Architecture students from K-State design new hospital for Honduran community

By Bryan Richardson

A K-State professor’s love for Honduras is spreading to his students as they work to improve the quality of life there.Third- and fifth-year K-State architecture students are working on designs for a trauma center in Roatan, Honduras, as a part of an architecture studio class.“Usually, these projects are hypothetical situations for school,” said Nathan Geier, fifth-year architecture student. “With this, it’s something that could be built for a client.”

K-State professor Jim Jones lives part of the year on the Bay Islands of Honduras and has developed a relationship with community leaders on Roatan by building several projects. In his time in the area, Jones said he has seen a need for new buildings built in a modest manner. “In the process of all this, I got to know a lot of community members,” Jones said. “It became apparent there were a lot of opportunities to do things down there.”

Jones has been working with fellow professor Dragoslav Simic since last year, when they led an architecture studio of students designing a Marine Ecological Research Center in the Punta Gorda village of Roatan.

Jones said the Honduran government is seeking funding for the project. He said a similar assurance of seeking funding to build has been given for the hospital project if the designs are well-received. The group is collaborating with two municipal district mayors and other island leaders and health officials.The students who signed up for this year’s studio have seen Jones’ love for the island. “He has a passion for the island,” said Nick Baran, third-year architecture student. “When he first told us about the project, he conveyed that passion.

”Nineteen of the 26 students traveled to the Bay Islands in mid-September to research the island’s history, geography, culture and climate.“When we went, we also fell in love with it and the people,” said Jenelle Tennigkeit, third-year architecture student.The entire island of Roatan, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands with an estimated 65,000 people, has one hospital. The mainland is about 30 miles away.

Jones said the structure is a “concrete block building” whose emergency entrance can only be accessed by walking down an alley.  It has only two restrooms in the entire facility. The students said they didn’t see a lot of the amenities they’re used to. “It’s not up to modern standards for sure,” Geier said. “It’s lacking decent air flow, lighting, storage, everything.”Before the trip, the students visited the ER and ICU units at Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan.

They developed an understanding of how the hospital operates, although the designs for the building won’t reflect the look of an American hospital.Jones said one of the original designs the hospital produced in Honduras was over budget. “They spent a lot of money on this hospital plan that wasn’t feasible,” Jones said.The result of the students’ work this semester will involve five alternative designs for the trauma center.

The preliminary designs are incorporating natural lighting to minimize the amount of electricity used. Jones said the cost of electricity in Honduras is eight times the cost in Kansas. “When it works,” he added.Designs also have more group rooms rather than the individual rooms many American hospitals have.

“Privacy is a luxury,” Baran said. “A lot of our rooms don’t have doors and have curtains as separators of patients.”This setup would be to allow the doctors to see multiple patients because the hospital is understaffed.

“They do an excellent job for what they have,” Simic said of the doctors.Some designs also incorporate areas that aren’t related to the hospital that can be used by others. “We want to involve the community, so we’ll have a lot of community space within the building, not just the hospital and trauma center,” Tennigkeit said.

All of the designs look different, but the students agreed that it would be better to use local materials such as wood rather than steel and concrete.

The students said the reasons are that wood is cheaper to obtain and use, and it doesn’t store heat like concrete or rust like steel.Jones said he hopes the use of local materials such as bamboo could generate local business. “They’re generous with whatever they have, but their life is hard because they don’t have much economic opportunity,” he said.By the end of the semester, the students will present a report that will articulate the cultural, community and health objectives for the next phase of the work — a detailed design for a trauma center for the Bay Islands.Jones, Simic and the students will travel back to Roatan to present the report to the mayors, governor, health minister and others early next year.

The final study, scheduled to be presented June 2014, will focus on the design of the center and proposals on phasing, cost, new technology and environmental impact.

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