Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pediatorkope: Light and Heat

The huts on the island were all very hot. I noticed while I was in the Evangelical church that there was a nice breeze outside, but the heat inside was trapped in the ceiling and not circulating. My mind was wandering, so I started thinking about how you could alter the hut design to allow for circulation.
The basic Dangbe hut is constructed from mud. They shape mud into walls a foot at a time, wait for it to dry, and then build the walls a little higher. The process takes over a month. They frame in windows by placing 2x4's into the drying mud. Once the walls are done they make simple wooden trusses and cover them with reed thatch. The roof is quite waterproof, as far as I can observe. They usually leave a gap where the roof hangs over the walls, which allows some ventilation, but not much.
After throwing around a few rather complicated ideas, I realized that you could make the roof on one side extend a foot or two past the peak, and then cut the thatch back to make an opening a few inches wide on the other side of the roof. The extension would cover the vent from rain, and heat could leave the hut through the roof. This would allow cooler air to circulate in through the doors and windows.
I ate dinner with my new brother Moses, who happened to be a mason. He had built a number of huts, and had some good insights on hut design. I shared my idea with him, and we had a good time sketching different ideas out on a scrap of paper. One other option I had seen elsewhere is to drop the roof on the smaller sides down a few feet to create a triangular gable on either side of the roof.
Moses and his family were all interested in my flashlight. I'd crank it for a few seconds and turn it on. They'd turn it over in their hands and say "Battry?" "No, crank." "Oh, solah..." "no, not solar. Just a crank. See?" I'd crank it and show them how the light got brighter. They were amazed that you could buy a flashlight that was easy and free to recharge. Everyone on the island used these little kerosene lights, like large versions of the warmers that caterers place under the food trays. The burning kerosene creates an acrid smoke that fills the hut and makes you cough--I'm sure it's not healthy. It's also expensive: Moses said he spends 4-5 Ghanaian cd's each week on kerosene lights. He also buys D batteries for his flashlight about once a week. I did the math: they spend about 230 Ghana cedi's a year ($160 USD) for one kerosene lamp or flashlight. My family used three or four, which amounts to almost 1,000 cedi's a year ($700 USD). My flashlight cost $11.00 at Walmart back home. Say you paid $30 for it in Ghana--the flashlight would pay for itself in a little over a month. If the flashlight only lasts one year before breaking, it would still save you $130 a year, or a discount of 81%.
There are microfranchise organizations in other countries that help people to establish small businesses to become economically sufficient. You could borrow a thousand dollars, buy a bunch of flashlights and lanterns, and go out to a village to sell them. It works in other countries--I'd like to find out if it would work in Ghana. We're actually visiting Burro on our trip to the Eastern Region, and I'm excited to talk to them about the feasibility of the idea.

No comments:

Post a Comment