By Adrian Thompson | Images courtesy of Peter Landers Photography
LEFT The new
Maternity Unit can
now accomdate up
to six births each
day, the average
for the region,
giving all women
access to a safe
place to give birth.
A new maternity unit gives healthcare access to all women in a rural Ugandan community.
Citizen HKS, HKS’ social impact initiative, is
a great example of how one architect firm is
using its platform to improve lives and drive
change for communities in need. Try following
the charitable platform’s three simple steps
below and see what changes you’re capable
of making in your own community.
Citizen HKS begins each project by asking,
“How can our work improve the world?” Have
your team set guiding principles that inform
the projects you choose to take on and will
help drive design. For example, set a guideline
to create scalable design solutions with the
potential to be replicated to serve other communities, or one that states you design with
an egalitarian approach.
Citizen HKS challenges its team to do more
than design, looking to create stronger
community connections through their work.
Try hosting an annual “Week” or “Month of
Service.” Raise money for worthy non-profits,
help rebuild homes, volunteer at schools and
food banks, clean parks or beaches, bring
local shelter pets in for a day at the office...the
options are endless. If your business has more
than one office, make sure they all join in!
Lastly, you can always encourage your
employees to make financial contributions
to your organization’s shared commitments.
Fundraising campaigns are an easy way for all
to get involved. If working between multiple
offices, making it a competition by seeing who
can raise the most funds with a celebratory
lunch for the winner.
SERVICE THAT SAVES
Here at i+s, we love projects that illustrate how design can empower and transform a community, like the story of the Kachumbala Maternity Unit in Uganda. Kachumbala is located in Uganda’s
Bukedea District, home to 170,000 people. Until now, the
area’s one maternity ward was a two-room, 1950s-era facility
that could only accommodate 40 percent of Kachumbala’s
expectant mothers, leaving many to have risky births at
home. The region consequently suffers from a high infant
mortality rate; an estimated 40 children out of every 1,000
don’t live to see their first birthday.
To improve Kachumbala’s health care facilities, HKS
proposed a sustainable, passive maternity facility: The
Kachumbala Maternity Unit. The new building plan
features delivery suites, prenatal and postnatal facilities,
and is designed to support future expansion, while the
existing two-room health facility will be repurposed and
used for other medical functions.
To build the unit, HKS partnered with Engineers for
Overseas Development (EFOD), a Wales-based nonprofit, and
Cyfle Building Skills, an organization that trains young apprentices
in the building trades. The team sought out to create a design
solution that would utilize the materials, utilities, and construction
techniques available on site. Due to the area’s lack of reliable
water and electricity, the new building had to be fully passive
and self-sufficient. For example, handmade bricks that form the
building’s structure were made on site and baked in the sun,
not fired, saving trees from being cut and burned.
HKS tested the design with the assistance of UK-based
health professionals, who also provided midwife support and
training for local health care providers. Now, less than a year
old, the new 3,000-square-foot Kachumbala Maternity Unit
accommodates up to six births each day, the average for the
region. All women in the district now have access to a safe
place to give birth.
In an HKS blog post, Ellen Mitchell-Kozack, director of
sustainability for HKS and founder and co-director of Citizen
HKS, wrote how her journey to Kachumbala and involvement
in the project changed her perspective on the world.
“Spending time with the people of this far away community
showed me that opportunities I take for granted such as
access to jobs, education, and healthcare are hard to come
by in Uganda,” she wrote. “In Kachumbala, people hold a
sense of belonging and connectedness to community that is
increasingly missing for me back home. I think that connectedness to a greater whole – to one another and the earth
– leads to happiness and fulfillment in a way that mindless
consumerism never will.”