The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ashesi’s New Campus at Brekuso, by Suzanne (photos by Steve, of course!)

Suzanne gives this  lecture hall's first lecture

The morning of the day that I flew back to the States, we went to see Ashesi University College’s new campus that is under construction in the village of Brekuso, north of Accra. As promised, the road there was VERY rough – the last leg of the journey, which might have been 10 minutes on a good road, stretched for 30 minutes due to the need to go 5 mph through some of the worst potholes.But on our approach we were able to get a nice view of the campus up on the hill above Brekuso.

Campus site as seen from the Village
We went with Casper, Ashesi’s chief facilities officer, and Ken, one of the Ashesi drivers. Casper is the main person in charge of the construction on the Ashesi end. In Ghana, construction is overseen by the architects themselves, who act also as the lead construction managers.

Reviewing the Campus Plans
Casper, AKA The Chief
The Ashesi campus at Brekuso is on a site of 100 acres overlooking the village of Brekuso, north of Accra. The views are beautiful, and I am told on a clear day you can see across to Aburi, another town north of Accra that houses several nice hotels, a Presidential retreat center, and a botanical garden. The altitude, winds, and distance from the city make the Ashesi site much cooler than the temporary quarters in Accra, which will be wonderful. Also, I am told that there are no mosquitoes – due either to the wind or altitude, who knows, but let’s all hope that they don’t get imported to the site by anyone!

Corn growing across the valley
The Village of Brekuso
Ashesi’s building project has two separate construction crews working, one on the main academic buildings and another on the dormitories. This was a result of “risk analysis”, or in layman’s terms, not putting all your eggs in one basket, so that if something goes wrong with one project, the other contractor could step in and finish it if need be. Thankfully, BOTH projects are ahead of schedule and show the signs of extremely high quality construction techniques at work. We were all impressed with the obvious safety standards in effect – all workers were required to have steel-toed boots and hardhats (we were issued hardhats on the way through the security checkpoint on the way in). There were signs all over the construction site with the safety rules in effect. We were not allowed in some areas due to possible safety hazards – protocols you see in America, but not so often in Africa. Anna also commented about how happy the workers seemed to be. Although everyone was working hard, there was pride and pleasure in work well-done evident in everyone’s attitude.
chalklining the next course of blocks

Worker smiles because I keep taking pictures of him, and his friends are making fun of him
The new campus is due to be complete ahead of schedule, by May 2010, at which point, hopefully, they will break ground on Phase 2. The current Phase 1 will accommodate 600 students with perhaps the addition of Economics and Liberal Studies majors (in addition to the current Computer Science, Business Administration, and Management Information Systems). The next set of majors to be added will hopefully be Engineering, which will require more facilities (most notably the labs needed for Engineering studies) and also more classrooms and dorms to bring the campus capacity closer to the final target of 2000 students.

Dr. B testing out the Lecture Hall
It was really thrilling to be able to see the construction at this stage. We missed the official ground breaking last August, which I was very sorry to miss, but frankly at that point it was little more than the raw land we had seen in 2007. Seeing the Brekuso campus in July 2010, there was the overwhelming feeling of, “Wow, this is really happening!” I pretended to lecture in one of the lecture halls, which Casper got a kick out of and Steve snapped photos of. There is even an outside lecture area, which I think is a grand idea and am hoping that Southwestern will include in their new Science building.

We saw the canteen, where Ashesi students, faculty, and staff will eat inside, but open air. Phase 1 has five classrooms, plus the outdoor one. The library is particularly impressive, and I am happy that Ashesi’s fantastic librarian, Nina, will have an equally impressive facility in which to operate.
The Library
Ashesi drilled a borehole at the bottom of the hill, with a pump to pump the water up to a holding tank at the uppermost point of the hill, which will then operate using gravity from there. The borehole (well) will not be able to fully supply all the needs of the campus. A rainwater collection system will collect water from the main academic building and shuttle the water via specialized rain gutters to holding tanks in the basement of the building. From there it will be pumped and used for the rest of the campus water needs.
The Well Pump
The well water, we learned, has a high content of iron, which will need to be filtered out of the water along the way. Up at the building site at the top of the hill, we saw the evidence of iron deposits in the beautiful stones that were unearthed during the building process and will be used to adorn the outside of the buildings’ walls, as accents. We brought some of the iron-laden rock home with us, so we could remember the Brekuso campus, and Ashesi, whenever we look at it.
Finished rock veneer 
Rock Pile
The campus will also have a biogas facility that will harvest gas from sewage for cooking. There was hope of using wind power at one point, but initial estimates were more than anyone could reasonably expect of fundraising efforts for it – wind power is not prevalent in Ghana, and with import duties and importing engineering expertise, it was just not possible. But, perhaps when Ashesi has its own engineering professors and students, a wind generator project could be started at that point!
Worker looking at the cistern that will hold rainwater
Status update: as many of you know, we helped fundraise for the specialized rain gutters for Ashesi’s new campus – thanks to ALL who so generously contributed to the fund! You all helped raise just over the full amount: $10,245.00 toward our goal of $10,000.00! So, thanks to you, our friends, we will have raised enough money for the specialized rain gutters for the academic building for Ashesi’s new campus! Thank you!!! And, for any of you for whom Ashesi’s mission has really resonated, they will be fundraising for Phase 2 of their building plan, so please continue to support Ashesi and their very worthy cause to help educate the next generation of leaders of Ghana – we will!
Bird we saw leaving the campus.


Blogger Nina said...

Not too surprisingly I have sent the link round to all colleagues! And you included a pic of the library; how sweet, and it does look impressive!

3:19 PM, July 27, 2010  
Blogger Aspa said...

Great narration. Even without the pictures i could see the wonderful edifice / setting in my minds eye.

3:29 PM, July 27, 2010  
Blogger Lloyd said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:07 PM, July 27, 2010  
Blogger Lloyd said...

Vision materializing....Thanks Nina for the link...nice pixes and engaging narrative...

6:09 PM, July 27, 2010  
Anonymous Kajsa said...

Thanks for this exhaustive report! Love the pics including smiling workers! Can't wait to see the progress myself during the upcoming faculty & staff visit!

Thanks again!

3:02 PM, August 03, 2010  
Blogger Jerome said...

One of the most fascinating and striking topics of existing construction are the plan of housing blocks. These days, architects face various divergences like the trouble of elevated density increase in big cities, the humiliation of worth of life and the scarcity of improvement land because of acoustic and ecological effluence. It is better to go with construction safety plan to secure your projects.

7:50 AM, August 05, 2010  
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