Our team has been wanting to publish a diverse and inclusive ConstructionJane calendar for 2021, for some time now. We hit some snags and the work stood at a standstill, for some time.
Although we are behind schedule, the calendar is now ready to launch! Luckily, this coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day)! You can consider this our community service to the construction industry, we have made every attempt to provide this resources, and ensure that it has diverse and inclusive representation.
It is printable in a PDF format. Be sure to reach out to us with your comments and feedback.
Did you know there is an annual World Toilet Day celebrated by the UN? Yeah, me neither–until about 2 weeks go. November 19, 2020 was the World Toilet Day. Not the flashiest of days to commemorate, but WASH and sanitation has always been so important. It’s so important that it is the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #6 which is ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. According to the UN, “4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation” and 3 billion people lack proper handwashing facilities at their home. That’s 54% of the world’s population, and
I remember almost losing my mind when I saw The Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation’s 3-part Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates Part 1”, which debuted last October. Having spent my childhood growing in Nigeria, I knew what it was like to not have adequate infrastructure for waste and sanitation. So I was so excited that someone was influential as Bill Gates was shedding light on the topic. In fact, I watched the special back to back…and I started a blog post, but I never published it.
A year later, this week, I got another chance to write this blogpost because WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) are more important than ever during this current COVID-19 pandemic. We all need access to water for cleaning, and good hand hygiene to avoid contracting COVID-19, and of course we all need proper sanitation and waste management, pandemic or not. So it is clear that there is a lot of work to do in the field, in the developing world
So I took part in the World Toilet Day Summit which was hosted by the World Toilet Organization. Accomplished professionals in the WASH world from Asia, Europe and the US spoke , including Jack Sim, Mark Balla, Hayato Hanaoka, Sarika Saluja, and Tasnine. (I missed speakers from Africa, Australia, and Latin America, if there were any). Here are the things I learned which surprised me:
Research from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shows that 84% of people are not washing their hands for long enough, 64% don’t wash their hands before eating, 50% don’t wash their hands after touching pets, 34% don’t wash their hands before preparing food, 21% not washing hands after using the toilet.
The London School of Tropical Medicine found that only 32% of men and 64% of women wash their hands with soap after using a public toilet. *DISGUSTING!*
Public urination happens in back alleys in global megacities around the world, including in London and Tokyo, usually by drunk people after public toilets are closed.
These findings are a result of polling people in “developed” countries, so it’s clear that WASH is an universally important need for all the world, especially during a global pandemic.
There was so much more I learned, I will share when the time comes. But in the meantime, wash your hands, folks (with soap).
In the most unlikely of circumstances, the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is being affected by US presidential election and politics. If (when) confirmed, she will be the first African and first female chief of WTO.
Who’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, you may ask? Well, unless you’ve been following the World Bank, West African or Nigerian politics, you may not know who she is…although all of us here at ConstructionJane are disappointed that you don’t know that already. Nonetheless, I’ll tell you about her. She is one of my favorite African icons and she calls herself an “African optimist”, which I love!
Truth be told, I first started writing about blog about Dr. Okonjo-Iweala back in May 28 2020, when she was the commencement at the Harvard Kennedy School’s virtual graduation ceremony held on May 28, 2020. But, I procrastinated unfortunately. But she’s recently been in the limelight again, I have gotten a second chance. And I’m seizing the opportunity this time!
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala earned her Bachelors in Economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1977 and earned her Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from MIT.
She’s had a 25-year career at the World Bank, including as Managing Director of the World Bank.
She was Nigeria’s Finance Minister during 2 different presidents, where she accomplished major restructuring, eliminated ghost government employees, negotiated down the Paris Club debt (reduced the nation’s debt by $30 billion) .
She’s the author of at least 5 books. Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria is a formidable addition on my bookshelf and a riveting read!
She’s the Board Chair of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, making sure all children in the world, especially in developing countries are vaccinated.
You can listen to her TED Talks (yes, multiple!) here or here.
Most ironically, she’s a US citizen being filibustered by her own government. The travesty!
Yes, you read that right! Trump’s goonish and clownish administration is blocking her formal recognition as the head of the World Trae Organization even though 163 of the 164 members have already approved her…Yes, that’s right, the United States is the only hold-out. But come January 2021, that might not be the case, due to the US presidential election on November 3rd.
In short, this woman has dedicated her life, at great risk, to better the lives of all Nigerians, all Africans, and all poor children and women in developing countries around the world. She is dignified, effective, powerful, and yet so accessible and personable, and full of great pride in her heritage. The WTO would be lucky to have her.
I’ll be waiting with bated breath on Nov. 3, just 2 days from now, and seeing what impact that will have on the November 9th, when the WTO will be holing a general council and formally recommending Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. There’s also a chance that this may come to a vote, though, so far in the WTO history, they have this “kumbaya” consensus tradition where all members have had to agree on its leader.
This year may have to be different. Stay tuned!
Did you learn anything new about Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? Let me know in the comments 🙂 Waiting to hear from you!
