Text and photos by Nick Nearchou
Arriving into the Arkitrek office on my first day I really had no idea of the technical challenges confronting me during my internship in Sabah. After the initial briefing I was presented with the impossible Mantanani Kindergarten construction task.
“We need you to somehow lift six enormous roof rafters (large 2’’ x 8’’ timber sections and around 15’’ long) over 16ft into the air and connect them to the top of present Kindergarten structure. You will have a very limited work force around four workers and no access to mechanical equipment what so ever”
After hearing this colossal mission I was speechless and thought it was a practical joke on the new intern. I was the first structural engineering internship at Arkitrek and I really felt the expectations from me were going to be high which just helped anxiety towards ‘The Mantanani Mission’ escalate.
After arriving on site ready to begin construction the task had become a reality. There really was no mechanical equipment and the roof rafters where unbelievably heavy; naturally as a structural engineer I begun to think to myself that these Architects were crazy.
After long technical talks with the Camp Mantanani Manager Aida and the Island Chief Albi we had devised a simple but effective plan to haunch the rafters into place. We decided to erect a series of scaffolding and rope up the rafters using the scaffolding and some old fashioned man-power.
I was in disbelief as the first rafter was eventually positioned; the process ran fairly smoothly with only minor initial set backs. With the first rafter in place the rest quickly followed at a fairly rapid rate of one a day. With every day my optimism grew as the ‘Mantanani Mission’ diminished. Absent the days of recuperation or rain the roof was finished in around 6 days, which still shocks even now a while after finishing.
This truly was a large accomplishment for me personally aswell as all the Mantani Team and all the Gappers. Not just me but all the persons involved managed to apply there own skills and contribute their own efforts towards the project.
I am sure I will be back one day to Mantanani Island to catch up with all the friends I have met and see the fully finished building.
[Ed: The author Nick Nearchou is a civil engineering graduate from the University of Bath. He interned with Arkitrek in September-December 2012. We had no idea how much we needed an engineer until Nick came along! He systematically analysed all three of our community projects with Camps International. Luckily it turns out that architects are not as daft as engineers like to make out 'cos all of our buildings only required minor alternations to remain standing. We would be very grateful for more engineers to join our volunteer program in future; either civils, structural or M&E. Get in touch via our contact form]