Early May: Electricity arrived at the end of April- it will be very useful, especially in Ramadan.
Abobe Bricks & Ramadan
It has been a pleasure to witness the manufacture and use of the earth and straw bricks.They are very useful when we need to build in small spaces or to build arches. During Ramadan the builders work from 6 am until about 2 am and then rest until they break their fast at sunset. Thanks to the electricity supply, they made bricks after dark using floodlights; by this time they had renewed energy from breaking their fast and the cool of the evening.
Roof Terrace The builder is keen to do the roof of the dining room & activity room soon. Due to the 8 metre the roof has to be a concrete structure. The wooden scaffolding prepared to support this is amazing – shown in the photo below. The view (obscured by timber!)is from door of activity room onto courtyard.
Plans for IT Our IT expert, Mehdi, came to survey site and we have prepared a plan for cabling, wifi and security cameras (required by the police here these days and at least useful to us to see who is knocking at the door!)
Position of furniture Now that all the windows and internal walls are in place, we have been planning the position of pieces of furniture in rooms (such as the library and the reception) in order to give the best views and most practical positions – this alows us to plan electrics and plumbing.
I love this ladder!
The Contribution of Volunteers
On 3 successive weeks help has been offered by former guests and the husband of one of our leaders
Artistic touches The arrival of my artistic circle dance friend Jill Ashby on the 30th April allowed us to work on the position and shape of niches in the earth walls, the layout, colour schemes and furniture in bedrooms as well as visiting local craftsmen and the souk to source lovely rugs and furniture.
Plastering continues and we learn the recipes for indoors and outdoors and for first and second coats, as well as tadelakt, the polished plaster that is used in bathrooms and hammams. We focussed on this more closely when Ffion Blench came for a week on the 7th May. Ffion is a professional plasterer from Scotland, a specialist in traditional design and techniques. She was eager to learn about how it’s done in Morocco. We were really grateful for her artistic and practical contributions to a variety of other .
Niches We have designed and positioned usuallly 3 niches in each bedroom, one above the beds and 2 opposite the door above the sitting area. In addition we have created some in the courtyard which will look lovely with candles in the evenings. Abdelnasser our master earth builder (below left) has now excavated most of these and put the first plaster coat on them (below right).
Naming and Labelling of Rooms In order to make it simple to locate rooms, we have arranged them alphabetically, mostly in pairs with the same initials, using the name of plants (almost all trees) that produce important products in the region: almond & argan; caper & carob; fig & frankincense; henna & hibiscus; loquat; olive & orange; papaya & pomegranate; quince.
In addition we will have 4 tents which are again in alphabetical pairs near to the plants they are named after: daffodil & date; saffron & sugar cane. The name daffodil sounds a bit out of place; I liked the suggestion that we should have something from Wales, but there are lovely wild narcissi locally in the High Atlas, so it’s not as foreign as you might think!
A longstanding friend, John Couch, was our third volunteer who, having amongst other projects, has restored a chapel in Wales. He made a lovely job of making name plates for in cypress wood using the pokerwork method (burning the letters into the wood) . These will be set below a niche protected by a cap of baked earth bricks and housing a low energy PIR light.
Bedrooms to suit all budgets and needs In order to cater for a wide range of clients, we have decided to have the option of using 2 pairs of rooms as family suites and to include one room with disabled facilities, as well as offering a low budget option to sleep in traditional woollen tents
Families have 2 choices:
A pair of interconnecting bedrooms, sleeping up to 6 – 3rd person possible in both rooms, either in a cot or on a bed settee. Each pair has 2 en suite bathrooms, with a connecting door between the bathrooms. Each bedroom is about 20 square metres with a 6 square metre bathroom which has 3 zones: a small room with a separate toilet, a private walk-in shower with adjacent dressing area and a washbasin with a counter, shaving point and mirror.
The “O” Suite (Olive & Orange) One pair is near to the dining and activity room and the roof terrace: Room Olive has a king size bed and has a charming view through the gardens towards a small olive grove; it interconnects with Orange which twin beds and has a beautifully scented Seville orange tree planted outside.
The “C” Suite (Caper & Carob) The second pair is near to the pool, the hammam and the massage room. Room Carob has a king size bed, a curved rear wall and a Carob tree planted behind it (if it were in front it would obscure the sun) and interconnects with Caper which twin beds.
Or, if on a budget
A bedroom with extra beds sleeping up to 4: a double/king size bed or twin beds with a bed settee and/or cot with an en suite bathroom. Bedrooms are about 20 square metres with a 6 square metre bathroom which has 3 zones: a small room with a separate toilet, a private walk-in shower with adjacent dressing area and a washbasin with a counter, shaving point and mirror).
or a comfortable woollen tent without en suite bathroom. The 4 tents are served by 2 bathrooms: each with a small room with a separate toilet, a private walk-in shower with adjacent dressing area and a washbasin with a counter, shaving point and mirror
Textiles, Furniture Our task is to work out colour schemes with the help at a distance of interior designer friend Belinda Ray in Wales, to work out which existing and new fabrics and pieces of furniture will fit in our various new rooms, and which we will need to make new items for.
Work during Ramadan
Ramadan lasts for a month, 7th May. The builders had their breakfast before sunrise and work until early afternoon and then rest until break of fast at sunset. They did lots of work on the roofs and ceilings, plastering a north-facing wall in the shade.
It took a team of 3 men and much time cutting and laying eucalyptus branches to make these attractive traditional “Tataoui” ceilings. Sometimes such ceilings are painted but we think the natural colours are beautiful. The wooden blocks fixed on the wall show the position of electric sockets and lights by the bed(s), including one 2 way switch ( V et V in French). In the right hand photo, it looked so beautiful with the sunlight streaming through that we were tempted not to add the roof!
Below in the foreground is the first layer of the roof, earth and straw laid on top of a thin membrane. This was followed (unusually for Morocco) by 4 cm Kingspan insulation boards, which has double the insulation value of most insulation. Next the builders used adobe bricks to create a container for us to fit the EPDM (synthetic rubber) membrane. The EPDM was fitted by an irrigation engineer who has created many irrigation ponds but had never done a roof before. Given the thickness of the membrane he welded it into the correct shape. Finally we will cover this with some pebbles which we will spray white (using whitewash (because it’s environmentally friendly, traditional & cheap) to reflect the heat.
Some roof structures need to be in concrete, mainly the ones with a huge span over the dining room, kitchen and activity room, which will also bear the roof terrace. We have also made concrete roofs for the bathrooms because they will bear the weight of the solar panels and water storage.
And completed roof of the huge kitchen & store and the dining room
13th June Today I’ve been working on diagrams with explanations about how we will use clever building design to keep rooms at a comfortable temperature and well ventilated all year round without using electricity. The purpose of these diagrams is to explain to the authorities who normally require reversible air conditioning to be fitted in new hotels as well as explaining to our clients how it all works so beautifully.
The designs also allow us to tap solar energy very efficiently for plentiful hot water.
In addition the designs will minimise use of electricity for lighting by:
- Using highly efficient LED bulbs
- Using sensors to turn outside lights on as required, rather than clients switching them on (and maybe not off!)
- Having mostly south facing windows and fully glazed doors, many with wide reveals, providing good illumination
Here are the diagrams – I’ve tried to minimise technical details. I’d value your comments!