Blue Sky Building Systems, a company recognized for its innovations in residential light-gauge steel construction, announced today that its steel frame system is being used for a new health clinic in Haiti – the company's first non-residential project, and its first one overseas.
Blue Sky's moment frame system is at the heart of the 21,000-square-foot clinic currently under construction in Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Tonetti Associates Architects in New York City designed the project, the GHESKIO Family Health & Nutrition Center.
The challenges of building in Haiti are well known. Earthquake and hurricane risks, coupled with poor infrastructure and a limited trained labor pool, have slowed many projects since the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Low-rise commercial construction projects in Haiti have typically utilized poorly reinforced concrete, masonry or concrete block to create load-bearing walls. The Tonetti team, led by Andrew B. Wright, AIA LEED AP, was determined to specify building materials better suited to the conditions in Haiti.
"The Blue Sky factory-fabricated moment frame made from cold-formed, high-tensile galvanized steel components is ideal for the clinic," said Wright. "Steel-framed buildings are lighter, less brittle and resist lateral loads better than concrete frames. But most steel used in commercial construction is hot-rolled structural steel I beams and we knew that would be prohibitively expensive because of its weight. In addition, the heavy equipment necessary for the erection of structural steel is not readily available in Haiti."
The Blue Sky frame elements were manufactured in California and shipped via the Port of Miami in Florida to Port-au-Prince. In all, Blue Sky fabricated 177,500 pounds of steel for the project. A Haitian crew, with guidance from a small American crew, erected the steel.
The buildings have been designed to withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour and strong seismic forces.
"In addition to valuing the ability of our frame to withstand extreme conditions the architects also were drawn to Blue Sky because we prefabricate everything and then economically utilize flat-pack shipping to get the materials to the job site where they are rapidly bolted together, with no site welding," said David McAdam, co-founder of Blue Sky. "Such an approach is especially useful for building in places like Haiti where infrastructure and support services are limited."
The frame elements that Blue Sky uses create a bi-directional moment frame – a simple but stout structure that resists movement in two directions. No shear walls – or load-bearing walls – are required. Columns are tube steel and all other elements, such as beams and joists, are cold-formed galvanized steel.
The GHESKIO organization in Haiti was the first institution in the world dedicated to understanding and controlling HIV/AIDS and related diseases.
Funding for the new GHESKIO facility is being underwritten by the MAC AIDS Fund, a philanthropy created by MAC Cosmetics.
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