Generative Design Drives Sustainability in Sierra Leone

In 2020, Microdesk began an engagement with Build Health International (BHI) through the Autodesk Foundation to design and construct a Maternal Healthcare Center in Koidu, Sierra Leone. As the project develops, new workflows and tools are being crafted to optimize energy and resource efficiency. This update provides an overview of the current status as well as savings statistics.

Sierra Leone currently has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, largely due to a long held distrust in the country’s health system and a lack of reliable healthcare infrastructure. To address this problem, BHI and Partners In Health set out to design and build a Maternal Healthcare Center in Koidu, Sierra Leone focused on improving maternal health outcomes while minimizing energy costs. The rural region has high electrical costs and unreliable utility sources making it unrealistic to design systems with high energy consumption.

In addition to user comfort, there are energy requirements to run a hospital, including powering anesthesia machines and refrigerating perishable pharmaceuticals. BHI offsets some HVAC costs by utilizing long, narrow building masses to encourage cross-ventilation, including high and low louvers to promote air movement and tall roof pitches to create a stack effect.

BHI enlisted Microdesk to co-research and co-develop sustainable workflows, providing a solution that would allow them to communicate, revise, and construct a facility to meet the needs of patients, staff, and visitors alike without compromising energy consumption limitations.

Check out the full BHI case study here!

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The Microdesk Co-Innovation Lab leveraged technology and guidance provided by the Autodesk Foundation to develop an easy-to-use, replicable workflow that would have lasting impacts on BHI facilities. This process began with conceptual tools like Revit and Insight for energy modeling workflows, and leveraged Dynamo and the Autodesk generative design tool, which expanded to Rhino.Inside and Open Studio. These solutions combined to optimize time, cost, and energy savings. The design team could obtain climate and daylight analyses and thermal comfort data via a single source of truth. Design strategies could then be compared side-by-side, eventually producing a more sustainable final build.

Less time and resources were spent during the early phases of the project. Generative design reduced trial and error, retaining funds for BHI to utilize in other areas of care delivery, a priority for the organization. Overall, these workflows will ensure a successful passive ventilation strategy is developed specific to the project by simultaneously studying and exploring the impact of the optimized iterations for the envelope and systems.

In partnership with Microdesk and the Autodesk Foundation, BHI was able to prioritize local solutions for ventilation, materials, and labor, driving social and economic growth in the community and ultimately  delivering transformative healthcare and health education spaces in the region. The newly implemented generative design workflows alone saved the design team countless hours by enabling them to study multiple iterations at a moment’s notice, making BHI’s design process nimble and efficient.

The final design increased the longevity of the building by lowering maintenance and future construction costs. The design team decreased the design analysis time by 90% (all analysis completed in 30 hours) while taking the guesswork out of designing successful passive energy systems. These analyses allowed BHI to optimize ventilation strategies, potentially reducing cooling costs by $4000 per annum. In some cases, Microdesks Co-Innovation Lab increased the percentage of the time occupants were comfortable from 66% to 77% of the time, while decreasing the percentage of time occupants were too hot from 19% to just 5%.

By providing better overall occupant comfort, the patients at the Maternal Healthcare Center will be able to heal in a dignified environment.

Visit our Co-Innovation Lab to learn more about our sustainability initiatives.

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