Building Tomorrow's School

Author: School of Architecture

Building Tomorrow is one of the newest student groups at the University of Notre Dame, but that doesn’t mean that it’s starting from scratch. Elijah Pearce, ’09, brought Building Tomorrow Inc. (BT) to Notre Dame in 2009 after hearing a lecture given by BT’s founder George Srour. Building Tomorrow is an international social-profit organization based in Indianapolis that encourages philanthropy amongst young people by raising awareness and funds to build and support education infrastructure projects for underserved children throughout sub-Saharan Africa. 

After hearing Srour’s lecture about his growing organization, Pearce recruited a team of designers from the 2010 graduating class to design a school in the Kiboga district of Uganda, Africa, for the organization. It offered the team a unique opportunity to use traditional architecture in the sub-Saharan Africa, an area it had almost no precedence in. 

The team, comprised of Pearce, Brian Droste ’10, Deirdre Connell ’10, Mallory Mecham ’10, Jimmy Michael ’10, Tim Reidy ’10, Tereza Schaible ’10, and Melia West ’10, was given a design from the University of Virginia, a u-shaped brick building. While analyzing the design, the team gave particular attention to how they might improve upon the standing design. The majority of these changes were attempts to more carefully consider solar angles and natural ventilation. Instead of the u- parti, they proposed dividing the school into two wings, allowing for cross ventilation through the courtyard, and more simple and efficient roof construction (and thus, water collection). 

Solar shading devices were added to the windows on the exteriors and bricks were offset to provide transom ventilation. The design also utilizes an interlocking, compressed-earth brick in its construction, and the bricks are produced on-site. The site was unknown at the time of the design, so the aim was to come up with a design that was easily adaptable and repeatable, particularly with the vision that BT might use the design in more than one school. The program was the same- seven classrooms, one office, a library, and latrines.

With the generosity of Matthew and Joyce Walsh, the school was funded. Droste, Connell, Mecham, Michael, West, and Whitley Estaban ’12 had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to aid in construction of the new school during the summer of 2010. At present, classroom walls are built and the project is nearing completion. The Academy of Kyeitabya, as it will be called, will be the second school built by Building Tomorrow and supported by the Notre Dame community. The first,Sentigi, was built from April 2009 to October 2010.

The current student group is still in the beginning stages of establishing their board and gaining members, but they aren’t letting that stand in the way of raising awareness about the organization and the lack of education. A “Bike To Uganda” fundraiser, where students bike the distance from Notre Dame’s campus to Uganda on a stationary bike, is in the planning stages. Other events the group is planning to have this year include movie watches and coffee socials—events geared towards raising awareness and increasing membership.

Another facet of BT is Estaban’s on-campus research. She has been participating in Prof. Aimee Buccellato’s Green Scale Research Project, where she is looking at good building practices in rural and developing Uganda, with the aim of providing Building Tomorrow with empirical assessment of how to most responsibly build these necessary structures for the Ugandan youth with regards to durability and sustainability.