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‘Breathe House’ goes up in Haiti

The AWFI (American Wood Finishing Institute) team has just returned to Riverstone from Haiti after assisting with the assembly and completion of the “Breathe House” in St. Marc, Haiti. 

The University Of Virginia School Of Architecture partnered with AWFI to engineer a surface coating and application process for the “Breathe House.”  

According to Energy Center Director of Business Develoment and Operations Kristy Johnson, the newest Haitian Clinic is a prototype of disaster relief housing utilizing structured insulated panel (SIPS) construction methods.  

The University of Virginia, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Innovation Center, SIPS of America, AWFI, Huber and the Riverstone Energy Center collaborated on this unique project to develop an engineered solution specifically for temporary housing.  

The team’s responsibility was to design, develop and construct a prototype housing unit that could be easily deployed and erected on site in a short period of time to alleviate affected disaster areas, Johnson explained.  

This structure required stringent engineering to withstand adverse climate conditions.  The occupants will find relief from the elements in a highly efficient and breathable structure, she added.  

AWFI performed process engineering research on innovative construction materials to provide a protective and decorative coating solution for the interior and exterior surfaces of the “Breathe House.”

 The application formulations developed within the Center for Coatings, Application, Research and Education (C-CARE) in South Boston previously had not been considered for panelized construction; however, the project showed great success in achieving the target goal using these new formulations, Johnson said.  

Coating formulations were required to withstand the rigors of shipping, as well as multiple on-site transporting.   

«Coatings were selected that would provide an aesthetic appearance, but more importantly from a usage standpoint, the coating was designed to combat fire/flame spread, mold/mildew and adhesion to the OSB used in the construction,» said Kenny Stevenson, director of Business Development for AWFI. 

Over the course of the project, hundreds of application processes and materials were researched and developed to find the right application performance.

Stevenson said, «The project, being located in Haiti, presented some unique challenges for the coating and build team.  Extreme weather conditions as well as the lack of infrastructure makes this type of project require significant amount of preparation and planning.  The C-CARE Lab at Riverstone has been invaluable in replicating weather conditions for testing in these environments.»  

Stevenson continued, «We had significant success in training a local Haitian team to apply the exterior coating materials.  This is encouraging considering the number of homes that will be necessary to rebuild this region.  Training the local workforce allows us to reduce cost in production of future units as well as giving them the opportunity and knowledge to build their own communities. « 

This project was funded in partnership with the Virginia Tobacco Commission, and is part of a larger project that includes affordable EcoMod homes that will be deployed in the United States. 

The Town of South Boston donated land to showcase a number of EcoMod prototypes which are expected to be completed within the next year.