Building in the developing world

Another staff member in our office sent me the following videos. They are a great illustration of the paradigm shift required of engineers and designers in the developing world. For instance, back in the West (USA, Europe, etc.), minimizing labor even at the added expense of extra materials is the name of the game since labor is much more expensive than materials. In the developing world however, labor is extremely cheap, so hiring for example a team of laborers to hand dig a septic tank hole is far less expensive than hiring an excavator to do the job.
In these videos, you'll see how creative (and talented!) some of these laborers can be when they are asked to accomplish things that we would never dream of doing by hand back in the West. As it relates to eMi, when we're designing anything from buildings to water projects, we have to make sure that what we're designing is appropriate for the local labor practices - though as you'll see in these videos, their creativity can usually accomplish most anything!

In the first video...I've actually seen this happening on construction sites here. The alternate is, they build a huge wooden ramp where they haul the rock up in wheelbarrows - even several stories high. The ramp is usually pretty steep though so I don't know that it's much of an improvement especially when you include the effort it takes to build the ramp.

In this next video...I have not seen this done before! I think the guy on the bottom is going to need rotator cuff replacement surgery before he's 30! The cement truck shown is pretty rare, at least in Uganda. I've only seen two cement trucks here in the past 2 1/2 years. Almost all cement is hand mixed in this part of the world. Usually they have an elaborate assembly line in place to accomplish what's shown in this video.

The last video is from India...this guy belongs at Venice Beach, or maybe in a Circus! Very impressive!


Anonymous said…
All these guys are very talented. You are surely right about the rotator cuff, and the guy who belongs at Venice Beach soon won't be able to turn his neck more than 10 degrees in any direction.
Dad B.
Jamie said…
Hey Brad-

My name is Jamie and Im a 22 year old college student that attends the same church as your cousin Angie. She has been helping me try to find a place to volunteer this summer, which is why she gave me your blog. Last summer I went and worked at an orphanage in Haiti and Im looking at doing something similar this summer... and Im hoping that maybe you know of some opportunities. I cant find your email address on here, so if you ever have time and could email me that would be wonderful. My address is


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