Friday, July 8, 2011

Second Basement Progress

The past couple of weeks have been exciting at the project site. Work has progressed fluidly, improvements are visible fairly quickly and we've started on our first stone wall. The reinforced concrete  walls and columns for this floor were formed and poured in three phases, in order to keep the amount of lumber tied up in forms to a minimum, as well as to distribute the work among the crew efficiently from an operational management standpoint (completing the pour opens up work for the more junior workers, in the form of cutting the 6mm tie bars, taking the boards down off the walls and columns, and cleaning the forms of all the nails used to hold them together).

With the exterior walls completed, one can begin to see the space that will become the building storage units and the small 120-square meter (~1,200 square foot) apartment that is on the eastern side of this floor. As soon as the third and final phase of pouring the walls and columns was completed, the crew began putting up the forms for the roof slab, called 'Aqdeh. This is a major milestone in the construction of every floor, and it is customary for the contractor or the owner provide a traditional meal to the crew called Mansaf particularly for the first 'Aqdeh of any project.

Below you can see photos of the exterior walls and columns after the first phase of pouring, as well as what the building looks like today, with all the exterior walls completed and the forms for the 'Aqdeh beginning to cover the floor surface.

(northern wall along the future street)
(exterior walls completed, including stone facade on eastern elevation)
('Aqdeh forms going up. Steel, hollow concrete blocks, then concrete will follow)
(second basement floor taking shape)
('Aqdeh forms are placed up on jacks and reinforced in both directions)

One of the most amazing things for me during this stage has been the realization that this building is going to be built one stone block at a time by two stone builders (and their assistants), and that all the other buildings around us in the part of the world were built the same way. The stone builder places mortar around each stone, levels it, cuts the stones to fit the available openings, then builds forms behind the stone wall and places buckets of concrete behind the stone to complete the process (a bucket is used instead of the concrete pump to ensure the stability of the wall and to make sure the carefully placed stones don't move after initial placement). 

The other exciting thing about the stone work is that it brings with it a new avenue for learning, as it has its own construction methods, timing, materials ordering methods, and language (there are different names for the flat stone pieces, the corner pieces, the side-frames for windows and doors, the top or bottom frames for windows and doors ... and so on). Below are photos of the stone wall construction from various vantage points. 

(stone builder placing a window side-frame piece)
(view of the same from the other side. builder on the left, assistant on the right filling in mortar along the stone edges)
(assistant cutting the stones to fit available spaces)
(the forms behind the stone face, where concrete will be poured in by hand using buckets)

As we close in on the completion of the first floor, our costs are becoming better defined which will allow up to finalize our pricing and begin our marketing efforts in ernest. That is something else that I am looking forward to, since all I have to gauge market saturation up until now is anecdotal evidence and it would be nice to generate heavy interest to validate our assumptions when the word gets out about our project. I am confident that we have a distinct product given the level of detail that has gone into the design and that is going into the construction and finish-out, and of course it helps that the project location is considered one of the best areas of town.

1 comment:

AstroYoga said...

That's really interesting. In Germany, most buildings are also brick. In Regensburg, most of the side walks and streets (downtown) are stone laid with gravel between them. It seems hugely labor intensive!

In the city here, when they need to do road work, the site is not blocked ANYTHING like it is in the US. There are sometimes gaping holes with only a piece of equipment next to it acting as a bit of a barrier. My dad worked in construction for many years and was kind of shocked by the different safety standards.