Village Health Works Staff Housing

Architect: Louise Braverman, FAIA

Location: Burundi

Category Two: Up to $1,500,000 in construction cost

The rural Burundian village of Kigutu hopes that this 100 percent off-the-grid housing for medical staff will be a small gesture that will generate enormous impact for the sustainable future of both the community and the country.

Embedded in the mountainside of the rural village of Kigutu, the 18-bed Village Health Works Staff Housing is a romance between East African elemental aesthetics and inventive off-the grid sustainability. Cutting a skewed line in the terrain, the 6,000-square-foot dormitory captures breathtaking mountain views. Currently rebuilding after many years of horrific civil strife, the villagers hope that this housing will create a model for the sustainable future of both the community and the country.

To encourage the Kigutu outdoor communal culture, the oversized 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.

"The elegant yet exuberant structure pays attention to the occupants’ needs by creating a connection between indoor/outdoor space and between the building, the sites, and the views." ~ Jury comment

The same elemental design moves that establish its aesthetics also advance its sustainability. Since Kiigutu is 100 percent 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 create three-sided natural ventilation within the bedrooms. The location of the window openings also creates a natural stack effect that amplifies the airflow.

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 local bricks, manually built the housing, eliminating the need for fuel consuming machines and creating transferrable job training skills for members of the entire Kigutu community.

Additional information

Structural Engineer: RSE Associates, Inc.

Plumbing Engineer: Plus Group Consulting Engineers

Global Procurement: Gam Kagan

Construction Management: Curtis Bertrand, Roy Greenwald, Matt Krupanski, Astere Niyonkuru

Photographer: Iwan Baan


2016 Small Projects Awards Jury

Marika Snider, AIA (Chair), Snider Architecture, Beavercreek, Ohio

Will Bruder, FAIA, Will Bruder Architects, Phoenix

Mira Locher, FAIA, Kajika Architecture PLLC, Salt Lake City

Elizabeth Ranieri, FAIA, Kuth Ranieri, San Francisco

Jonathan Tate, Office Jonathan Tate, New Orleans

Image credits

VHW Staff Housing 1

Iwan Baan

VHW Staff Housing 2

Iwan Baan

VHW Staff Housing 3

Iwan Baan