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Village Health Works Staff Housing
Drawings, plans, elevations
Embedded in the rural Kigutu mountainside, this 18-bed staff housing is a romance between East African elemental aesthetics and inventive off-the grid sustainability. The design responds to the concern that just because the villagers are poor, there was no reason why their housing could not be forward thinking and beautiful. Cutting a skewed line in the terrain, the dormitory captures breathtaking mountain views. Currently rebuilding after many years of civil strife, the villagers hope that this housing will create a model for the sustainable future of both the community and the country. The design of porches was pivotal to the success of the building. To encourage Kigutu outdoor communal culture, the over-sized public porch doors seamlessly connect inside and out, welcoming all who enter. Similarly the private sleeping rooms, each with its own personal vividly colored entry porch, echo this semi-permeable sensibility. The porosity of the porches encourages sociability, enhances airflow into the adjacent sleeping rooms, and frames magnificent unobstructed transverse views of the landscape. When viewed at a distance, the overall design of all of the porches creates an integrated pattern that is emblematic of East African aesthetics. The same elemental design moves that establish its aesthetics also advance its sustainability. All energy saving efforts are purposely low-tech. Since Kigutu is 100% off the municipal grid, a nearby solar array and local solar water heaters exclusively power the housing. Sited partially below grade; the location of the building both reduced excavation costs and takes advantage of the earth’s natural insulation for temperature control. Eliminating the need for air conditioning, the personal porches and location of windows use the stack effect to create three-sided natural ventilation within the bedrooms. The extended roof overhangs provide solar protection to optimize the use of natural daylight, while french drains distribute runoff rainwater for irrigation. Yet the greatest efficiency is the human efficiency. The villagers, using locally made bricks, manually built the housing, eliminating the need for fuel consuming machines and creating transferable job training skills for members of the entire Kigutu community. Our participation in this project involved a reciprocal exchange of knowledge with the villagers. We spent a lot of time listening and learning the subtleties of local lifestyles and incorporated this input into fifty-seven architectural construction step diagrams that explained the construction process in detail, creating a building that we hope more than accommodated their needs. We understood the requirement for a design that augmented the indoor/outdoor daily life patterns of people living near the equator and consequently built a permeable building. Taking into consideration the need to address local seismic conditions, we studied Burundian masonry building techniques and incorporated what we learned into our design. Local-global collaboration, the cornerstone of the project, was critical to developing a building that we hope will not only provide quality housing, but will also be a growth experience that will support the community going forward.