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by fmarch

What’s Cookin’?

Part 2 of FMA’s project designer, Sia Herr’s, experience with Architecture for Humanity and Ambassadors for Sustained Health (ASH) in Waumini, Kenya.

One of the issues identified during my assessment trip to Waumini was the hazard of smoke caused by indoor cooking.  The World Health Organization estimates nearly 2 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use – the burning of maize.  The homes in Waumini are typically one room structures constructed of a wood frame covered with mud.  All of the daily activities, such as sleeping and cooking, are held in the space.  Additionally homes are constructed without enough, if any, openings for ventilation and smoke to escape.   The homes lack openings for daylight and ventilation in part because the families are trying to keep the cold out during the cold months and can’t afford windows and vents.

The ASH housing team, through our field ambassador Kyle Murakami, worked intimately and collaboratively with the residents to build a rammed earth stove – a cooking surface that has been implemented by the East Africa Trust in Kenya and other parts of Africa.  The stove provides a healthier and efficient means of cooking indoors because it allows smoke to exit directly to the outside.  It is made by ramming several layers of damp soil into a mold, making sure it’s compacted, then letting it dry for several days.  The design of the mold also allows for two pots to be cooking at the same time compared to the single pot methods currently used by the residents.

With the assistance of the East Africa Trust, the stove has been tested and tweaked and is now working as designed.  Its completion pushes Waumini one step closer to creating healthier homes to support the healthcare that ASH is bringing to the community.  It is amazing to see the difference that a mound of dirt can make when used resourcefully.

Our next challenge is to build the stoves in a reasonable amount of time and establish a plan to make the mold accessible to many families throughout Waumini and surrounding villages.  Stay Tuned.


  • Features

by fmarch

Waumini, Kenya: Better Housing for Better Health

Speaking through sticks

In 2007, a poll by the British Medical Journal found that clean water and sanitation comprised the most important medical advancement since 1840. We take for granted that the water in our homes is abundant and safe. In Kenya, out of a population of 39 million, 17 million lack safe water and 22 million have no sanitation services

Our own Sia Herr, a project designer at Fennick | McCredie, travelled to Waumini, Kenya as part of her participation in Architecture for Humanity where she became an Ambassador for Sustained Health (ASH) . Here is her story on what she saw, experienced, and learned in her pursuit to help create healthier homes for the Waumini community.

Two years ago I joined Architecture for Humanity Boston to explore design with a social impact. I began working with Ambassadors for Sustained Health (ASH), a newly formed non-profit organization whose mission is to partner with impoverished communities to help them get healthy and stay healthy by every means possible.  One of the means is better housing.

In 2010, I traveled to ASH’s first partner community, Waumini, Kenya, to get a first-hand experience of the culture, environment and housing situation.  My days started at the hardware store watching ASH’s founder, Michelle Chang, negotiate a good deal for supplies needed to renovate the Waumini community center.  With supplies in hand, we squished with as many as 11 other locals in a 7-seat minivan to take us to the village.  To preserve money for the program, we would often get off halfway and walk.

The rest of the day consisted of even more walking as we tried to visit with as many residents and leaders as we could.  We immersed ourselves in their needs and learned about their resources, social structures and lifestyle.  We met with local organizations to gain more knowledge and build more partnerships.  This is important because the core component of the ASH program is to work with the community, not for them, so that efforts can be sustained without the physical presence of ASH.

Although my trip lasted less than a week, I have a greater understanding of Waumini than from the previous full year I spent researching it at home. This understanding shifted our initial focus from the home’s structure to its interior functions.  Stay tuned for my next post which highlights ASH’s first stride towards healthy housing.


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by fmarch

City Youth Community Building


“Like wow….seeing the beauty in it.”

At a recent visit to our construction site at 27 Centre Street in Roxbury –the renovation and transformation of an historic fire house into the new headquarters of YouthBuild Boston (YBB) – I was awed by the workmanship of the new interior framing and the evident pride of the construction crew. Built in large part by YBB students and graduates, I wanted to learn more about their experiences from the program: How has YBB impacted their lives? And in particular, what is it like to build the organization’s new home?

We talked with Willie Alford, 2011 YBB graduate, now himself supervising student crews at the project. Living independently, financial considerations brought him to YBB. Although Willie had no prior familiarity with the building trades, his love of construction came from the program – as a student he was “just learning to read a tape, and diving face first” into the experience.

And what has the 27 Centre Street project meant to Willie?
“It’s amazing to see the whole construction process from beginning to end, seeing it all come together. Like wow, this is the reason people like doing construction, seeing the beauty in it. And to know you had hands in it. It’s like watching a child grow up (that is if I had a child).”

Now Willie knows what it takes to build a project. “YBB will bring life to the neighborhood. And it has to be perfect because it will be YouthBuild Boston’s home!”


  • Features

by fmarch

Design Connects City Youth with their Community, their Future


As a social art, architecture can create venues for human connections. The spaces we design, the public places we make inform the way people live and interact as a community. And the qualities of these places can speak to the nature of a community.

In the same way that the product of design (the architecture) can foster community engagement, the process of design (the making of architecture) can similarly connect people to their community. YouthBuild Boston brings this concept to life with “their hands-on programs for young people in Boston looking to improve the trajectory of their lives through the building trades.” We at Fennick McCredie Architecture, are the design partner in a collaboration with YouthBuild Boston to renovate an historic fire house in Roxbury, Massachusetts into their new headquarters. Student crews from the YouthBuild program are, in large part, building the project. Pride in construction is evident in the workmanship and precision of the interior framing. From the sidewalk you can feel the positive energy of teamwork among students, graduate workers, and mentor tradesmen – together building a new home for the organization, a valuable neighborhood resource and center, and a special place for the students to learn, grow and yes, connect.

Co-founding principal of the practice, Deborah Fennick, has been deeply involved in this project because of its important contribution to our City and our young people. Look out for Deborah’s blog post coming out this Friday where she interviews a recent graduate of YouthBuild Boston to learn about his experience building the new headquarters.