On the recommendation of our trusted contractor and friend, Shilla, we were invited to tour the Mega Woodcraft factory. We were told this factory produced pre-fabricated wall panels, which of course, stirred great interest for us.
The factory was located deep off the paved road, meaning much of the drive would require jostling over the sometimes comically large potholes and dips that are found throughout the city. We have been told that we are in the meaty section of the rainy season in East Africa which, combined with the primitive drainage systems throughout many of the neighborhoods, creates impromptu streams that pass easily down the worn tire tracks in the road.
As we passed through the gates of the factory, it was clear this was an innovative business based on construction, technology, and thoughtful planning. Our hosts Anthony, an established engineer with factories throughout Malaysia and China, and Shabbir, a stately and well respected Tanzanian businessman, greeted us and welcomed us into their factory. The sign on the large factory door read "EPS". Talvy, like a kid reading the box of a new toy, said to himself "expanded polystyrene", gaining instant approval from Anthony who nodded knowingly to us all as we entered the doors. The factory was pristine [somewhat a rare phenomenon in Africa]. With Anthony's expert knowledge, he lead us through each stage of the production process; the potential of their product, combined with our design, solidified the importance of this meeting. The factory was producing, what is in essence, a SIPS [structural insulated wall panel] system. Layered between two sections of concrete is a board of the EPS...on top of producing the insulation, Anthony is fabricating these sandwhich wall panels! This is a welcome innovation and technology that we are planning on incorporating in the SEED design.
After the factory tour we were invited to the office building for further discussions of their product and philosophy. We learned Shabbir's only intention in building this factory was to create a building material that could be used to provide quality housing for the "common man", a dream he said he has held for over three decades. The office meeting, which we imagined would be a 30 minute overview of their product, grew to an over two hour meeting bonding the two teams together in both technology and vision. A follow-up meeting was set for later in the week to further discuss how our ideas could grow together under our common idea of affordable housing for Africa.