Off the Grid in Port-au-Prince

LS3P was recently offered the amazing opportunity to serve as part of an educational project team in Port au Prince, Haiti. Our friends at Stewart, a design, engineering, and planning firm with ties to many international projects, masterplanned the Quisqueya Christian School  (QCS) preK-12 campus and invited LS3P to participate in the programming and schematic design of a new Sports Hall, Administration Building, and Chapel/Auditorium. These facilities are part of the first phase of master plan implementation.

Working in Haiti comes with some unique challenges, and some very interesting design opportunities. The startling lack of resources is visible throughout Port-Au-Prince, which has not yet recovered from the devastating 2011 earthquake.  Infrastructure is minimal, as are reliable utility services; for this reason, the campus is designed to be entirely off-grid.

Haiti’s climate (most notably the strong seismic and high wind potential) drove a number of schematic design decisions, including planning for safe, resilient covered parking structures and avoiding materials such as wood gymnasium flooring which might warp with temperature fluctuations and humidity. Local construction methods and materials are very different from those in Raleigh, NC; when the project reaches the design development phase, the team will move forward with a local architect familiar with Haiti’s typical design details and construction techniques. The team will have to plan carefully for any items which will come from out-of-country. Materials such as 1” rebar are hard to source locally, and many materials which are easily accessible in the US will be long-lead items in Haiti.

Despite these challenges, the QCS campus has fantastic potential. The generally mild climate allows us to take advantage of flexible outdoor spaces, such as courtyards outside the cafeteria for dining and rooftop gathering spaces overlooking the athletic fields. The schematic design incorporates shade wherever possible with roof overhangs and colonnades, and we’re preserving the beautiful mahogany trees and other lush campus vegetation which are a treasured part of the school grounds. QCS also has a thriving athletics program with basketball, soccer, volleyball, and table-tennis facilities suited for both intramural and league play. These facilities are in high demand in the community, and provide a significant asset to the school in terms of revenue generation.

Now that the schematic design is complete, the project has reached the fundraising phase. The school accommodates just over 300 students today, but new facilities could expand capacity to 400. We’ve planned for the new facilities to be flexible, efficient, and welcoming, with the new chapel anchoring the prominent campus entry and helping to reinforce campus identity. We look forward to seeing this project move into the design and construction phase!

About Chris

Chris Roberts, LS3P Principal, joined LS3P in 2003 and currently serves as Operations & Finance Manager in the Raleigh office. With a strong background in public facility design, Chris’s portfolio reflects extensive experience in the programming, planning, and design of higher education learning environments. His notable recent projects include Wolf Ridge Student Housing and Dining at NC State University, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and the UNC-G Nursing and Instructional Building. Chris is also active in community and professional outreach, and served as President of AIA Triangle in 2014.