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Construction has already begun on the first school in Ilima, an extremely isolated village in the Democratic Republic of Congo that sits on the corridor between two protected areas. "We work in a lot of parts of Africa that are remote, but this takes the cake," says Bergin. Getting there involves a two-day motorized canoe trip from Kinshasa, followed by a five-hour motorcycle ride. What that means is that getting materials in and out of the area can prove troublesome.
Architectural firm MASS Design Group has partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation to build the schools. For the Ilima project, it was imperative that the designers used materials that are easy to source and replace. "If there's a need to repair or maintain the school 45 years down the road, the community has to be able to do it without depending on materials like steel or cement, which would be hard to locate," says Andrew Brose, the project manager.
Mass Design started by researching not just the materials in the region, but local construction methods. "We've found that when you go into remote regions like this, the things people build are already climate-intellegent. They know how to build with rainfall in mind," says Michael Murphy, CEO of Mass Design.