Teaching Hospital Liberia

We were delighted to be asked by Medical Architecture to work on this teaching hospital outside Harper, near the East end of the country, for Partners in Health – a Boston based NGO.  A major constraint was the lack of a recognisable construction industry in the ebola-ravaged country, but we needed structural steel to make it work.

So we went on a mission to neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire where we were able to source the skills and materials needed, though the road between the border river crossing and the site was an unmetalled track which needed work before it could be traversed by lorries.

Bob Wills, the project Architect, gave us a completely free hand in designing the roof structure and shape.  We came up with a kit of parts which could be transported in 20-foot sea containers.  A very large eaves and gable overhang provides solar and rain shadow protecting the walls; the roof structure is a uniform 600 deep 3D truss, creating a plenum between the eaves and the ridge.

The steady breeze creates a negative pressure at the ridge line which draws air through the plenum; the solar gain on the outer roof sheeting thus has a reduced effect on the interior.  This idea was trialled by Medicines sans Frontieres at their hospital in the capital city, Monrovia, where one of two identical ward buildings was refurbished; a temperature difference of up to 8° was recorded between the two wards, confirming that the passive ventilation design was effective.

One of the biggest running costs is diesel fuel for the essential stand-alone generators.  The municipal supply is not adequately regulated and is inclined to wreck A/C units, as we found when sitting in the departure lounge in Monrovia.  Our design meant that the spaces that needed A/C could be reduced to the operating and recovery rooms, which massively reduced the running costs.

Sadly the hospital hasn’t been built yet because funding for the teaching component, which generates the business revenue necessary for the venture to work, wasn’t the Government’s highest priority at the time so the start has been postponed.

Andy’s flying roof’.  It provides shelter and shade in the main circulation area

The initial site visit was extraordinary.  This is Black Mamba territory (we spotted one of them as we arrived), and the local flight was memorable!’