Photo courtesy Dept. of State
The project team faced extreme challenges building an embassy in Africa.

Lacking reliable infrastructure, nearby suppliers and skilled workers, the project team building a $135.8-million U.S. embassy in war-torn Liberia faced an uphill battle. Thoughtful planning and execution allowed the sub-Saharan project to finish in 29 months with only one lost-time accident while qualifying for LEED Gold certification.

The general contractor brought in laborers from around the world to help train local staff, many of whom had little or no experience with modern construction methods—few had even put on a pair of shoes.

The team hired a local Liberian to manage the safety and health program and held monthly contests with the workers. Each winner would receive a 50-kg bag of rice, enough to feed a family for a month.

Prior to construction, which started in 2009 and ended in 2011, crews had to install diesel generators, running water and other systems to supply the site. A ship carrying 1,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel sank before it arrived at the Port of Monrovia, forcing engineers to find a new supplier. The site preparation also required extensive rock removal, leading to the country's first-ever blasting permit issued to a private contractor.

"The challenges were immense," affirms one judge.

Location: Monrovia, Liberia

Project Team

Owner U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Ops., Arlington, Va.

Design Architect RTKL Associates

Architect of Record PageSoutherlandPage LLP, Arlington

General Contractor B.L. Harbert International LLC, Birmingham, Ala.

Structural Engineer Ehlert/Bryan Inc., McLean, Va.

MEP Engineer H&A Architects & Engineers, Glen Allen, Va.

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