12 March 2019

Renovating Freetown School

TRADA image

In 2016, TRADA provided a British carpenter free access to its academic resources. David Jones had been asked by the Prince’s Foundation – an extension of the Prince’s Trust – to deliver training on timber as part of a larger six-week course to educate architects, engineers and builders on sustainable design in Freetown, Sierra Leone.


The course aimed to help local workers renovate a Krio two-storey board house, a building which formed part of the Freetown school and housed 216 of the school’s 470 pupils. At the time, the building had been deemed structurally unsound, with poor security, space and sanitation. The charity running the school Planting Promise consequently partnered with the Prince’s Foundation to establish a two-part project:


Phase 1 would:

  • ensure that the school house was structurally sound and climatically appropriate
  • install much needed handwashing basins, and a new toilet block
  • extend the classroom area in the school house
  • improve security for children and teachers
  • provide on-site training and employment for local tradespeople


Phase 2 would:

  • add a 3-storey extension, increasing pupil intake and expanding the classroom space
  • double the toilet facilities
  • provide a covered playground, ensuring shelter from the rain or sun


The renovation intended to strip and re-use, replicating the original design as much as possible, and was designed around the hope of both ensuring the continued education of local children and returning the responsibility of the historic building to the community.


‘We mainly used “gmelina arborea” – or yemene, as it’s called locally,’ David Jones shared. ‘Getting hold of good timber was a constant battle out there as there are no saw mills in the country and nothing is seasoned. Everything is cut and boarded with a chain saw – so you purchase timber wet and very roughly sawn!’


He continued: ‘Yemene dries out the most “stable” in the environment. The local knowledge of the carpenters is so valuable since your starting point is not using seasoned machined timber as you would in the UK. When you go to buy timber, you have to be prepared to sort through all the boards and pull out the best ones, then transport it to get machined and then on to site – and treat it with a preservative against termite damage.


‘Being granted access to TRADA’s online resources provided me with a vast quantity of images and information, and allowed me to share a wealth of knowledge – firstly to the students on the six-week course I was running, and then to the workers on the Freetown School building.’


They also used “Schinus molle” – pepper wood – for the large 200 x 200 posts used to support the back building, and found several old 2.4 metre trunks which had been cut several years back and left unused. A naturally termite resistant wood already seasoned was perfect.


Phase 1 was officially finished in 2017, but phase 2 – the construction of a second school building – remains incomplete, due to the closing of charity Planting Promise. A central steel staircase, doors, shutters and toilet blocks are still needed.


For more information about the project, please visit http://davidlljones.com/6-horton-street/


If you are interested in donating to the final works of this project, please visit 

https://www.street-child.co.uk/donate/ and mark the donation as 'SCHOOL- 6 HORTON STREET'.