Search icon.

InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

Friends Building Global Community

Ghana Library & Community Development

Chief Editor's picture


ICO is collaborating with Solterre Design (, an architecture firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Nka Foundation ( to build a library in the village of Abetenim, Ghana, which is located 40 km Southeast of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The new public library will provide a learning environment for students and the community, using local affordable materials while avoiding steel, cement and plastics, and teaching improved building methods to encourage local expertise.

Tell me more about this Initiative

ICO is collaborating with Solterre Design (, an architecture firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Nka Foundation ( to build a library in the village of Abetenim, Ghana, which is located 40 km Southeast of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

The majority of the inhabitants work their farms near the community. Approximately 98% of the homes are made of mud, and locals believe that earth-made buildings are necessary despite several examples of mud homes having eroded over time due to poor construction and water damage. There is a false belief in the solidity of mud architecture and the community may resist attempts to utilize the newer architecture building.

The Abetenim project site is a rural flat land. There is electricity available to the village, and a water source just 100m from our proposed building site within the school grounds. The top soil is red earth mixed with gravel that is right for cob construction or the rammed earth method. The nearby forests provide lumber for house roofing for a population of about 800 peasant farmers, small scale traders and craft persons.

The Nka Foundation, in identifying Abetenim as an “arts in the community” village, has been exposed to alternative building materials. A two-room primary school was recently constructed with a type of rammed earth walls instead of concrete (high in manufacturing energy and environmental concerns). The Solterre Team will be following up on the adapted rammed earth construction method used on the recent Nka primary school construction. This technique uses the highly effective local earth (clay composition is ideal for wall construction) and a minimal amount of cement or a plaster substitute. Rammed earth construction requires formwork; the forms already exist and can be reused for many projects.

The school principal and community coordinator, Frank Appiah-Kubi, is the main contact person in the community who will hire local builders. Both ICO and Solterre will be working closely with the Community Coordinator before, during and after the on-site build to ensure the success of this project.

How will your donations be used?

The funds raised will be used to purchase building materials, pay for local labour and related costs/incidentals. Basic transportation and housing costs for the core team (Jennifer Corson and Keith Robertson) on site will be donated by Solterre. We will be collaborating with the Project Coordinator, Frank Appiah-Kubi, for the purchase of additional materials (doors, shelving, etc.) and the hiring of local labour.

Benefit of this Initiative to the Community:

The community of Abetenim, and, specifically, the school-children, will benefit from this new public library. Currently, Abetenim has an elementary school and a two-room junior high school in the village; locating the public library within the school grounds will encourage more interface in the ‘learning environment’.

The library is also the first of three functions that Solterre is interested in creating in Abetenim; future developments may include a computer room and a community room. Both rooms would be of great use to the school children and members of the community.

These trained builders will be the experts to pass on their modern earth construction structurally sound architectural skills to others in the community.

Another way that the community benefits from the projects is that they will have the experience of being and working and reading in a building that is cooler, light-filled and pleasing to the eye, knowing that it was done ‘by their own’. This goes far in inspiring

Success of the Initiative:

The main goal of any sustainable design is to maximize the amount of local materials (mud, bamboo, small dimension wood) and to minimize the amount of foreign and high-embodied energy materials (steel, cement and plastics) in a building. A building should also utilize solar and wind as much as possible to allow for natural daylight and ventilation. This will lessen the dependence on electricity for lighting and ventilation.

Our success will be the advanced coordination of required components (roofing materials, windows, library furniture) so that the construction phase goes smoothly during our 3-month program. Working closely with the Community Coordinator ahead of the on-site build, during and after will be critical to the success of this project.

Who are we?

Nka Foundation (

Nka Foundation was developed in 2005 to bring together individuals and groups to engage in local-global humanitarian activities through use of the arts. Due to the extensive successes with the African Community of Arts Educators (AfriCOAE), projects in Accra and Kumasi, and the established network of arts-based community projects in Africa, Nka was incorporated in 2009 as a non-profit organization under the laws of the Republic of Ghana to carry on the work of bringing together motivated creative individuals in arts and technology, arts groups and supportive others to create cross-cultural synergy for community arts practice and infrastructure to support their continued professional growth and enhance the social, cultural and economic vitality.

The Nka Foundation recently held an international design competition, called the “ReDesign the Mud House”. To see some of the great examples of how to use mud in a variety of aesthetically pleasing and affordable designs. You can read more in their blog: . There has also been a number of demonstration structures built with a very contemporary design, but still using all local materials. See the 10x10 hut by Karolina and Wayne Switzer.

Solterre (

Solterre Design is a full service architecture firm that focuses on quality service and product. Solterre’s philosophy is simple: great green architecture meeting the client’s needs. We achieve this by understanding the particular effects of natural resources, materials and energy on the built environment, and by incorporating good design principles while keeping economy in mind. We have project expertise in energy efficient and off-grid projects, energy retrofits, Passive House (Passivehaus) design, and LEED certification. Ultimately, Solterre aims to build better instead of bigger--by incorporating design features that make smaller spaces more adaptable, aesthetically-pleasing, economic and environmentally beneficial.

Solterre founders, Keith Robertson and Jennifer Corson, have both worked in Ghana early in their careers. Jennifer’s architectural thesis was based on the utilization of air-dried earth brick construction in place of fired brick or concrete block construction. Their firm has continued to work in the field of design with local and affordable materials, considering solar and other energy-efficient construction methods.

Innovative Communities Organization (ICO)

ICO is founded on the premise that friends working together can harness the power of innovative ideas; through the common goals of communities and volunteers around the world, ICO develops processes and community-led initiatives to advance education and alleviate poverty.

ICO Initiatives

September 17, 2014
ICO’s Instruments4Africa provides opportunities to underprivileged children in Mali, one of Africa's poorest countries, to get an education and reach their potential. Building on Mali’s rich artistic culture, children receive performing arts training, and are part of a performing arts troupe guided by professional dance and music teachers.