The Project

St Antoinne Port au Prince Haiti

We're working with one of Haiti's largest educators of women to build a sustainable school of the future. It's designed with the community, is eco friendly, comfortable, disaster-resilient, and replicable all over urban Haiti. This is our story (to view it as a beautiful ebook, click here)... 


Before Haiti's devastating earthquake in 2010, the site accommodated a primary school for 600 girls and an evening school for 150 girls. The complex also hosted cookery classes for around 50 young adults, Sunday play and catechism for around 400 local children, national education conferences and other community meetings.

Most site facilities were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Moreover, a destroyed school nearby was forbidden from rebuilding on its original site. So, the school managers, the Cluny Sisters, have moved it to our site, Centre Rosalie Javouhey. The new plan for Centre Rosalie Javouhey must therefore increase the site’s capacity to accommodate nearly twice as many students as before the disaster.

Site impact post-earthquake and tent classroom

At present, school admissions are partially suspended, as there are not enough classrooms, toilets, kitchen facilities, or play spaces to accommodate the demand. There is no clean drinking water, and the prevalence of low-capacity temporary buildings (1 of which we deem to be unsafe - see files), means the playground is cramped.

Our objective, therefore, is to produce a phased plan for permanent reconstruction that allows students to stay in school. This plan must deliver essential facilities as quickly as possible, and ensure that all phases of construction fit into a sustainable and integrated vision for the future. The finished complex will be maximally energy-and-water-independent, passive, and accommodate 1,250 students.


As planning facilitators, we believe that lasting, sustainable and fair disaster recovery can only happen if all community members feel represented and satisfied that the proposals are fair. To ensure that our plans did this, we sought information from as many representatives of each group as possible, including their humanitarian and educational needs, preferences, tastes, and fears, ambitions for the future, understanding of other stakeholders’ needs and resources, feedback on our 6 principles, and confirmation that proposals for construction were representative.

TD Consultation and Modeling

This initial consultation resulted in the production of a set of design criteria and accomodation list:

  • Additional classrooms – sisters can host 24 class groups at any 1 time
  • Additional educational facilities (e.g. library, science lab, computer room)
  • Livelihoods training facilities – flexible space and kitchen space for a cookery school
  • Unintimidating, safe buildings
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Improved access to clean water and power
  • More toilets and washing facilities with water-saving features
  • Community gathering space
  • Kitchen, food store and canteen facilities
  • Infirmary
  • Diverse shaded spaces for play and meetings
  • Nature and garden classrooms that grow food in particular
  • Storm shelter
  • Space for safe earthquake evacuation
  • A site masterplan

The complex will be passive, sustainable and high-capacity. It will greatly increase local access to education and community space; local people will learn better planning and construction techniques during the project development; and it will be a much-needed model for low cost, environmentally efficient and high-capacity school construction that can be replicated elsewhere in urban Haiti.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Site Strategy


To develop a safe and feasible design in accordance with our principles, we gathered all the technical information we could from local experts, using our volunteers’ skills and with the help of other organisations in Haiti. This included:

  • Surveying the site and documenting the changes at each visit (with additional visits from Basic Initiative and Article 25)
  • Understanding the water, gas and electricity supply lines and maintenance costs, and the quantities of each a service required on site when running at full density
    Testing the bearing capacity of the soil (with thanks to Regan Potangaroa, Red Cross and their Scala Pentrometer!)
    Shear vain testing the soil
  • Testing the soil drainage properties (with thanks to Basic Initiative)
  • Studying the local construction techniques, materials available on the market, and their value for money (much special help from ‘Boss William’, Ben Hedde and Bruce Shaw Quantity Surveyors)

Cross-Checking and Connecting
The Thinking Development project came about because of the apparent lack of knowledge-sharing in the humanitarian response and development sectors. In our efforts to avoid this failure, we have sought feedback on our learnings, information and plans from many architects, engineers, development planners and NGOs in London, Dublin and Port-au-Prince. In addition to helping the project to be sustainable and successful, cross-checking our information and discussing our plans with others also helps us to make our case study more useful to those who will replicate it, or refer to it later.


