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Solar-powered facility provides medical treatment in rural Uganda

The Mount Sinai Kyabirwa Surgical Facility is a superb project in Uganda that provides locals with access to much-needed surgical treatment that wasn’t previously readily available. Designed by Kliment Halsband Architects, the facility also makes good use of off-grid technology, including solar panels and rainwater collection systems.

The Mount Sinai Kyabirwa Surgical Facility is located in Kyabirwa, a rural village near the equator. Kliment Halsband Architects envisions the project as a replicable prototype for other resource-poor areas and the building was specifically designed so that it’s easy to construct using local materials and laborers.

“Regionally-sourced bricks are composed in complex patterns of varying densities, forming screens that let in light and air to solid walls,” says Kliment Halsband Architects’ press release. “The bricks and cladding tiles used in the facility were made from red clay dug directly out of the ground near the building site and fired in a local kiln. Brick was utilized in this project because of its availability, its historical presence in the area, and the potential to support the local economy through its use.”

The site didn’t have potable water, reliable electricity, internet, or the necessary sanitary facilities available so the firm had its work cut out. It built a canopy made up of solar panels that also offers shade. Uninterrupted power is provided using a combination of the solar panels, as well as battery storage, an onsite generator, and the intermittent power available from the grid.

A reliable internet connection is essential as it’s used for the local doctors to consult with Mount Sinai Surgery in New York, USA using a real-time operating room video link. Therefore, some 20 miles (32 km) of underground cables had to be installed too.

Well water and whatever safe water can be sourced from the nearest town is stored in gravity tanks and filtered and sterilized as required. Rainwater is collected and used for both toilet flushing and an onsite vegetable garden used to feed patients and staff. Liquid sanitary waste is handled by onsite septic tank system and medical waste is incinerated onsite. The interior of the building is cooled passively with the breeze (except for the actual operating rooms which require air-conditioning).

As an additional measure to cut down on the complexity of the project and its cost and energy use, Kliment Halsband Architects only installed equipment that was deemed absolutely necessary.

“Careful analysis of required systems and equipment resulted in elimination of many redundant complex and costly systems typically found in high tech urban hospitals,” says the press release. “This research and simplified construction, relying on local materials, made it possible to deliver cost-effective health care in underserved areas.”

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