USGBC partners with HOK to design Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center

Aerial ©

Marking the two year anniversary of the devastating 7.0 earthquake in , we would like to share with you the important efforts of Project Haiti – a LEED Platinum orphanage and children’s center that is planned to be built in Port au Prince, Haiti. The project is lead by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and their official pro-bono design partner, HOK. Project Haiti not only focuses on the children, but also aims to create a “replicable, resilient model for rebuilding” that may serve as a practical teaching tool for the local community. The USGBC motto states, “Every story about green building is a story about people.”

Currently in the final stages of design, the facility will provide a safe, healthy home for the Haitian children of the non-government, non-denominational Fondation Enfant Jesus orphanage and children’s center as part of the Clinton Global Initiative. It will incorporate renewable energy, water treatment and waste processing strategies.

“Our goal is to create a nurturing and restorative place,” said HOK’s Thomas Knittel, AIA, LEED AP, design leader in the firm’s Seattle studio. “We are striving for net zero water and waste, and for the building to provide a net positive energy source.”

Massing, orientation, openings and materials all take full advantage of passive design principles. Organized around a central courtyard, the main three-story, L-shaped structure faces east to protect the building from prevailing easterly trade winds. It is flanked by kitchen, dining and training spaces and features deep outdoor balconies.

Courtyard © HOK

Strategies of biomimicry reference the local Kapok tree for its branching support system and low emissivity, heat-shedding second skin. These solutions will help HOK create a site specific, responsive solution for the new facility.

Building systems will require minimal maintenance and independence from the unreliable city grid, while the excess energy will be used to power surrounding street lights and provide public charging stations on the street.

A closed-loop waste system will treat waste and provide gas for cooking. Water will be collected, cleaned and stored. A “boundary layer” will protect exterior walkways and vertical surfaces from direct sunlight, while still allowing for daylighting and natural ventilation. Additional green space and a solar energy system can be found on the roof-top gardens. Public, semi-public and private thresholds will provide necessary security and integrate a safe zone in case of a natural disaster. Ironwork, murals, woodwork and other local materials will be used in the design.

The project is more than half way to meeting its $1 million goal. Please visit this site for more information and to donate.

Reference: HOK, USGBC

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "USGBC partners with HOK to design Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center" 12 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Sam

    LEED ratings and biomimicry…exactly the things children care about in their daily existence. Any information on how this place is actually going to cater for the children who will need it?

  • home performance energy auditor

    Congratulations to everyone that made this LEED award happen for the Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center, but especially congratulations to the person who first came up with the idea and pushed it forward. A magnificent achievement.

    Another way to look at the question of going green is to ask yourself, “What it will cost you NOT to build green?”

    Is a zero to five percent premium yielding lower energy and maintenance costs over time worth it?

    Property owners electing to save a little bit of money now by ignoring available green options could be throwing away money for years to come, as well as decreasing the marketability and value of their property for future buyers.


  • Vanessa

    The design of the building doesnt seem to respond to the Children and how they wonder, play and grow. I was hopping it would have been just more of a roof over their heads; disappointed.
    but i mean sure, Great cause, i myself would like to design an orphanage one day. But not with a restricting design.

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