In northern Tanzania, a Swedish team of architects, engineers and a non-profit collaborated with local workers to complete the Econef Children’s Center, a self-sustaining facility for orphans in the King’ori village. Asante Architecture & Design, Lönnqvist & Vanamo Architects, Architects Without Borders Sweden, Engineers Without Borders Sweden and Swedish-Tanzanian NGO ECONOF created the center to provide sleeping quarters and classrooms to orphaned children, as well as to also increase ECONEF’s independence by reducing building maintenance and operation costs. The off-grid buildings are powered with solar energy and harvest rainwater in a system inspired by the African baobab tree.

brick building surrounded by greenery
brick building surrounded by greenery

Built to follow the local building vernacular, the Econef Children’s Center uses locally found materials and building techniques to keep costs low and to minimize the need for external construction expertise. The new center provides sleeping quarters and classrooms for 25 children.

children sit inside a recreation area
interior of rooms for children

“The aim of the Children’s Center Project is to increase ECONEF’S independence and reduce its reliance on private donations,” explains the team in a project statement. “To help achieve this goal the new buildings are planned to be ecologically and economically sustainable and largely maintenance free. The center produces its own electricity through the installation of solar panels. Systems for rainwater harvesting and natural ventilation are integrated into the architectural design.”

brick building surrounded by greenery
brick building surrounded by greenery

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Inspired by the African baobab tree that can retain up to 120,000 liters of water in its trunk to survive in the desert, the building’s rainwater harvesting system draws rainwater from the roof’s spine through a central gutter that funnels the water into two water tanks tucked beneath the two of the inner courtyards. The collected rainwater is used for showers and laundry.


Images by Robin Hayes

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