This article is a news story written for BrightView.
Haitian citizens will little forget the devastating, magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck the island Jan. 12, 2010, killing more than 300,000 people, injuring another 300,000 and displacing 1.3 million, including children in an orphanage that was destroyed in Port-au-Prince.
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Shortly after the disaster, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) assembled a design team and conceptualized a new orphanage in the capital city, which will also be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified.
The entire plan, called Project Haiti, is being led by the USGBC, which is how BrightView got involved.
BrightView’s Enterprise Sales Team was in talks with Transwestern to potentially become a provider for maintenance, as well as future design and build projects, which led to a phone call between Allan Skodowski, Managing Senior Vice President and Director of LEED and Sustainability Services at Transwestern, and Kurt Buxton, Vice President of BrightView Design Group.
“(Skodowski) had this pet project in Haiti that he was working on,” Buxton said. “By chatting with him, he said he had a favor to ask and that they needed a landscape architect for the job. I said we were interested and would love to help them out.”
The planned 6,000-square-foot building in the Delmas District will feature landscape architecture designs from BrightView and is anticipated to feature papaya trees, roughly 600 square feet of vertical wetlands, a bamboo grove, rooftop garden, raised vegetable garden and a unique tile-mosaic play structure modeled after the Rhinoceros Iguana, a species native to the island.
Since the building is being designed and built to LEED standards, it will be resource efficient, creating a healthier place with “reduced stress” on the environment, according to LEED.
The building itself is planned to have training and office space and will also have a safe space to protect children from hurricanes. It also will feature a ground-level safe zone for any future earthquakes.
“It’s a place of refuge, so it goes beyond just an orphanage,” Buxton said. “It’s sustainable for three days independently in terms of water and sewer. You can’t tie in traditionally to the sewer and flush a toilet, so we’re treating it on site. When there’s a storm, the storm pipes in the street fill up and knock the manhole covers off. If we connected to that, it would actually fill the site up with water. We have to retain the water onsite and infiltrate it into the ground.”
With these unique needs for the site, the design team did run into a few challenges along the way.
“The biggest challenge was trying to figure out what to do with the stormwater because it’s below the street as well as below the properties around it, so the site doesn’t drain,” Buxton said. “We had to get creative with how to drain it. We also had to learn what was feasible in Haiti because we’re trying to limit bringing stuff from out of the country. We actually flew over with the USGBC and met with local suppliers to try and make sure the design was something that could be implemented as much as possible (with) local resources.”
Working on Project Haiti has given BrightView’s Design Group the chance to go global, thanks in part to the USGBC, and to allow the company to thoughtfully contribute to a country still in need of assistance from the devastation six years ago.
The new orphanage will be named The William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center in honor of the William J. Clinton Foundation for its assistance immediately following the earthquake and will be run by the Foundation Enfant Jesus, which ran the original orphanage.
The center’s mission is not only to provide health and emotional needs and a pathway to adoption for orphaned children, but also to create programs to consolidate communities, uses education to give families more support and provides the community skills training and job assistance.
“Being BrightView has given us the opportunity to do this,” Buxton said. “If we were a smaller design firm, it economically wouldn’t be feasible for us. Having the opportunity to travel to somewhere I’ve never been and really see firsthand what’s going on was really interesting and intriguing and gets you excited about doing these things. It’s a good opportunity for our team to take care of a community far away.”
Project Haiti is currently under construction.