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.
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 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:
- 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.
- 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!
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
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.