Uganda’s award-winning African medical facility

by Ofentse Sefolo
Uganda’s award-winning African medical facility

With the introduction of free universal healthcare in 2001, Uganda realised the difficulties associated with providing facilities for more rural populations.

Architects such as Kliment Halsband from New York are trying to improve this situation with the completion of Mount Sinai Kyabirwa Surgical Facility in rural Uganda.

This self-sufficient facility, topped with solar panels, is a prototype for a stand-alone outpatient surgery centre, providing life-saving treatments in underserved rural parts of the globe. Local labourers built the health facility using materials sourced from the area, including the red bricks that form the perforated screen walls that allow for natural ventilation.

Design award
The winning design of the 2020 AIA Healthcare Design Award, was described by the jury as a building that is friendly and elegant. They praised its simplicity and use of local materials, such as the glazed masonry blocks. With the design for the first of these self-sustaining facilities taking inspiration from the surrounding banana plants, the 2020 AIA Healthcare Design Awards jury was looking for functional and sustainable projects that contribute to solving aesthetic, urban and social issues.

Renewable and sustainable
Solar panels stand on a steel framework on the concrete roof, which is in turn supported by another steel frame on the ground. According to the design studio they thought of solar panels as leaves of banana plants gathering sun and providing shade.

The solar array both shelters and powers the simple modular brick facility beneath. Hybrid battery storage systems and an on-site generator help to supplement the intermittent power available through the electricity grid. If the main power fails, Mount Sinai Kyabirwa Surgical Facility can run off energy stored from the solar panels for two days.

Gravity tanks store water from the well and the town supply, with a system that filters and sterilises it on demand. Roof water is collected and stored to flush toilets and water the vegetable garden, which provides food for the patients and staff. An incinerator is used for medical waste, with sewage taken care of by an on-site septic tank.

Open and inviting
A reception pavilion and a courtyard waiting area for patients’ families, together with an intermediate pavilion for pre-operative and post-operative activities, and a sterile pavilion with two operating rooms and related support spaces make up the three functional components of the facility. Air-conditioning is used for the operating rooms, to keep them sealed and sterile. The rest of Mount Sinai Kyabirwa Surgical Facility is ventilated naturally, with air flow channelled by the undulating canopy and the perforated brick walls.

Modern amenities
With 20 miles of underground fibre-optic cables installed to ensure the facility has reliable Internet, medical professionals from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York can assist their counterparts in Uganda with live surgical consultations and video conference calls while operating in real time.

Inspiring example
Together with the ingenuity of its design and practical application within a rural setting, the facility in Kyabirwa near the equator provides access to surgical treatments and procedures that were not available to this community before. Using this self-sufficient facility as a model for upliftment as well as training for nurses and surgeons in high-quality surgical care, will ensure that people in rural regions are provided with future high-quality healthcare.

  • Key facts
    Brand: Architecture
    Practice: Kliment Halsband Architects
    Project category: Healthcare sustainable buildings
    Location: Uganda
    News category: Design winner

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to https://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/ for the information contained in the editorial.

Images: Dezeen

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