Photo Courtesy of Brian Twomey

Be Like Brit is a 19,000-sq-ft, two-story orphanage on a four-acre site 30 miles east of Port-Au-Prince. It is named in honor of Britney Gengel, a 20-year-old American college student who died in the 2010 earthquake. Her parents asked the architect to configure the building in the shape of a "B," for "Britney," which created an opportunity for two feature courtyards in the naturally ventilated building. One judge called it an "excellent design that considers the art of the possible in Haiti after the earthquake.

The facility can house 66 orphans, a staff of 12 and as many as 24 visiting missionaries. A medical clinic serves the orphans and surrounding community. The structure uses a confined masonry system common in Haiti, but designed for high seismic loads and built with U.S.-standard concrete-and-masonry designs, testing and curing practices. Design documents were developed in Autodesk Revit, with hard- copy renderings and 3-D isometrics distributed to the field to convey design intent to the builders, some of whom had little or no construction experience.

The team included American designers and craftsmen, working pro bono, and local tradesmen, who were paid. Most construction was executed by Haitians to transfer skills to local people and bolster the economy. Blocks were made at a nearby block manufacturing facility coached to use upgraded mix designs and curing procedures to improve product quality. The second floor slab was mixed on site and placed in 10 lifts over the course of two weeks by bucket brigade and wheelbarrow. Crews cast the roof concrete using one of the country’s two concrete pump trucks. The two-year project was completed last December. “Building in Haiti is tough when all is well,” noted one judge, impressed by the success of the post-earthquake project. “This project was an enormous undertaking,” he said.

Location Grand Grove, Haiti

Project Team

Owner Be Like Brit, Rutland, Mass.

Architect Paul E. Fallon, Architect, Cambridge, Mass.

General Contractor/Construction Manager Be Like Brit, Rutland, Mass.

Engineers Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Waltham, Mass.