Haiti Earthquake Disaster Inspires Open Innovation Contest

Published Apr-24-11

Open innovation contest for healthy housing designs to limit the spread of TB following earthquake disaster.

ARCHIVE (Architecture for Health In Vulnerable Environments), United States

The Story:

Haiti Earthquake Disaster Inspires Open Innovation Contest After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 thousands of volunteers and aid groups flocked into the impoverished country to administer food, water, first aid and to start the rebuilding efforts. With many homes flattened the demand for housing was and is still high.

This demand, coupled with the threat of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis inspired a global open innovation project for housing designs that would prevent TB transmission. The contest was sponsored by the international charity ARCHIVE (Architecture for Health In Vulnerable Environments).

TB Threat

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB was a major concern in the wake of the disaster. The country has the highest TB rate in the Americas and after HIV/AIDS it is Haiti’s biggest cause of death by infectious disease.

Those at acute risk were the 1 million plus people who were made homeless and were without access to proper sanitation as well as those living with HIV/AIDS who were already vulnerable to TB.

The Kay e Santé nan Ayiti (Creole for Housing and Health in Haiti) open innovation competition was launched in July 2010 was open for four months. Architects, urban planners, healthcare professionals, students and other interested parties were encouraged to participate and come up with ideas that would minimize the threat from airborne infection. Competition organizers were particularly keen for project teams to be multidisciplinary in nature in order to promote dialogue between designers, engineers and those from the health sciences.

Peter Williams, Founder and Executive Director of ARCHIVE, said: “Housing condition is an important cause of illness but this often has been sidelined in conventional disease control measures. By submitting ideas to our campaign, the global community will be taking part in an innovative public health project that makes housing a critical component of disease prevention.”

The competition attracted nearly 150 designs from five continents and they were judged by an interdisciplinary panel of judges. In December 2010 the final five winners were announced.

Healthy Homes

The first place winner was an Anglo-American team of engineers, doctors and architects for their Breathe House. Its key design elements are the extensive use of natural light and ventilation throughout the interior spaces, access to clean water and renewable energy, and a composting toilet. What stood out for the judges was the use of local materials and a user’s guide to construction which means that local, less skilled but supervised workers could be employed in building these of types of houses.

The second place winner was Maison Canopy, a home with a spacious covered porch to help people rebuild community relations, and low-tech green solutions such as rainwater collection and insect screening. And an Italian interdisciplinary team came third with their Shutter Dwelling which emphasizes the spatial separation of sick and healthy inhabitants and features fresh airflows to promote health.


The top five housing designs generated by this open innovation contest are going to be built during 2011 in St. Marc, Haiti – a coastal town approximately 100 km north of Port-au-Prince the Haitian capital. They will make a huge difference to quality of life and offer protection to those must vulnerable to disease.

Such was the success of this competition that the charity’s founder believes that other people around the world can also benefit. “We hope our project will empower Haitians in rebuilding their lives, but also we want to replicate this model in other countries – demonstrating that among the poorest, housing can be a central strategy for improving health.”

Share on      
Next Story »

What Can we Solve for You?