Albany Architects Keep Seeds Safe in Haiti

 How to prevent spoilage? Our minds usually jump to refrigeration, but what if electricity is not available or reliable? Albany architects use their green building expertise to solve this conundrum and help Haitians preserve seeds for high-yield crops.


Be Cool, Seeds

Haiti can be pretty hot and humid. While this might sound appealing for island life, it’s not ideal for storing seeds—and most important are those seeds. The seed we are referring to are peanut and rice. This seed storage project is part of a larger effort to develop more high-yield, high-protein crops for Haitians and to help reduce their reliance on international aid. This work is made possible by the  iF Foundation.

David Doherty, friend and mentor, currently works with the iF Foundation to experimentally raise high-yield and high-protein crops. The seeds and seedlings are distributed to local farmers along with education and tools that perpetuate local, sustainable agriculture.

So, if you were literally banking next years meals, you’d want that bank to be designed right. So what’s a green architect to do? Start with site analysis of course! Identify features that we can work with, such as gravity, sun, shading, plants, air pressure. Sounds simplistic? Well, that’s where the elegance of the solution shines. When you have little to work with, it really brings out the creativity in people and the project.

Day 2. Team reviews the new plan of action.


Green Building Design

The main goal here was to keep the rice and peanut seed, which are stored in metal shipping containers, cool and prevent spoilage. The key design approach was to create shade and air movement. The shade was accomplished by designing an open-sided steel structure with a pavilion-style, tiered roof. The open, yet overlapping tiers allowed air hot air to escape. Planted walls will help further cool the surroundings and increase the temperature differential from the ground below to the hot roof above (temperature and pressure differential), further generating air flow.

Albany architect in Haiti oversees construction of seed storage pavilion

Day 3. A section of welded 2 x 4 for the frame has been painted and is being inspected.


Albany Architects go Back to the Drawing Board

If you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see we successfully build the see storage pavilion! But before that point, our engineering and design mettle was tested. We hit several of the proverbial “bumps in the road”, which were more akin to the sinkhole on North Lake Ave. in Albany, earlier this year. Without giving you the blow-by-blow, let’s say that 6 months of design preparation had to be thrown out when we arrived in Haiti.

Here are a couple of the big bumps:

  1. Bolts no more. The promised “metal shop” only had 2-hand held power drills to make holes for the 3600 bolted connections, which would have required 750 hours (or 31 days of 24/7 drilling). Did I mention the bits became dull after 48 holes, then unusable, and both of the drills burnt out? So no bolted connections. –>Okay, welding it is.
  2. Right size steel? No. The design called for 4×4 steel tubes, ¼” thick. However, only 2×4 tubes were delivered, which were only 1/16” thick. –> We decided to weld together 2×4 tubes in order to fabricate 4×4 tubes. Extra welded supports were also required.

After we scrapped the entire design, half the team broke away to work on re-design while the other half continued preparation work on the ground. What was important in this project is that no one on the team gave up. After a few groans, everyone faced the new reality and got busy meeting the new challenge. We only had 1 week onsite to finish this project, and I am so proud of what our team (from the US and Haiti) was able to accomplish!


Albany architects designed seed storage pavilion in Haiti- shown under construction

Day 6. The pavilion starts to take shape.


The Lean and Green Team

LEAP Architecture certainly didn’t do this project alone. Our brilliant team made this project possible, overcoming obstacles large and small, with humor, grace and limited resources. A huge thanks to the iF Foundation for providing the funding.

Our Extraordinary Project team:

iF Foundation (Funders of the agricultural campus and programs)
David Doherty, Vice Chairman
Edlyne Cange, Country Director
Architecture by Eric Davenport, Founder LEAP Architecture
Engineering: by ENGinE, Widener University Students:
Cameron Connors, Nichole Dantoni, Alfred Hew, Hannah Landvater, Tori Remondelli,
Soils Engineer and Hands on Deck: Zamir Libohova
Construction Site Super: Magnus Regis, iF Foundation

LEAP designed a seed storage pavilion that required no moving parts

Day 7. The pavilion structure is complete. The plantings for additional shade around the perimeter are not in yet (as of the taking of this picture).

This project was completed in February 2016. To read about LEAP’s Albany Architects & their adventures, see out new effort for designing a school in Haiti. Click here.

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.