- Design Team:John Gillham, Jing Liu
- Structural Engineer:Liam O’Hanlon Engineering, PC
- Plumbing Engineer:Plus Group Consulting Engineers
- Construction Management:Curtis Bertrand, Roy Greenwald, Matt Krupanski, Astere Niyonkuru
- Global Procurement:Gam Kagan
Text description provided by the architects. Embedded in hillside rural village of Kigutu, the 18-bed Kigutu Staff Housing connects East African elemental aesthetics with inventive off-the grid sustainability. Cutting a skewed line in the hillside, the 6000 square foot dormitory captures magnificent mountain views. Currently rebuilding after many years of horrific civil strife, the villagers, in conjunction with an indigenous non-profit, hope that this housing for their medical staff will create a model for the sustainable future of both the community and the country.
The oversized porch doors in the public space seamlessly connect inside and out, reflecting the typical Kigutu indoor/outdoor communal culture. Similarly the vividly colored entry porches adjacent to each private sleeping room reinforce this semi-permeable sensibility. The porosity of the porches encourages sociability, enhances airflow into the adjacent sleeping rooms, and frames unobstructed romantic transverse views of the landscape.
The necessity for Sustainability
Sustainability is not an added benefit in Kigutu. It is a necessity. Hence, the same elemental design strategies that establish its aesthetics must also advance energy saving. Since the village is 100% off the municipal grid, a nearby solar array and local solar water heaters, sited in the rear of the building, exclusively power the housing.
The location of the building, partially below grade, both reduced excavation costs and takes advantage of the earth’s natural insulation for temperature control. Likewise, the extended roof overhangs provide solar protection to optimize the use of natural daylight, while French drains distribute runoff rainwater for irrigation. The personal porches also create three-sided natural ventilation within the bedrooms, eliminating the need for air conditioning. The position of the windows within these rooms, in both low and high locations, also creates a natural stack effect that amplifies airflow. Yet the greatest accomplishment is the human accomplishment.
The villagers, using local bricks, manually built the housing, eliminating the need for fuel consuming machines and creating transferrable job training skills for the Kigutu community.