In the light of the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the online universe has been engulfed in positive messages, heartwarming commercials and social media outpouring about reaching out and staying connected to humanity and celebrating essential workers, trying to spread good cheer and positivity during these difficult times.
Not so in China. In fact, quite the opposite. African residents in south China, particularly in the city of Ghangzhou, have been discriminated against, evicted and barred and denied access to public transportation, bars, grocery stores, and restaurants, including a McDonald’s restaurant. The Chinese authorities are complicit in the abuse. The US Consulate in Guangzhou issued a warning to expat African Americans to stay away from the city.
Black Lives Matter.
The great irony is that for the past few decades, China has been clawing its way into a stronghold on the African continent, largely by financing massive infrastructure projects, while holding on to healthy contingencies, secured by lobbying politicians and who are happy to mortgage their nation’s futures, in exchange for kickbacks. This is problematic enough.
However, China’s latest actions is anything but endearing to the African community and is actually galvanizing the African diaspora online to join together to condemn the attacks on Africans in China. It has lit a spark in the community! Talk about a pan-African movement.
With world leaders decrying China’s efforts to conceal initial information about COVID-19 outbreak, maybe it’s time for Africans call for Chinese accountability as well. Perhaps, the world at large, at consider what it would look like to break up with China.
Would you break up with China? What would that look like for you or me? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to consider it.
Forbes released a list of Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women on March 6, 2020. In honor of International Women’s Day today on March 8, 2020. I am highlighting the top 10 African women doing social development work on the African continent, in non-governmental capacity. I’m greatly aspired by these women!
1. Graca Machel, South Africa. Founder, Graca Machel Trust.
2. Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda. CEO, Rwanda Development Board.
3. Dr. Judy Dlamini, South Africa. Founder, Mbekani Group.
4. Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili, Nigeria. Senior Economic Advisor, Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI).
5. Wendy Luhabe, South Africa, South Africa. Social Entrepreneur & Co-Founder, WIPHOLD.
Cork oak trees can be found in Europe and northwestern Africa, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The use of cork is slowly gaining popularity in the architecture industry and could revolutionize the construction industry.
A house built with cork by architects in Eton, UK has been shortlisted for the 2019 British RIBA Sterling Prize. The walls and roof, made of several distinct corbelled pyramid-like shapes. This system “allows for a simple assembly of one block on top of the other,” supported by timber,and topped with skylights allowing sunlight into the structure (2019, Sargent, G).
Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees which grow around the Mediterranean and is harvested from trees every nine years. The cork is then manufactured into building blocks of prefabricated cork, with cork granules being compressed and heated. Then, they’re cut using 3D milling so the blocks interlocking, so adhesives are not required.
Cork is lightweight, warm to the touch and has great acoustic and insulating properties. “Rather than the typical complex, layered building envelope incorporating an array of building materials, products and specialist sub-systems”, the cork gives structure, and acts as insulation, exterior and interior finish (2019, Crook, L).
It is also sustainable and can be recycled or composted at the end of its life. Architects deemed the house carbon-negative at its completion and estimate that the house’s “whole life carbon” is less than 15% of a standard British new-build house.
AI SpaceFactory’s TERA designs were originally meant for Mars, but they’ve realized that its benefits can also be applied to Earth as well.
It’s built with 3D printing technology.
It’s renewable and sustainable and uses compostable materials biopolymer basalt composite, which is derived from from crops like corn and sugar cane.
It has a gorgeous and exquisite volumes. Models start from the Tera-Mini (350 sqft.) with 1.5 floors, Tera (500 sqft.) with 2 floors, Astra (800 sqft.) with 3 floors, and the largest model, the Evo which boosts of spaces greater than 1000 sqft.
Its interior has an open floor plan and is natural, reminiscent of a treehouse, and built from poplar and birch.
It’s endorsed by NASA, and it also has the potential to be used on Mars.
It’s 50% stronger and more durable than concrete.
It’s also more sustainable than the traditional steel and concrete.
It could reduce the material and energy waste that’s typically associated with the building construction industry, and could potentially revolutionize the construction industry.
It uses LED lighting and harnesses daylight to reduce lighting needs and air circulation.
Best of all, once it’s demolished, its exterior hard shell can recycled and reused multiple times. After it can no longer be recycled, the exterior shell can be composted.
Is bamboo the crop that Africa needs for its development needs?
It may be. However, before can we capitalize of the wonderful properties of the bamboo plant, there are several misconceptions (or lies) about the local market that need to be combated.
Lie #1: Imported building materials are the best.
Lie #2: People no longer want to farm.
Truth #1: We need to develop local materials and techniques locally. Imported materials are often overly expensive, hard to source, subject to long transportation time, and do not benefit the local economy as much as locally sourced material. Africa doesn’t have to be a captive, consumer market only. We can also produce materials for other market’s consumption.
Truth #2: In most African countries, there are high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth. Many of them are open to farming opportunities. Growing, treating, and utilizing bamboo can give many sustainable incomes and improve the standard of living. We can grow local materials, and then build local capacity for curing them for building material, which can then source local construction projects or can also be exported to other countries. Bamboo is a prime candidate which allows for multi-industry involvement and thus can promote economic empowerment.
