School construction, week 8
category: Jims Guatemala


I returned to the construction site today after about a week absence, due to the previously mentioned materials shortage. If there are no materials, there won’t be much building and no point in me visiting. But they have worked some since last week, using up the last of their remaining supplies. Walls are up mostly to the level of the second floor on one wing, and the rebar for the columns and foundations on the west wing are now in place. I snapped a few pictures of their empty storeroom as I arrived, then León waved me over.


“Is it OK if I use two #4 bars in place of a #5 bar in the foundations?” he asked. “We’re totally out of #5”.

It would actually make the foundations a little stronger, but is not an efficient use of materials, so I want to discourage that. In this case, however, by substituting we can keep the project rolling while we’re waiting for Monday’s material shipment we just heard about. I shrugged, and told him that would be fine for now.

We walked around the rest of the site, and he showed me the conduit they’ve already placed for the lighting circuits. Pretty ghetto looking right now, but I am sure it will be fine when it’s done. We also discussed the merits of putting both lighting switches in the same box, then León pointed over my shoulder to the far wall.

window_hereSM.jpgHe asked me some questions about the exact dimensions of the big bay windows that will look out from the classroom to the hillside across the valley. Turns out, he found a conflict on the drawings: two different dimensions for the same item. I looked it over, gave him the correct dimension, and apologized. Architects HATE to make errors like that, but it’s pretty hard to catch every single one before the drawings go out the door. It’s part of the business. As a contractor buddy of mine once said, being a good builder isn’t about never making mistakes; it’s about being able to fix the ones that happen.

“Part of why I ask you all these questions is that I don’t want to have to botar (tear down) anything,” León said. “See that microbus terminal they’re building over there? They spent all day yesterday with sledges, knocking down the upper part of that wall they built last week.” Someone didn’t ask the right questions until AFTER a lot of work had been done. Yep, I agree, we don’t want to build anything twice (click on the picture to get a high-res version).

So now we wait with baited breath for Monday’s materials shipment. Friday they are going to pour the very last of their concrete into the foundation trenches they are preparing today. If the materials come, I will be back out on Tuesday to get photos of all the stuff after it’s been unloaded. If not… I guess we will wait. Guatemalans are good at waiting.

If you are annoyed by the lack of consistant material supply for this project (like I am), you can help! Don at Computers For Guatemala is taking tax-deductible donations for the school. He’s working hard to get donations from “big guys”, but even the little stuff helps. If you’re interested, send Don an email and tell him I sent you. I am sure he’d be glad to hear from you.

Posted by: jfanjoy