The masterplan comprises a phased strategy for permanent reconstruction that increases the site’s capacity to 1,250 students, and allows students to stay in school while reconstruction happens, and it helps to deliver essential facilities as quickly as possible. It also means that Phase 1 can commence while we continue to secure funding for future phases. All phases of construction are designed to fit into an holistic long term plan that meets the needs of all site-users in accordance with our 6 design principles.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Site Strategy

Phase 1 caters for the school’s most immediate needs, providing 10 additional classrooms, toilets and staff facilities. This reflects the sisters’ priority of increasing admission numbers as soon as possible to reflect the local demand for school places. It occurs in 3 stages; phase 1a, b and c. Phase 1A: We construct our first 2 classroom modules on the only space currently available for classroom reconstruction; Phase 1B: We will move administration and all UNICEF classes into their new building, demolish the 7 UNICEF hangers, and demolish the administration block, which we deem to be unsafe; Phase 1C: We will construct the toilet block and the outdoor multi-use amphitheatre.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Phased Masterplan

Future Phases of Construction
To address the community’s needs, we propose 2 further phases of work. In Phase 2, we will construct 2 additional modules where the UNICEF hangers were, one half-sized due to site restrictions, and one standard-sized. This will create the kitchen, food store and canteen, in addition to more classrooms, and associated landscaping. Once Phase 2 is complete, we can empty the remaining non-seismic building, and construct Phase 3.
In the final Phase 3, we will construct the last 2 modules, which house all additional educational spaces - the library, computer lab, science lab, and kindergarten, and associated landscaping. As mentioned earlier, the finished complex will be maximally energy-and-water-independent, passive, accommodate 1,250 students, and be a model for cost-effective, disaster-resilient and sustainable reconstruction for urban Haiti.

Concept DESIGN

What we have presented here is a concept design and are looking to find an implementation partner to help develop a more detailed technical design to progress into construction stage. Therefore the images shown here are graphical representations of a design prior to any detailed technical development.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Phase 1 External Renders

Modular and Replicable
The masterplan is based on a simple, easily replicable classroom module. By using this regular and symmetrical module as the basis for all parts of the masterplan, we ensure that local construction workers improve their skills through repetition. Moreover, replicating a module within the site and elsewhere in urban Haiti allows for performance improvements and reduced costs with each replication.

Seismic and Storm Resilient
In compliance with the principles of seismic design, the proposed system embraces simplicity, symmetry, regularity, continuity and rigidity. Additionally, the concept reflects a high degree of standardisation, which simplifies the construction process and allows for a successful learning curve.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Phase 1 Section EE

Natural Ventilation + Acoustic Insulation
Constant air circulation is fundamental for comfortable classroom environments, and to enable the children to concentrate in a safe, pleasant and inspiring environment. It is therefore crucial to achieve optimum light and ventilation performance to improve both comfort levels and spatial qualities.

Water + Drainage
To maximise self-sufficiency: tanks for rainwater collection will be components of each classroom module, acting in addition to a well on the site. These are part of the water purification plan to promote sanitation and provide clean drinking water. Each building module will contribute to the on-site rain water harvesting network to increase the schools water self sufficiency. The increased ability to capture and store rain water will provide an enhance water source for the sites water purification plant.

Power Infrastructure
The classrooms are designed to utilise natural daylight as a source of lighting. This is a cost effective solution, with zero running costs, achieved by providing a minimum window area of 25% of the classroom floor plan.
Provisions will be made to allow for future connection to the mains power and PV power generation for artificial lighting for night time use. To maximise self sufficiency, excess power will be diverted into storage batteries.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Phase 1 Section AA

We will build ramps to connect the Phase 1 platform with the rest of the site, and provide a wheelchair-accessible bathroom. Accessibility is even more important in hilly Haiti than in other parts of the world due to the large number of people who were left disabled after the 2010 disaster. For this reason, and to meet the needs of the maximum number of people, all essential services should be wheelchair accessible.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Phase 1 Internal Renders

Flexible Spaces
The more flexible the site layout, the more activities it can accommodate and the better it adapts to changing needs. For this reason, all classrooms have flexible walls, and the module is designed to enable floor-to-ceiling openings instead of regular windows on the ground floor. Similarly, our landscaping strategy offers open space for sports and assembly, and a variety of shaded seating areas, diverse ‘nature spaces’, and a multi-use amphitheatre.

Diverse Outdoor Spaces
Outdoor areas are landscaped to provide different kinds of play and relaxation space for different age groups and interest groups. The site hosts one of the few local open spaces, and children at planning workshops proved especially interested in nature. So, we must preserve open areas for sports, emergency gathering, and other community events, while also maximising green areas and outdoor classrooms where children can grow food for the canteen, enjoy the spaces, and learn about nature. The green wall also increases the childrens’ connection to nature, and to reduce the imposing scale of the wall on a tall building, tapers down to the ground to lessen the impression of height.

Centre Rosalie Javouhey Streetview Render