Architecture for Humanity

Architecture for Humanity is a nonprofit design services firm founded in 1999. We are building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design.
Aug 6, 2014

Sandy Digest: July 2014

REDC Seaside Heights
REDC Seaside Heights

Some outstanding activity was seen in the Sandy program last month. The ReNew Schools program commenced construction at two of the schools; while our Restore the Shore program went out to bid and launched a new initiative.

The new program element is entitled: the Resilience through Education and Design Center (REDC). Partnering with disaster case management organizations local to each community, the intent of this program is to provide property owners an opportunity to receive free design consultations from trained architects and engineers in the latest resilience and sustainable design/building methodology. Once a client receives their consultation, they are eligible to receive further design and construction assistance within the program. The consultations were held on the weekend of July 19th with a great success to which 15 clients attended.

In July, we also doubled our staff by welcoming two outstanding individuals. Lila Tedesco and Mika Flomin joined our team as volunteers. Each bring their passion to help rebuild and guide the metropolitan New York region into greater resilience. Both assisted our team during the Sandy Design Help Desk held last and earlier this year, caught the bug, and now are welcome additions to our team.



ReNew Schools: Washington School

With the school year ending much later than usual (due to an inordinate amount of snow days), the painters have finally been able to roll into the gymnasium and paint the walls...complete with bouncing ball graphics! Installation of the new rubberized surface is next, allowing the community access to the space after a two-year closure.

ReNew Schools: Toms River High School North

Construction is moving forward. The ticket booth has been framed out, and the press box is following close behind.

ReNew Schools: Memorial School

The design team at Pennoni has been plugging away at design documentation for the field reconstruction, and the design of the dugouts at the softball and baseball diamonds. We're on track to have the work completed so we can start and ultimately finish the construction before the start of soccer season in September.

Restore the Shore

Trinity Construction, selected to build the sunshade structures, met with the Team to walk through the proposed locations along the boardwalk. The team investigated the boardwalk's pile foundations to understand how they will begin tying in the sunshade's cantilevered construction.



FEMA Region 2 ICP Workshops - August 12 and 13:
The 2nd Annual Individual and Community Preparedness Workshop; Enhancing Community Preparedness through Collaboration



Project Name | Project Stage | % Stage Complete

Restore the Shore  CA  5%

ReNew Schools: Washington School, Little Ferry  CA  15%

ReNew Schools: Toms River High School North, Toms River  CA  25%

ReNew Schools: Memorial School, Union Beach  CD  95%

CA Construction Administration; CD Construction Document; DD Design Development; SD Schematic Design; PD Pre-Design- About the Phases

Washington School Elementary gymnasium
Washington School Elementary gymnasium
Toms River High School North
Toms River High School North
Restore the Shore - sunshades for boardwalk
Restore the Shore - sunshades for boardwalk


Jul 24, 2014

Design Fellow, Pearl on the ground

Roadside Cornfield. Edmond, Oklahoma.
Roadside Cornfield. Edmond, Oklahoma.

The destructive series of tornadoes that struck the city of Moore, Oklahoma and adjacent areas in 2013 brought to attention many of the region's vulnerabilities. Over 10,000 homes were damaged and more than 50 people lost their lives, in part due to inadequate preparation measures.  Helping to address these needs, our Resilient Oklahoma program continues to move forward as Design Fellow Pearl Chen works with disaster management experts to support Oklahoma Emergency Management and FEMA in their Safe Schools 101 initiative. 

With your and our partners' support, we're working to develop workshops and training programs that will work to lower the risk of disaster from future inevitable storms. We are grateful for every penny donated to help us get this program off the ground!

Please read an update from Pearl below for more information about the work we're doing there.  We are closing this page on GlobalGiving, but our work will continue in Oklahoma. Stay tuned with us on our blog for future updates.

We hope you keep in touch with us at Architecture for Humanity as we continue to work at a local level to create, educate and promote effective building design that strengthens communities.  Thank you for being a part of our team!



Update from the Field

You can be sure to find a deeply ingrained work ethic in a state whose motto is “Labor omnia vincit” – Labor conquers all things. Oklahoma is situated within an area of the Great Plains known colloquially as Tornado Alley, a region spanning from South Dakota to Central Texas with a disproportionately high frequency of tornadoes. In the face of the material and social struggles that emerge from the aftermath of severe natural disasters, the motto “Labor conquers all things,” begins to take on the form of a few important questions about what constitutes ‘Resilience’—questions we must continue to ask ourselves.

What kind of labor, or more simply put, hard work, needs to be undertaken in order to reduce risk and strengthen the communities that will inevitably bear the future storm? And, for any statement on ‘conquering’ to be valuable, the necessary question remains: What are the challenges we must collectively overcome?

Currently, as a Design Fellow in Oklahoma under the leadership of Architecture for Humanity, I am supporting Oklahoma Emergency Management and FEMA in their Safe Schools 101 initiative. This project was born out of the 2013 tornado that struck the city of Moore and adjacent areas. The EF5 tornado claimed the lives of many residents, seven of whom were third grade students taking shelter in a school hallway annex when a non-reinforced building wall within collapsed onto them. The purpose of Safe Schools 101 is to prevent, through risk analysis and information sharing, the future failure of school buildings that compromise the life-safety of students during violent storms.


