MASS Design Group works to demonstrate the ability to improve people’s lives through design, and to be an example for how designers can rethink their role in the world. Shaw Contract Group is partnered with MASS Design Group to create MASS Design Lab (MDLab), a global innovation laboratory uniting design and public health to stymie some of the greatest global health crises of our time.
Everyone should have the right to clean water. In Haiti, however, nonexistent sanitation systems and a lack of safe drinking water have exacerbated a cholera epidemic. According to Dr. Paul Farmer, Haiti’s epidemic is the largest the world has seen in recent history; since 2010, more than 200,000 people have been sickened and more than 7,500 have died. While the numbers are staggering, the tragedy is that cholera is a wholly preventable, treatable disease, solved at a basic level by access to clean water and decent sanitation.
When MASS Design Group was asked to build a new Cholera Treatment Center (CTC) for the Haitian healthcare provider Les Centres GHESKIO in downtown Port-au-Prince, they began researching existing cholera treatment facilities and saw a crisis emerging: the infectious sewage collected from these temporary facilities was often being reintroduced into the water table. They realized that the problem was wastewater recontamination—and that the solution was better buildings.
The Cholera Treatment Center's construction process was designed to maximize local jobs and training opportunities
The MASS team envisioned a new model: a permanent CTC that would support cholera treatment but also serve as a replicable model for cholera prevention. Currently under construction, the GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Center will not only provide a state-of-the-art space for diagnosing, triaging, and treating cholera patients, but will embed infrastructural systems for eliminating cholera transmission at an urban level. An on-site wastewater decontamination system will purify more than 250,000 gallons of sewage a year, ensuring that only clean water will be being released from the facility; and a rainwater catchment system will collect, store, and sanitize water to be used in the building.
In addition to establishing a new precedent for healthcare delivery, MASS’ CTC is setting new standards for quality construction in Haiti. The design incorporates a series of infection control strategies in conjunction with sustainable technologies. The building will be 100% naturally daylit and ventilated for patient comfort, and uses locally-fabricated compressed earth blocks. As in all of MASS’ work, craft development opportunities were strategically integrated the building process as a way to reduce costs and create local jobs. Custom-welded steel trusses were fabricated by Haitian metalworkers in Port-au-Prince, and assembled on-site with local labor. MASS also partnered with the Haitian construction firm YCF to train and employ 20 local construction apprentices, using hands-on building experience as a stepping stone to long term employment.
MASS Design Group is building a replicable model for cholera prevention in Haiti
To date, major structural work on the CTC has been completed, but much remains to be done. MASS sees the project not only as a replicable model for cholera eradication, but as a frame for changing the practice, the purpose, and the expectation of buildings to improve lives. Learn more about the project here, and support MASS’ efforts to build back better.
Tanya Paz joined MASS in 2011 as a Project Manager, leading the New York Community Hospital Renovation and playing an instrumental role in US healthcare work. She now runs MASS’s development and marketing efforts, putting her skills towards helping ensure design reaches the communities who need it most.