MASS Design Group

It’s easy to get caught up in patient amenities, wall murals, and poppy mid-centry design – but it’s always good to take a step back and look at the philosophy that drives healthcare design in countries with far health fewer resources. The Butaro Hospital, in Butaro Rwanda was designed by MASS Design Group, a group of Harvard Architecture students founded with a little help from Partners in Health, to create “well-built environments using appropriate design, local investment, and innovation to break the cycle of poverty.” They explain:

Our design makes use of local materials – like the volcanic rock from the Virunga Mountain Chain – and labor intensive practices in an effort to deliver appropriate and sustainable design, as well as stimulate the local economy. The design and coordinated construction reduced the cost of this hospital to roughly two thirds of what a hospital of this size would typically cost in Rwanda. The Butaro Hospital brought architects, builders, and doctors directly to a community most in need and addressed global poverty by creating better built, more equitable environments and embedding systems that ensured its long-term, independent sustainability.

The ventilation system depicted below is designed to decrease the spread of airborne illnesses like tuberculosis.

Almost 4,000 local individuals were trained and employed over the course of design and construction. The hospital now serves over 400,000 people.

The members of MASS Design Group clearly have a particular investment in designing and constructing healthcare facilities in developing countries. Their excellent website that features case studies exploring concept and logistics involved in building other new healthcare centers in places like Sudan and Mali. They also developed a great, user friendly, kind of choose-your-own-adventure design framework for building facilities in challenging environments that features helpful tips and facts like “In ideal situations, provide 1 restroom per 12-15 patients. These should be given distance from the beds and placed in between stations” and “Standard Electric blood bank refrigerator: Recommended if the facility has 24 hour supply of electricity off the grid, with an option of a backup generator during outages. Solar powered blood bank refrigerator: Recommended for facilities with limited or no access to national electricity from the grid. Good in regions with sufficient amounts of sunshine year round.”

Additional information about MASS Design Group’s work in Rwanda can be found in an article over on Design with Africa, including this Tedx talk by co-founder Mariska Shioiri-Clark.


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