Students design multipurpose health facility for South Sudan

Students in a Texas A&M architecture-for-health design studio presented design concepts for Rehab Nova, a new multipurpose health training and agriculture facility to be located in southern Sudan during an April 20 event at the university’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture.

The new designs were a refinement of the southern Sudan project that students, led by George Mann, professor of architecture, began earlier this semester in a collaboration with the institute, which provides researchers, policymakers and university faculty from developing countries the ability to strengthen sustainable agricultural practices through scientific training and collaborative research opportunities.

“The students were to have worked in another project during the second half of the semester,” said Mann, “but they became so interested in the Sudan project that they unanimously requested to develop and refine their initial designs.” Mann is the holder of the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair in Health Facilities Design.

Rehab Nova includes land for agriculture, livestock, boarding houses, guest houses, labs, classrooms, physical rehabilitation, occupational therapy, vocational rehabilitation, offices and a health clinic for orphans, women and the physically disabled in the rural Sudanese communities of El Obeid and Bor. Students designed the facility to be self sustaining, with solar collectors, windmills for power and energy and water collectors.

“I was impressed with the depth and extent of work by these students in developing their designs for the Rehab Nova facility,” said Ed Price, director of the Borlaug Institute. “They not only incorporated remarkable architectural features in their designs, they incorporated a true understanding of the people and culture of southern Sudan.”

The students, who researched Sudanese culture, climate, materials and methods of construction, also received input from Borlaug Institute personnel including Mustafa Sharif, a native of Sudan who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Science, and B. Keith Cole, the Borlaug Institute’s assistant director of administration and finance.

”My dream for this project is that once we have a finished design we will have a document and a physical product we can present to donors so we can get the funding needed to build such a facility,” Sharif said.

Cole said he hopes the new facility, when it comes to fruition, will assist in the stability and development of the Republic of South Sudan, which will become the world’s newest country July 9 as a result of a January 2011 referendum.

“The need for a multipurpose facility of this nature in the southern Sudan is vital,” Sharif said. “Improvements in Sudan’s agriculture and health have been identified by the international community as top priorities for improving the quality of life and bringing greater stability to that area. A facility like this would help address these issues and provide badly needed rehabilitation care and equipment as well as the agricultural research, technology and knowledge needed to benefit inhabitants of this region.”

Jonathan Spielmann of Duncanville, Texas, said he wanted to design something that would be relatively easy to construct without having to import materials.

“The design I came up with was based on a ‘sandbag’ design technique that would allow the use of local materials to build it, including its signature arches and domes,” he said.

For more about the collaboration with the Borlaug Institute, visit the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website.

A related story about the design students’ collaboration with the Borlaug Institute is available from Lubbock, Texas News Radio 1420’s website.

posted April 26, 2011