Arup Community Engagement


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Arup Community Engagement

Project overview

Project overview

  • Overall winner of the Kay e Sante nan Ayiti international design competition organised by Archive.
  • Permanent shelter in Haiti that provides safe, healthy and well-built housing for the St Marc community who are committed to reducing the transmission of tuberculosis in their living environments.
  • A well-balanced combination of passive environmental systems with modest active ventilation mechanisms that promote optimal air quality.
  • The integration of advanced, unobtrusive, low-cost sensing technology to monitor ambient air quality, temperature and humidity.
  • Conceived as an adaptable system, this housing prototype holistically integrates the design and practice criteria with the primary purpose of making a sustainable link between housing and health.

Safe, healthy and well-built housing serves a basic human right.  The Breathe House addresses the immediate and future housing needs of the rural community of Bois L’Etat, St. Marc, Haiti, who are committed to reducing the transmission of tuberculosis in their living environments.  At the outset of the design process, the question arose: how can housing provide a safe, healthy and familiar place where persons living with HIV or AIDS can lead a comfortable and content life while benefiting from the support and care provided by family and a close community?  The approach to the design of the Kay e Sante nan Ayiti housing prototype carefully considers central principles of design and practices of construction that will ultimately support the health and well-being of its occupants.

The impact, tuberculosis has on the existing challenges of the lives of people living with HIV or AIDS gave this project a sense of urgency and pressing purpose. The current situation in St. Marc underscores the essential need for responsible and effective collaboration between members of society who influence the making of the built environment.

The integration of architectural and engineering design ensures a safe and optimal performance of the housing’s structure and living environments in what are exceptionally challenging engineering conditions.  The region is highly seismic and is impacted annually by severe hurricanes.  The design utilises high strength structurally insulated panels and simple strategies of passive environmental design to introduce optimal structural performance with natural light and clean, unobstructed ventilation while maintaining a close link to exterior spaces to help promote social interaction and a familiar sense of community.

Haiti’s current housing needs can be characterised by protracted periods of time between the expired use of emergency tents and the reconstruction of permanent building stock; leaving people in need of a home during this transitional phase.  The design of the Breath House combines the effectiveness and high fabrication tolerances of off-site, prefabrication processes with on-site assembly.

The Breathe House responds to the strong relationship between indoor and outdoor living customs of the Haitian culture. By incorporating a large porch, removable awning and living walls for vertical gardens, the modest square footage of the house takes on an expansive quality. Daily activities flow freely between interior and exterior spaces and the building’s design supports outdoor communal interactions. Close attention has been given to the experience of a person living with HIV or AIDS who may be confined to a bed and have limited physical access to the outdoors; the outward orientation of the bed towards windows placed at an appropriate height ensures a direct view to the central garden.

The Breathe House was designed by Arup and the University of Virginia (UVA) initially as a prototype transitional disaster relief shelter.  When ARCHIVE launched the international competition for the St Marc community UVA invested considerable time and energy into research and development of a solution that would benefit the specific needs of this local community.  The transitional shelter was re-designed to withstand the seismic and wind events experienced in the hills of Bois L’Etat and the interior modified to suit the specific needs of persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Arup staff were involved over a period of two years to help develop the shelter structural design and the surrounding site infrastructure. The engineers collaborated with UVA, ARCHIVE, SIPS of America (the manufacturers of the structural insulated panels) and the local community to refine the design and integrate the required structural and mechanical systems into the shelter.  Arup staff also spent a total of 4 weeks on site excavating and constructing the foundations of the shelter with the community.
How can housing provide a safe, healthy and familiar place where people living with HIV or AIDS can lead a comfortable and content life?
Matthew Bloodworth, Arup, United States



4 July, 2012
Construction Completed

Following shipping of the materials to Haiti, Building Goodness Foundation (BGF), a US NGO based in Haiti went to site in July 2012 to complete the construction process.  Four members of BGF together with Sara Harper of reCOVER were assisted by 10 local carpenters and labourers to complete the construction on site in Haiti.

18 March, 2012
Construction of Foundation

Ewan Smith and Matthew Bloodworth attended site in March 2012 to excavate and construct the foundations.  Using local labour and basic tools (such as a water level) they constructed the 18 reinforced concrete block piers on a sloping site, ready to accommodate the main shelter.

Breath House 

14 February, 2012
Final Meetings with SIPS of America UVA /Arup/Building Goodness Foundation at SIPS Manufacturing Plant North, Carolina
All the major stakeholders attended a final meeting in North Carolina at the SIPS manufacturing plant.  Arup presented the primary aspects of the design and discussed the challenges of the design parameters.  The Breathe house wall was used as the projector screen!
17 May, 2011
Winner of ARCHIVE International Design Competition
The Transitional Disaster Relief Shelter was modified and entered into the international design competition run by ARCHIVE. The shelter design was developed considerably and adapted for the local community needs as well as the climatic conditions (severe seismic and hurricane zones).
11 April, 2010
Project Inception
The Breathe House begins life as a Transitional Disaster Relief Shelter which was designed on the basis of the needs of people in New Orleans, Louisiana in the post hurricane Katrina disaster.  Arup and University of Virginia (UVA) worked closely together to develop the basic timber shelter.Breath_House_800x500
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