BUTERA DISTRICT — Design, when done purposefully, serves as a foundational pillar for a community it choses to involve itself with. Lead by architect Michael Murphy, the MASS Design Group aspires to re-create a much more positive image for the design industry as a whole. This is done mainly by taking human condition into consideration prior to the process of planning.
This technique allows for the formation of ideas to derive from issues in which the designer has pinpointed a given location. The structure functions to take only the necessary resources it needs from its geographical location, and produce a much higher percentage of positive return for its occupants in the form of social, economical and environmental aspects.
In this case, human centered design has been the driving factor in uniting the Butera District, located in the Northern part of Rwanda.
Murphy’s vision is propelled by the principle that, “architecture is never neutral. It either heals or hurts. Our mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.” The Butaro District Hospital in particular received the support of the Rwandan Ministry of Health, underlining the fact that human-centered design is planned to become a part of everyday life in the future of Rwanda.
The Butaro Hospital
From its initial launch date, “The Butaro Hospital project employed 4,000 local people” and provided positions which required the application of trained labor practices. According to the African Design Centre, “by 2050, the population of Africa will double its current 1.216 billion. To meet the perceived demands, 85,000 clinics, 310,000 primary schools and over 700 million housing units will have to be built.”
The predicted values sets forth a chance to produce job-training and placement programs, both of which will foster a prosperous future Rwandan generations. The African Design Centre holds the ideals of, “operating as a hub for innovation, research, and policy surrounding the environment” at its root.
The Butaro Hospital aligned itself with the concept of producing works of architecture that were built to heal. In his book, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design, architect and author Jason F. McLennan talks about his belief system in the field of design.
McLennan declates, “Buildings have far reaching impacts on human well-being and on organizational effectiveness. Think of buildings as an employee benefit – one that contributes significantly to health, well-being, and organizational attachment.”
Every patient receives equal attention — which immediately instilled a sense of comfort. This tone is possible by providing each patient with a window and a view of the North Rwandan landscape. The hospital has access to serene views for both its patient’s and employees; thus, the health building is a calm and orderly place. The use of white wall paint supplements the large windows throughout the hospital.
The ecosystem surrounding the hospital plays a major role in the functionality of The Butaro Hospital. Lead by MASS Master Gardener Jean-Baptiste Maniragaba, the MASS Design Group “increased vegetation and patient views to gardens. This had a direct effect on stress reduction, pain reception and employee retention.” Understanding the setting in which work is being done is a large and critical part of the design group’s ideals.
Conceding with this path, the team “planted trees and shrubs to help stabilize the steep hillside; minimized hard scraped areas, favored semipermeable products to prevent the formation of pools of water, which can serve as breeding sites for water-borne diseases.” The careful planting project also employed locals to learn new skills and to receive monetary benefits for their efforts towards the goal of the MASS Design Group’s human centered design perspective.
Natural Cross Ventilation
A benefit that arises out of the installment of windows is a phenomena known as natural cross ventilation. The process consists of “using natural forces to drive airflow through a space.” This system eliminates the building’s dependency on an artificial air conditioning system, which simply recycles the air already present inside a room. Instead, by pursuing natural cross ventilation “the negative pressure difference caused by the predominant airflow is cancelled out and the warm air is sucked out of a high-level opening; aided by the air buoyancy effect resulting from an upwards rising radiant heat.”
The placement of windows on opposite sides of the rooms throughout the building enables a constant flow of air that is made possible by the elevated setting of the hospital.
As a result of the indicated factors, natural cross ventilation “ensures an improvement of indoor air quality and reduces energy consumption while maximizing the thermal comfort for the occupants using the space.” The importance of clean air within the Butaro Hospital must be emphasized. Research done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows lower respiratory infections to be the leading cause of death in Rwanda.
As reported by Medical Microbiology, the chapter on infections of the respiratory system indicate bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia to be “community acquired diseases.” The examination of this concern provided the people of the Butera District with a hospital that healed its patients instead of worsening their symptoms.
The construction of The Butaro Hospital has made considerable contributions to the community. It promotes a healthier population, creates room for future domestic job growth and revives the inclusivity of the African nation. Human-centered design once again unites the Butera District and encourages for a self-driven future for the nation.
Following this ethos, Rwanda will find its way out of poverty as a whole by setting an example for future generations. With the help of non-profit organizations such as the MASS Design Group, “buildings and the industry that erects them will serve to target social injustices, as they are critical levers on improving the communities they serve.”
– Efe Ulucay