The requirements for bamboo largely include:
ample land in warm location
generous irrigation during growing season, depending on rainfall,
fertilizer – both organic fertilizer, mulch
yearly thinning to discourage competition from weeds, like vines and grasses.
Agriculture: Harvesting bamboo poles for curing for furniture companies. Bamboo leaves and chopped bamboo plants can feed livestock and create fodder for goats, cows, sheep and chicken. Bamboo poles can also be used for holding food storage, building animal shelters like barns, chicken coops and animal pens.
Food & Cooking: Sourcing edible bamboo shoots as a food item in various cuisines, as well as sourcing restaurants. Also, in rural areas, bamboo can be used to build outdoor kitchens, and charred bamboo can be used for biofuel for outdoor cooking in place of traditional firewood, which reduces the risk of deforestation.
Manufacturing: Drying, curing, and treating bamboo poles for use as material for a myriad of uses.
Interior Design: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture items such as tables, chairs, beds, etc.
Arts & Crafts: Bamboo can be employed as material for endless options in craft work including wind chimes, weaving rugs, making paper and fabric goods.
Construction: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture, as fencing materials, and other structural uses like for temporary building site purposes like material storage, formwork, sheds, ladders, and scaffolding. Furthermore, companies like BamCore are developing sustainable bamboo technology for wood framing, roofing, and flooring material. (I will blog about this in the future and link it here.)
Transportation: Bamboo has also been used to build bicycles, as exemplified by the Ghanaian company, Bamboo Bikes, headed by young entrepreneur, Winnifred Selby.
Landscaping: Live bamboo plants can be sold for gardening and landscaping needs, building sheds, and to other farms for farming.
Local Market & Exports: Locally, kiosks and outdoor marketplace stalls. Sourcing fresh or cured bamboo raw materials and finished products, locally and exporting them abroad as well.
Thus, there is an opportunity for Africans to capitalize, literally, on the wonderful qualities of the bamboo plant themselves locally. This enables people to be employed in growing, harvesting, treating, and working with bamboo as a finished product. It also generates opportunities across multiple industries and markets.
One of my parents’ dream for me is to become a medical doctor, in order to be financially secure and become, and I quote, “a local champion”. You may be aware of what this means, if you grew up in a similar background or in the type of family I grew up in, where the only acceptable job aspirations are to be: a medical doctor, lawyer or engineer. Often, this kind of high expectations are placed on you if your family is African, or from the Caribbean, or Asian.
What Does Being An AfroBuilder Mean To Me?
I have had to redesign that dream for myself. Yes, I have chosen an entrepreneur to build my financial future, as well as to help my community by helping building social infrastructure, such as housing, schools, libraries, universities, hospitals, hotels, and banks, etc. As well as urban planning elements like passenger bridges, investing in growing nutritious foods locally, and provide opportunities to children, youth, and women.
I think women should be exposed to how rewarding and lucrative a career in construction and construction management would be. I’m eager to help advocate for that.
Historically, bamboo has been a basic construction material in tropical regions of the world, often used for shacks, stalls, fences, scaffolding and sunscreens. However, it doesn’t have to remain that way.
Today, bamboo can serve as an invaluable building material for permanent buildings and structures, especially in developing countries, in place of steel or reinforced concrete, which typically have to be imported at great cost (Hebel, D.).
Bamboo is environmental-friendly and captures and converts carbon emissions.
Bamboo grows rapidly, much faster than wood.
Bamboo is relatively easy to propagate and is readily available in many regions throughout the world.
Bamboo is flexible, and can bend to withstand wind forces.
Bamboo can be used to clothing and other crafts.
Bamboo can be used to create furniture.
Bamboo can be prefabricated locally into flooring material. #producedontimport
Temporary shelter, for example short-term for disaster victims and refugees.
When appropriately grown, cut, treated, dried, and laminated, bamboo is strong enough to replace timber as a structural building material. Future research to study its properties is being done at the Singapore-ETH Center in the Future Cities Laboratory.
Bamboo can also be used for building infrastructure. Historically, bridges were built out of bamboo in 10th century AD China as well as floating villages with bamboo platforms
(Bonus). Bamboo can serve as a yummy treat for cuddly panda bears.
I spent several weeks in Singapore in the spring of 2016 and I was amazed by the architecture and immaculate urban planning there. The city was the right amount of traditional, preserving local traditions and balancing those influences with futuristic technologies. Its impressive architectural and engineering feats, from the Helix Bridge, the ArtScience Museum, and the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its Skypark and rooftop infinity pools.
On the other hand, a lot of care was taken to incorporate sustainable practices. There are botanical gardens capturing the natural wonders and the unforgettable Gardens by the Bay. Lots of green space and parks, and buildings with greenery on its facade.
All in all, Singapore was the first tropical city in East I truly got to explore and get to know. Coming from a developing country, and then the States, and it made an indelible mark on me about what a developed tropical city could be. It inspired dreams of what I thought under developed African cities could look like.
Since then, Singapore has been a vision and inspiration.