The housing situation for the teaching staff in the countryside is an important challenge for the whole country. Teachers often refuse to leave the cities for the countryside, since accommodation is basic and in short supply. Long commutes and bad roads can delay teachers, hampering the education of the pupils. This was a problem for Gando in 2001. To resolve this problem, teachers’ accommodation was built on the school premises in 2003. The first aim of the teachers’ housing project was to develop an environmentally-friendly and sustainable housing concept, adapted to people’s needs and financial situation. The houses had to offer a reasonable amount of comfort in order to attract teachers, and to give them a pleasant working environment.
The housing concept is based on a simple unit built in the traditional style. It can be constructed as a single unit for one person, or as several units which can be combined for families. From the start, the inhabitants of Gando took an active part in every step of this project: they not only observed but also participated in the development of constructions techniques. The construction materials consisted exclusively of local resources in order to allow the villagers to adapt or further develop the houses if they wished to. Climate is a decisive factor in the methods and materials used. Clay walls and the adobe roof keep the houses cool and regulate the room temperature. This technique works so successfully that the houses have acquired the name “wonderful fridges”, a great compliment for a house in Burkina Faso.
The houses were realized as a series of adaptable modules, each of comparable size to the traditional round huts typically found in this region. Single modules can be combined in various ways into a larger composite whole. The simplicity of the design and minimal use of bought materials means that it can easily be adopted by the villagers. The six houses for teachers and their families are arranged in a wide arc to the south of the school complex. This curvilinear layout is not only beautiful but is also reminiscent of a traditional Burkinabé compound. The roofs are barrel vaults constructed from stabilized earth blocks. This construction method, previously unheard of in this region, makes use of local resources and is climatically efficient. To protect the building from rising damp, the 40cm thick adobe walls stand on a foundation of cast in-situ cement and granite stones. The villagers produced around 15,000 blocks, each 40x20x10cm, at a rate of between 600 and 1,000 a day.
A tie beam connecting the walls bears the roof load in each module. The roof is a layer of reinforced concrete poured in situ into a permanent shuttering of compressed stabilized earth blocks (CSEBs). The roof heights alternate between 100cm and 150cm, therefore when they overlap a sickle-shaped opening is formed and serves as a means of ventilating the interior and providing daylight. Generous roof overhangs protect the walls from moisture. In traditional Burkinabé houses, a special type of thin loam rendering – mixed with vegetable juice and cow dung – is applied to the outer walls as a protective layer of about 3cm against weathering. Unfortunately these components are of little use in the rainy season and attract termites which can eventually destroy the walls. In the teachers' housing, the traditional organic components of the rendering were replaced with bitumen. The culmination of the building work is the tamping of the clay floor to create a smooth, homogeneous surface.