Cyclone-resistant timber frame school and library on a small island in Vanuatu.

A pro bono initiative that addresses the educational needs of the Tanbok School community in Vanuatu, a village severely affected by natural disasters. Working alongside international participants, we designed and constructed a resilient classroom and library complex to replace schools previously destroyed. The project aimed to create a robust structure capable of withstanding future cyclones, utilising a combination of locally sourced materials and tools due to the remote location.

The project features a cyclone-resistant timber frame, local hardwood cladding, and innovative roofing solutions, including polycarbonate and metal sheets. The library space, designed to combat extreme humidity, incorporates passive design strategies to extend the lifespan of books. The overall design prioritised simplicity and ease of construction, enabling unskilled workers and volunteers to build the structure within a tight three-month timeframe during the dry season.

Focusing on fundraising with a limited budget, Eckersley O’Callaghan played a crucial role from the early concept stages to providing guidance during construction. We interpreted Australian/NZ design codes, conducted finite element method analysis to estimate design forces, and produced coordinated construction drawings and 3D models. Structural details were simplified to a local hardware store stock list, which was translated into an Excel database for designing joints and other elements.

The challenging sloping site with limited data necessitated a design approach that incorporated flexibility to account for unpredictable ground conditions. By leveraging finite element methods, our team accurately predicted seismic and cyclone wind effects, leading to a more efficient design that saved on materials and associated costs. This project exemplifies the power of collaboration, innovative design, and community engagement in addressing educational infrastructure challenges in disaster-prone regions.

Pentecost, Vanuatu