Solar-powered dormitory houses medical staff in African village

Solar-powered housing by Louise Braverman accommodates medical staff in an African village

Solar panels provide all the energy needed to power this colourful brick dormitory designed by architect Louise Braverman to house medical staff at a rural village in Burundi, Africa (+ slideshow).

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman

The Village Health Works Staff Housing accommodates an 18-bed dormitory for the healthcare workers of a medical centre in the 16-hectare village of Kigutu. It was designed by New York-based Louise Braverman as part of a wider masterplan for the area.

The building was constructed from locally produced bricks, interspersed with a mixture of timber cladding and brightly coloured panels.

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman

One of the requirements was for a building with a self-sufficient power supply, as the village has no electricity connection. As a result, the block generates its own solar-powered electricity and is partially embedded in a hillside to use the earth as a natural insulator.

On the hillside to the rear of the building, a row of solar panels heat tanks that provide the building with its only hot water supply.

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman

Braverman hopes the building will become a model for sustainable development in the region. "Sustainability is not an added benefit in Kigutu. It is a necessity," she said.

Other sustainable initiatives include a corrugated roof that offers sun shading across a walkway at the front of the block, while french drains –  a type of trench filled with gravel – channel rainwater away from the roof to irrigate the land.

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman

Bedrooms are arranged two by two, with a row of rooms at the lowest level of the site and a further row situated higher up the slope. Every room has windows on three of its walls, channelling air through the spaces.

Stairwells cut between each duplex are painted vivid colours, contrasting with the light coloured brickwork. The steps lead to balconies that offer residents view of the mountainous terrain.

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman

"The porosity of the porches encourages sociability, enhances airflow into the adjacent sleeping rooms, and frames unobstructed romantic transverse views of the landscape," added Braverman.

The building angles out at one end to also create a communal living area and kitchen for the residents.

Photography is by Iwan Baan.


Project credits:

Design principal: Louise Braverman
Design team: John Gillham, Jing Liu
Structural engineer: Liam O'Hanlon Engineering
Plumbing engineer: Plus Group Consulting Engineers
Construction management: Curtis Bertrand, Roy Greenwald, Matt Krupanski, Astere Niyonkuru
Global procurement: Gam Kagan

Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman
Site plan – click for larger image
Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman
First floor plan – click for larger image
Village Health Housing in Birundi Africa by Louise Braverman
Bedroom ventilation concept – click for larger image