenge here in the pearl of Africa, across many professional disciplines, to work with integrity and not corruption.
We also met with a local architecture/engineering firm to discuss ideas on materials and construction methods to utilize to improve quality, reduce project costs, and increase sustainability. This is a big part of what we are trying to do in our R&D department. After speaking with the local engineering team, we came away with the conclusion that the design industry here does not collaborate much, if at all. No one is sharing ideas with each other so everyone is having to come up with solutions on their own. This is likely why the Christian engineering meeting was poorly attended. This leads to contractors work quality decreasing, designs being misunderstood, and confusion about what codes, loads, and material values to use. For instance, there is no wind load map for Uganda, and the seismic maps are questionable at best. People are referencing well outdated codes and often don’t hire engineers at all.
How do we disciple the local design community? We want to encourage the engineers who are already doing a great job. Give them access to the resources and training they may need. We want to connect local engineers to ourselves and to other local engineers. We want to set an example of fair, quality, practical, sustainable design practices. We want to train up local architects and engineers to send into the market with Christian discipleship and professional practice training. We are starting a fellowship program at EMI to do just that. We also have many young Ugandans working in our office with the design to send them out into this growing market with the confidence and skills they need to succeed.
Currently, I’m working mostly closely on the Gem Village which I’ve discussed before. It’s coming along so well. I’ve recently designed a support system for the hoist track to be fitted in to the some of the bedrooms to enable better movement of children with low mobility. I hope it will be a great blessing for their ministry. I have also spent some time checking on a few different construction projects and trying to optimize some canopy and water tower designs to reduce cost and improve stability. I’ve also been working to create a structural design manual for our office to use as reference going forward.