Best Project, Government Building: New U.S. Embassy Compound in Harare, Zimbabwe
New U.S. Embassy Compound
Owner U.S. Dept. of State—Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations
Design Firm Page
Contractor BL Harbert International
Civil Engineer AST Cowen Design Group LLC
Structural Engineer Ehlert Bryan Inc.
MEP Engineer Mason & Hanger (formerly Hankins & Anderson)
In November 2017, the construction team building a U.S. embassy campus in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, was more than a year into its contract when a crisis broke out. Elements of Zimbabwe’s military had launched a coup that resulted in the resignation of the country’s longtime president, Robert Mugabe, and also led to what project contractor BL Harbert International calls “a total financial crash.”
The project team worked to ensure that its multinational workforce was safe and well. And in the midst of the turmoil, it pushed ahead and became what BL Harbert calls an “engine” for the national economy—meeting the project’s payroll, paying its vendors and bringing in food from South Africa for its workers. According to BL Harbert, the team “focused on how to be solutions-oriented.” It finished the project last October on time and on budget and with low injury rates. One Best Projects judge wrote, “Impressive teamwork to complete the project in an extremely difficult environment.”
Paying it forward, BL Harbert built and paid for a school and gym for local children; team members funded a soccer league for students and set up a Lego league.
The $292-million project sits on a 16.5-acre site. The campus totals 200,650 sq ft, including a new chancery, utilities building, residence for U.S. Marine security guards and other facilities.
Care was taken to ensure that the new campus reflects its setting. It uses local brick and stone and keeps the site’s original topography and plantings “to the extent possible,” the project’s contractor says.