Build It International

Lusaka, Zambia

Build It International (BII) is an NGO working in underdeveloped areas of Zambia to improve skills and deliver essential education and healthcare facilities. Employing local people to build schools and clinics for their communities, BII equips young men and women with construction training that leads to an industry recognised qualification, and enables them to earn a living and provide for their families.

While the national average pass rate for the TVETA (Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority) programme stands at 62%, BII trainees achieve an outstanding 98%, proving both their commitment to and the success of this model.

To date, the scale of BII’s training facilities has meant they can only train young men and women from 3 or 4 localised communities each year. This project focused on realising a Centre for Excellence that will allow BII to offer a greater range of training modules for a larger number of people. Working alongside Gensler architects, the Buro Happold team provided masterplanning, structural and sustainability guidance, as well as ongoing technical support throughout the construction process.


Designing and delivering the Centre for Excellence posed challenges for our team on an organisational, technical and cultural level. Initially, BII was used to producing small-scale reinforced concrete structures from a standard set of building designs, so the far larger steel framed construction of the Centre proved a completely new concept for both trainees and site agents. In addition, we learned that introducing new technologies can not only create technical challenges, but also cultural ones.

Image: Buro Happold


We worked closely with Gensler and BII to anticipate, plan for and coordinate the multiple disciplines that were required to realise a development of this size. Having a structural engineer from Buro Happold present proved invaluable, as it enabled us to work with BII to develop the structural steel frame in house and also oversee its fabrication and installation. To overcome local reservations about our proposed composting toilets, we took the team on a field trip to see a similar system in action.


While involved with this project, our structural engineer undertook a critical review of the BII standard building design and construction methods and advised on simple measures to improve them. In combination with the low tech design solutions included in the Centre for Excellence, our aim is to elevate the standard and performance of buildings throughout Zambia. Trainees have already started work on site for the new Centre, which is set to be completed in 2019.

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