Albany Architect’s Philanthropic Work in Haiti

LEAP Architecture was founded in part for Eric Davenport’s Philanthropic efforts in Haiti dating back to 2003. This Albany Architect has continued to stay involved over the years, and last week he traveled back to Haiti to survey the latest project; the design and cost of a new school.


Albany Architect Goes Back to School

Eric Davenport (LEAP Architecture’s Founder, Albany, NY) returned earlier this week from a 3-day, world-wind trip to Haiti. The mission? Assess, discuss and come up with a design to replace the existing school (shown below). The current school isn’t much more than “sticks and metal”. The shed that you keep your lawnmower in probably has better construction and security. Beyond the structural shortcomings, one of the main issues is that the school floods every time it rains. Another big issue is accommodation. The school isn’t big enough for all the students.

The new school needs to be larger, flood-proof, and also address food service, sanitation and security. So what’s a green architect to do?



Albany Architect's latest project is designing a new school in Haiti, current school facility is made of large sticks.


The Real Green Architecture

One of the biggest challenges of designing structures in Haiti are the number of constraints. There are limited resources, both in the actual construction of the building and also when it goes into “operation”. Electricity is intermittent and usually provided by a generator. Power tools ran out of battery? Well, let’s see if we can charge them or if we have to wait.

Most building materials need to be imported and there isn’t a Home Depot around the corner. If you’ve done any home renovation projects, you make at least 3 trips (in the same day) back to the box-store because you bought the wrong size screws or didn’t get enough 2 x 4s. In Haiti, that’s not an option.

Here in the US, we enjoy pretty darn reliable electricity, indoor plumbing, and clean water—all of which we probably take for granted. Most of the buildings LEAP Architecture is designing do not have the “luxury” of electricity, which puts our green building design brains into overdrive and where it gets really interesting.

How do you  make a school comfortable and provide enough light for students and teachers when there is no electricity?

Use what you do have, gravity, sun, shading, and air currents, a.k.a. do a site analysis. For site analysis LEAP maps sun paths, wind patterns, vegetation, and topography. We do this for all of our designs (so if you need an Albany Architect)…but in Haiti it’s especially important because that’s really all we have to work with.

Next post we will delve into some of the design specifics for the green school, such as how we ensure ample natural lighting and ventilation. In the meantime, if you are interested in green architecture, read up on our series of posts for Passive House Design.