Shepley Bulfinch Announces Groundbreaking for the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda
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Shepley Bulfinch Announces Groundbreaking for the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda

New facility positions Rwanda as the central hub of rural healthcare delivery in Africa

BOSTON – April 13, 2017 – Shepley Bulfinch, a national architecture firm known for design excellence and innovation with offices in Boston, Houston and Phoenix, announced the recent groundbreaking of the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), a new health sciences university owned and operated by Partners In Health (PIH) and supported by the Rwandan government. The groundbreaking marks the first phase of construction for its Butaro, Rwanda campus, which will include 68,000 SF across 12 buildings; the full campus will support more than 1,000 students and faculty when completed. UGHE will open the doors of its medical school to students in the fall of 2018.

Shepley Bulfinch first began work on the UGHE Master Plan more than two years ago. Rwanda’s challenging terrain required the identification of a suitable site on which to build, and a 37-hectare greenfield site on top of a plateau was quickly identified as the perfect spot. Since the university will be closely aligned with Butaro District Hospital (also supported by PIH and a short walk away), the campus is intentionally oriented to provide a visual connection to the hospital and to beautiful Mount Muhabura, the extinct volcano that is home to Dr. Dian Fossey’s gorillas. Months of site preparation work, including significant infrastructure projects such as grading, digging the water well, and developing the access road, preceded the groundbreaking.

“We selected Shepley Bulfinch for this ambitious project because of the firm’s extensive experience designing both world-class healthcare facilities and educational campuses that promote intellectual curiosity and academic excellence,” said Jarrett Collins, director of university operations at UGHE. “They took the time to fully understand our vision for UGHE and designed a campus that is more than ready to assume its place as one of the leading higher education institutions in Africa.”

Launched in 2015 as a health sciences university to educate futureleaders in thedelivery of effective and equitable health care, UGHE draws its faculty from local and international experts. The Butaro campus is the largest project to date for PIH, whose goal is to build the educational infrastructure necessary to train healthcare professionals throughout the region.

Designed in four phases, each project phase will feature academic buildings arranged around a common area, similar to nodes on a necklace. Each construction phase is expected to take two years to complete. For phase one, six academic buildings, encompassing 36,000SF of space, are arranged around a common area known as University Common. Rwanda’s temperate climate allows for many activities to take place outdoors, so buildings are designed to promote learning both inside and outside. A translucent canopy connects the buildings, which include a dining hall/welcome center, a library/Research Commons, a simulation center and a variety of teaching spaces including a wet lab, case study room, flat floor studio, seminars and classrooms. Designed for active, hands-on learning, the spaces allow for maximum flexibility and can be reconfigured into smaller teaching areas or larger group sessions. The first phase also includes five clusters of housing, designed by MASS Design Group, which can house up to 200 students and faculty organized around common spaces to foster a sense of community, collegiality, and social well-being.

During the design phase, the Shepley Bulfinch and MASS Design Group teams carefully considered how the facility would best work within the context of the land. Designed for resiliency on a site with limited resources, particular attention was given to sustainable practices relying on passive techniques, use of local labor and materials, and minimizing adverse impacts on the environment by “doing no harm”. Inspired by traditional land use patterns, buildings and landscape are woven into a rich tapestry of interior and exterior spaces designed to harness natural ventilation and daylight. To further minimize the campuses environmental impact, the roofs are designed to harvest rainwater which is then recycled for greywater and are celebrated as water features in the landscape design. Potable spring and well water are stored in a water tower clad in the local volcanic rock, creating a distinct landmark and symbolic focal point for the overall architectural composition. Hardy indigenous trees and plants requiring no irrigation are used for their restorative and regenerative impact on the land.

“I have always dreamed that putting academic rigor into health sector management at all levels—local, national, regional, and beyond—would greatly improve the health of the population,” said Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, M.D., Ph.D., former minister of health of Rwanda, Harvard Medical School senior lecturer and UGHE professor. “This is exactly what UGHE will do for Rwanda and for the world.”

Partners In Health’s mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them, and to serve as an antidote to despair. In September 2015, PIH launched UGHE to accelerate their impact around the globe. By creating a global forum for delivery-focused teaching, research, policy, and implementation, UGHE is cultivating a new generation of global health leaders.

The project team includes:

About Shepley Bulfinch

Shepley Bulfinch is a national architecture firm known for design excellence and innovation. With offices in Boston, Houston, and Phoenix, the firm provides architecture, planning, and interior design solutions for leading institutions in academics and healthcare, as well as urban development and civic organizations. Shepley Bulfinch advances design by sparking a dialogue with clients who are leading change in the built environment. 

For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter at @ShepleyBulfinch.

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