Fielden Foundation (FCBStudios)
Happold Trust (Buro Happold Engineers)
Max Fordham LLP (Environment Engineer)
110sqm (Phase 1)
70sqm (Phase 2)
£15,000 (Phase 1) $27,000 $245/sqm
£20,000 (Phase 2) $30,000 $430/sqm
The AIDS and Malaria treatment centre at Mzuzu University in Malawi was designed by Fielden Foundation volunteer architects, in a two-phase project that commenced in 2004. While the initial brief specifically called for a new health clinic, the wider objective of the project was to design and prototype an affordable alternative to the university's usual practice of importing expensive and environmentally inappropriate prefabricated buildings. The architects' aim therefore, was to provide the university with their own modular self-build system, which would utilise locally sourced and sustainably produced materials, and more significantly employ and develop the skills of local people.
Phase 2 of the project was instigated 10 years later to relieve pressure from the existing clinic, allowing it to house a larger and more welcoming entrance and administration building. The new building adapts and enhances the 'kit of parts' construction system developed during Phase 1. But simple micro-budget buildings provide an environmentally sensitive approach to design, utilising various passive design principles while minimising the use of cement and hardwoods.
Mzuzu University Health Centre is organised around a circulation spine, which extends south across the site with east-west axis buildings feeding off it. The northern most building is Phase 1 of the project, the Richard Fielden Clinic, a simple mono-pitch two-bat building, which now provides an entrance and administration block. The second building is the Phase 2 Treatment Centre, which houses examination and treatment rooms, which will be followed by a future Phase 3 ward.
The precise position of the buildings was carefully calculated to keep the clinic as cool as possible. Each of the buildings, including the future Phase 3 ward, are oriented on the east-west axis with openings predominantly to the north and south. The buildings are offset from one another to ensure free-flowing movement of air.
Trees and Planting
Efforts have been made to retain existing trees wherever possible to maximise shading of the east and west elevations. Where trees have had to be removed to facilitate construction, new ones have been planted in their place.
The health clinic uses 10.7m lengths of shiny galvanised 'alu-zinc' roofing sheets to reflect solar radiation, helping to reduce radiant heat transfer to the interior spaces. Due to the low mono-pitch roof design the roofing material is barely visible, eliminating potential aesthetic concerns.
The modular cassette design means that the roof has an inbuilt ceiling and ventilated air space, which helps to keep the building cool as well as concealing plumbing and electrics. Phase 2 enhances the double roof shading effect by incorporating foil sisilation into the cassette design. This reflective foil lining further blocks radiant heat from penetrating into the spaces below.
The initial column design of the Phase 1 clinic incorporated ventilation slots within the structure, which in theory eliminated the need for opening windows within the blockwork walls. On reflection, this strategy was found to be inefficient and overcomplicated to construct. The Phase 2 column design was simplified to become a solid unit, with ventilation being provided via mechanical glazed louvres.