Bashing and bumping down a rugged dirt track, the car stalls at the bottom of a rocky creek bed. The dry landscape that surrounds the car belies the fact that for 3 months a year, this tiny creek pulses from a meagre trickle to a raging torrent within a matter of hours. Such is the intensity of rain around Dili during the wet season.
Lazio, Leo and I are winding our way across the north coast of Timor-Leste in search of good clay, something pure enough that we can use to make a decent brick. Timor-Leste is a tiny island half nation, merely a skip across the water from Australia, and bordered by the far reaches of eastern Indonesia.
As a new country recovering from a generation of forced, brutal Indonesian occupation, Timor-Leste is slowly building up from the ashes to improve the lives of its people. With over two thirds of the population living on less than two dollars per day, much of the housing in Timor-Leste is very basic to say the least.
To help to improve this, for the last twelve months Engineers Without Borders Australia has been partnering with Community Housing Limited, to assist them in the development of low-cost, locally made building materials. A key part of this work has focused on the development of Compressed Stabilised Earth Bricks. Produced using a mixture of clay, sand and cement, the bricks are a robust and modern solution to the housing issues in Timor - but getting the right mix is crucial to success.
For the last week our team has been scouring the hills around Hera, looking for a good clay resource for our future building projects. With the challenge of visiting a multitude of sites in a matter of days, collating photos, soil reports, site access notes and GPS locations, I was struggling to work out how to combine all this info. Back in Australia every time you come across a problem people are always saying “Ah, there’s an app for that”, so with a quick search I was very pleased to find Pin Drop.
Luckily, Timor-Leste has great internet coverage across much of the country, meaning that each time we find a potential resource, we could bag a soil sample, take a few pictures, write some notes and log it all within Pin Drop. Needless to say this has saved us a lot of time and has created a great system that we can use to log all our sites. It will no doubt be a great resource for the team to use in the future once my time in the country is complete.
» Story by Hamish Banks, Structural Engineer