The engineering design of this Haitian school was voted the best in the world for sustainability

The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) recently announced the winners of the 2019 Structural Awards. Every year IStructE chooses pioneering projects across the world that showcase the creativity and ingenuity of structural engineers. There were 12 categories for this year’s awards. La Référence, a school in Ganthier, Haiti, won the award for sustainability. 

“This school project not only exemplifies a resistant structural solution, but it does so in close collaboration with local engineers and construction teams,” the Judges expressed.

Aerial view. John Chew Construction

Haiti Chapel, in Northern Haiti, won the sustainability category in 2018. The winners this year were chosen from a shortlist of 49 projects. The award for sustainability is given to projects demonstrating an outstanding commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment in the structural components of the project’s design. 

IStructE, which is based in the United Kingdom, is the largest international community for structural engineers with almost 30,000 members in more than 105 countries. To become a member, engineers are required to pass rigorous interviews and or examinations that test structural engineering design capability. The Institution was founded in 1908 as the Concrete Institute. Then it was later renamed as the Institution of Structural Engineers in 1922.

La Référence is a charitable engineering project sponsored by Konekte Princeton Haiti, a non-profit organisation who works with schools and the Ganthier community of Haiti to fund and develop educational programs empowering children and building the next generation of skilled men and women in Haiti. The building shown in the picture below is the 1st phase in the design of a series of identical modules enveloping a courtyard surrounded by existing trees. This phase was completed in 2018 and now provides new classrooms for 150 students. The completed project will house hundreds of students from pre-k to secondary school. JSC Construction, the principal contractor, Studio PHH Architects, Eckersley O’Callaghan, and local engineers and construction workers in Haiti, make up the project delivery team. 

View of school from courtyard. Nadia Todres

Pierre-Henri Hoppenot, Founder of Studio PHH Architects, told us what it was like working on such an innovative project. 

“It was an honor for Studio PHH Architects to be able to work alongside the driven non-profit Konekte who sponsored the construction as well as working with the Haitian professors who are extremely dedicated to providing the best education to their students,” Hoppenot told us.

Aerial view. John Chew Construction

Within the last decade, the effects of devasting hurricanes and earthquakes in Haiti required engineers to create suitable designs, ensuring a successful recovery process. The location of the project site is prone to hurricanes and frequent seismic activity and, thus, was taken under consideration in the design phase of the project, although resources were limited. 

“The construction process in Haiti, with limited access to materials and skilled laboor, required a number of strategic decisions regarding materials and detailing and close collaboration with our structural engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan to ensure that seismic and hurricane-force winds could be withstood,” expressed Hoppenot.

Utilising local materials found in Haiti, the project team achieved a design that will ensure students could learn in a comfortable and safe environment with an appealing architecture:

“The building emerged from carefully studying and combining typical Haitian materials – CMU block, concrete and corrugated steel roofing – in order to increase air-flow, provide natural light and security and to control sound transmission between classrooms. La Référence stands out for its playful, undulating roof which is painted green to mimic the trees around the school’s perimeter and for the facade’s rhythm of reinforced piers and openings which is created by playfully shifting the concrete masonry blocks, each CMU pier transferring bearing, up-lift and shear loads down to the foundations,” Hoppenot also told us. 

Roof of school. Konekte Princeton Haiti

La Référence exemplifies ingenious engineering solutions and acts as a reference for other schools in Haiti. Phase 2 of the project is currently under construction.

La  Référence Site. Studio PHH Architects 

2 thoughts on “The engineering design of this Haitian school was voted the best in the world for sustainability”

  1. Beautiful open-air passive systems approach to ventilation and heat management – also loving that the full design creates a courtyard space which becomes a flexible outdoor classroom, sports, assembly and full-school activity and events space – where even the balconies add possibilities for participation and viewing!

  2. Awesome design, given the detailed explanation, anodyne ability to withstand extreme weather conditions.
    So fortunate are the kids who will benefit longterm from these innovative insights.
    Funding is always an issue to be addressed.

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