Safe Schools 101: A Brief Overview

The state-sponsored program educates professionals in a 2-day workshop on components of storm hazards, risk assessment, and disaster mitigation. At the end of the training, students are assigned in groups to actual schools that have requested safety assessments. The site and building evaluation is guided by blueprints, digital assessment tools, and a detailed scoring sheet designed by Oklahoma Emergency Management to quantify and compare the safety of the school’s main evacuation areas. All of the information gathered is then compiled into a report letter to the school district explaining in detail the team’s findings and related recommendations. Schools are able to use this information to create more informed emergency plans and decide how to develop structurally. Solutions include installing storm shutters, constructing FEMA-standard safe rooms, or retrofitting entire school complexes.

Currently, I am working with Safe Schools 101 focused on content development for their training workshops. Based on my own observations and the feedback of previous students, the existing curriculum requires attention to consistency and clarity in its delivery to its audience. Improving the curriculum is important as ever, as cities across the Midwest have expressed interest in adopting the Safe Schools 101 program into their own state. I have been in regular contact with individuals in other related professions that can contribute meaningfully in what is oftentimes a complex organizational process. My hope is that this newly improved-upon material can serve as a solid foundation for Safe Schools 101 as they increase local training and assessment capacity, and potentially branch out nationwide through other innovative platforms.

I believe the next few months here will provide opportunities for deeper engagement with my earlier questions about the kind of work that needs to be done, and the challenges we must identify and overcome in our pursuit of a more resilient Oklahoma.


*Photo: Safe Schools 101 Site Assessment (Here is a 1937 boiler room under a school building being considered for a safe room retrofit). Tulsa, Oklahoma. 



Meet Design Fellow, Pearl Chen

Pearl Grace is originally from Austin, Texas and is currently our Design Fellow focusing on Disaster Preparedness Planning & Resiliency for the Oklahoma City Region. Her work has previously dealt with vulnerable populations both in the US and abroad. Her international work has been dedicated to improving the quality of life in informal settlements by addressing critical needs related to public and environmental health, and community infrastructure. Back in Austin, she worked to promote educational equity within East Austin housing project developments. Pearl has an academic background in Geography, Architectural Studies, and Urban Planning.

Safe Schools 101 Site Assessment in Tulsa, OK
Safe Schools 101 Site Assessment in Tulsa, OK


Jul 15, 2014

Haiti Digest: June 2014

Grand Ravine Landscape
Grand Ravine Landscape


This month, the Community Development Studio finished drafting the Grand Ravine Development Plan after months of hard work.

The Development Plan provides the vision of Grand Ravine formed through the collaborative design process with the community and through the development of strategic plans. These strategies are: providing an environmental protection policy, developing sustainable landuse prescriptives, and fostering social cohesion through improved access to basic services and housing, and increased community participation. By having worked so closely with the community to create the Development Plan, the members of Grand Ravine are enabled to take ownership of the development process so they may continue to improve their socio-spatial circumstances in the future.

On June 18th two of our architects, Christian Beaulieu and Marco Duran, presented the Grand Ravine Development Plan to CIAT (Comité Interministériel d'Aménagement du Territoire), the government agency charged with approving all the urban plans in Haiti. The document was approved without any objections, and received the congratulations of CIAT. Rose-May Guignard, a member of the committee, observed that this was the best planning document ever made in Haiti.

We are very proud of our Community Development team's commitment to excellence and talent. These wonderful people make the Rebuilding Center so well reputed and sought after by local and international players investing in Haiti's development.


Collège Coeur Immaculé de Marie (CIM)

Collège Coeur Immaculé de Marie (CIM) in downtown Port-au-Prince is rebuilding permanent facilities for 850 girls in grades 1-12. The school, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, was completely destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. With support from the FIDEMA Foundation in Belgium, the new school will include 24 classrooms including science classrooms, a computer lab, a library and media room, new administrative spaces, a kitchen, new bathrooms, a large multi-purpose room, and dedicated sport courts and gardens. Phase 1, currently underway, involves the building of 9 new classrooms.


École Nationale Republique d'Argentine

École Nationale Republique d'Argentine is a primary school Port-au-Prince, which served a student population of over 1300 students before the 2010 earthquake. 2 of the major classroom blocks were destroyed by the earthquake, which have been repaired and new construction is currently underway.

The overall campus reconstruction is being administered in 2 phases, the first of which is already complete. Phase 2 constructions, including 3 classrooms, an administration building, cafeteria, playground, and sanitary block, is being built on the original foundation of the school and is expected to be completed in Fall 2014.

The project is being funded by the Clinton Foundation.

École Elie Dubois

Phase 1 for École Elie Dubois, which involved developing the master plan for the kitchen, cafeteria, and sanitary block including an on the ground bio-digester have already been successfully completed.

The Haiti Rebuilding Center will start construction administration as soon as two contractors hired by Fonds dAssistance Economique et Sociale (FAES) are selected. The construction will include renovations for the historical classroom building, upgrades to the site, and a full basement renovation and a restaurant for the new culinary school at École Elie Dubois.


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