Archive | April, 2013

For Innovative Sustainable Design Projects in Low-Resourced Communities Local Assets Are the Real Added- Value

16 Apr

By Anasa Scott

My deepest condolences to all those impacted by yesterday’s horrific event in Boston and to people around the world who face these atrocities every day. The following post is meant to celebrate some of the good happening on our planet, and some of the special people leading these good efforts…

To celebrate Earth Month I want to highlight the work of some of my sustainable design heroes.

Diebedo Francis Kere

I first encountered the work of Architect Diebedo Francis Kere at a Columbia University Event on ecology, urban planning and design. Kere presented his school design project for a village in his homeland of Burkina Faso. On a less than shoe string budget he and the local villagers designed and built this incredible award winning school building. Villagers were engaged throughout the design process and everyone from children to the very elderly and infirm played an integral role in the project.


(Photo: Special design features includes an aerated roof system that keeps the classrooms 100F plus temperatures outside. Kere won an award for his passive ventilation system on the secondary school he built in this village.)

During the most labor intensive phases of the project including pounding the floor from mud to silky, luminous polish required a singer and drummer to keep spirits up and hands in motion.


(Photo: synchronized floor masonry; check out the drummer towards the bottom of the photo.)

A Sustainable and low- impact, low-cost construction endeavor by necessity, the local red clay was a primary building material, commonly found and used in the same way throughout the African continent. And because they have an intimate knowledge of building and systems, the the local villagers can manage the repairs and up keep independently. This project has inspired many others including a building for housing the teachers, a secondary school and women’s center. The local officials (not usually seen as an agent of change) stepped up to the plate, seeing the value in the project and investing in the salaries for teachers and other supplies, while supporting efforts at the other facilities. Kere describes his partnership with the village stakeholders on his website.


I recently came across Kere’s lecture at Harvard School of Design, and photos and design schematics exhibited at MoMA.


A Kere Approach in Harlem? 

I am currently consulting on a large scale building rehabilitation project in Northern Manhattan (40 tenement buildings, 400 apartments) for a non profit housing developer, my client has been contracted on the design and program implementation of the resident services facilities.  And while there is a great effort to engage residents and to ensure communal and green space, it would be great to employ more of Kere’s process  here however city, federal regulations can be quite prohibitive. Over the next few months however, we are presenting some ideas that would provide a bit more latitude. Stay tuned. ##