How can building design reduce the spread of tuberculosis?

Haiti has the highest TB rate in the Americas. In 2007 it had an estimated 306 TB cases per 100,000 people compared with 4.4 per 100,000 in the US. Up to 70% of people in certain housing areas are infected. It’s as bad as it can get really.

The Breathe house was produced by Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE), as a way of introducing better housing to a particular area. They had focused on the St Marc region, because there was a lot of publicity on areas like Port Au Prince - the more media-reported areas - but there are lots of other key towns that are in a far worse state. The St Marc area was in a particularly bad condition and has had virtually no input from other aid agencies.

It’s a very simple box design. You introduce a cross-airflow through the building. The cooler air comes in through grills at the base of the building which is drawn up as the air warms and   you have a passage for the air to escape at the top so you get a good throughflow.

Also, lifting the house up off the ground immediately gets rid of the soil flooring that most typical dwellings have. You’re lifting them off the damp ground and the microbes and mould spores growing there. By creating a structural floor you lift yourself off that and create another space for through-draft.

Another way to control TB and general health is by letting light into the dwelling which we do through introducing as many windows as possible.  Allowing sunlight into the building to kills off bacteria. We have also added in a very simple UV treatment light that helps to kill off bacteria in the air.

We’ve got the funding from ARCHIVE to get this one built. The plan is to get the local craftsmen involved and impart that knowledge to them so they can replicate it and take the best bits of it and maybe come up with something that’s even better.

This came about a few years ago from a request for help on a schools project that the University of Virginia Architecture department were working on in Uganda. We had a design workshop. Since then that school has been built and then I just kept up the relationship with them. Instead of doing a fictional final year credit, the students actually work on a real life project. They get architectural advice from staff and every now and then I do a structural bit with them, either by VC link or teleconference. Occasionally through Arup Cause I get over there and do a design workshop.

[Image courtesy of Studio reCOVER, Anselmo Canfora, University of Virginia]