NEWS RELEASE: Gensler Donates Design for Haiti School



Structural Engineers Miyamoto International
Join Team as Construction Begins on Rebuilding of Public Elementary School in Earthquake Devastated City of Jacmel

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 24, 2010)—International disaster relief agency Operation USA today released designs donated by the renowned design and planning firm Gensler for the rebuilding of a primary school in Jacmel, Haiti that was completely destroyed in the January earthquake that devastated much of the country. Operation USA has committed to rebuilding Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez—a public school that will be home to 400 students K-7 who could not otherwise afford to go to school. The construction for this project has been fully funded by Honeywell Hometown Solutions, Honeywell’s Corporate Citizenship initiative and built with cooperation from Mayor Edwin Zenny and the City of Jacmel. Groundbreaking ceremonies were celebrated in Jacmel on August 10 with representatives from Operation USA, Honeywell, the City of Jacmel and the Department of Education in attendance.

“Gensler’s commitment to the global community—improving the environments where people live, work and learn—is a core value of our firm,” stated Nila R. Leiserowitz, managing director/principal, Gensler Los Angeles. “We view learning as an opportunity to spark imagination, foster community and define the future. Working with Operation USA and Honeywell on the design of the Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez school in Haiti has been a fulfilling learning experience for our team, and also helped us live up to the important social responsibility that we feel we have as architects and designers.”

View the rendering here:

“Education is the cornerstone of sustainable development. In our 30 year history, we have learned that true recovery following a disaster of this magnitude only comes with a long-term commitment to the rebuilding process,” said Richard Walden, President and CEO, Operation USA. “We are indebted to the many partners that have so willingly joined us in this project. Gensler has given a great gift to the City of Jacmel and we are thrilled that together we are able to play a part in educating generations of Jacmel’s children.”

The design took many factors into consideration—and ultimately the team proposed simple, cost-effective single story buildings that would be easily constructed by local builders and artisans. Typically, the buildings are of concrete block construction with monopitch concrete-slab roofs. These are methods typical in Haitian construction, a crucial factor in realizing the project, and provide added benefits of thermal mass and opportunity for simple rainwater capture. Nods to traditional Haitian vernacular elements manifest in the detail of door and window openings, which feature brightly colored shutters and ventilation screens, and the suggestion of a ‘front porch’ along the main facades of most buildings.

At a broader site-design level, location of the individual buildings is informed by three key factors: site climate, site usage, and social use. Generally aligned along the north-south direction allows the classroom buildings to capture prevailing westerly winds for natural ventilation in the warm tropical climate, a device which is enhanced by the simple shape of the building section. This siting approach provides a series of connected ‘in-between’ outdoor spaces and courtyards, which function as the key social connectivity device of the project. Community use is seen as a vital part of the life of the school, and buildings addressing these uses serve as permeable but clear intermediaries between the street frontage and more secure inner reaches of the school environment. Lastly, an appropriate clustering of the buildings on the site create hierarchy of outdoor space, distinct community and private outdoor spaces, and a large remaining area on the flattest part of the site, sufficient for eventual use as a half-size soccer pitch.

All of these contribute to what is hoped will become the vibrant, campus-like environment of shared, multi-generational educational experience and community involvement which is envisioned as key to the success of the new school.

“This project has been a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved.  From the programmatic element of designing a school, to sharing knowledge of building standards that account for seismic activity and incorporating sustainable landscape practices, the focus of the project and process has been education,” stated Wendi Gilbert, Associate, Gensler Los Angeles. “We have teamed up with Miyamoto International, structural engineers and Grun Studio, to conduct workshops during construction, extending the learning beyond the classroom to the Jacmel community.  There is a saying in Haiti about taking steps; “piti piti na rive” – “little by little, we will arrive”.  Although this project will not solve all of the issues in Haiti, education is certainly the first step.”

Structural engineers Miyamoto International will develop seismic resisting structural systems which are suitable in Haiti and serve as on-site supervisors for the construction process, bringing high performance earthquake engineering expertise that is so clearly in short supply in Haiti. Throughout the construction process, Miyamoto will lead workshops for the Haitian artisans, masons and laborers working on the project in numerous facets of safe building reconstruction—providing an unprecedented opportunity to educate the local workforce in seismic safety and building methods at the highest level. “ The structural systems we develop will incorporate the use of all local available materials and masons; they will also meet the international building standards for earthquake resisting systems. These designs and practices should become the blue print for all new schools in Haiti. Our mission is to make the world a better place. We are very excited about this opportunity,” relays Dr. Kit Miyamoto, President and CEO of Miyamoto International.

In addition to building the school, a scholarship fund has been developed in partnership between Operation USA and Honeywell to help support expenses the students may incur during the school year, including mandatory school uniforms, books and supplies.

About Gensler
Gensler is a global design, planning, and strategic consulting firm networked across 33 locations on five continents. Consistently ranked by U.S. and international industry surveys as the leading architecture and interior design firm, Gensler leverages its deep resources and diverse expertise to develop design solutions for industries across the globe. Since 1965, Gensler has collaborated with clients to create environments that enhance organizational performance, achieve measurable business goals, enrich people and communities, and enhance everyday experiences. For its longstanding commitment to the advancement of sustainable design, Gensler received the Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2005.

About Miyamoto International
Miyamoto International is a global earthquake and structural engineering firm providing critical services that sustain industries and communities around the world. The firm specializes in designing High Performance Earthquake Engineering solutions that reduce lifecycle costs and realize a positive net impact on a structure’s operation. Miyamoto helps tackle some of the most challenging projects in the world from diverse offices in the Americas, Asia and Europe. The firm’s clients include governments, private-sector organizations, developers, architects and contractors who desire highly-effective and sustainable technical solutions.

About Honeywell
Honeywell International ( is a Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing leader, serving customers worldwide with aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes and industry; automotive products; turbochargers; and specialty materials. Based in Morris Township, N.J., Honeywell’s shares are traded on the New York, London, and Chicago Stock Exchanges. For more news and information on Honeywell, please visit

About Operation USA

Operation USA is an international relief agency that helps communities at home and abroad overcome the effects of disasters, disease and endemic poverty by providing privately-funded relief, reconstruction and development aid. Since 1979, the Los Angeles-based Operation USA has worked in 99 countries, delivering over $350 million for relief and development projects.

Operation USA responded rapidly to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, shipping emergency aid within days of the disaster. Numerous long-term recovery projects are currently underway, with an emphasis on education, healthcare, youth programs, livelihood and social services. Operation USA estimates that it has sent over $5.5 million in donated medical, energy, food and shelter supplies to Haiti to date getting essential pharmaceuticals, medical, emergency and shelter supplies, generators and light towers, as well as medical personnel to partner agencies on the ground in Port-au-Prince, as well as the equally hard-hit city of Jacmel. Operation USA will focus a good portion of its relief and recovery efforts in Jacmel—knowing it can make a significant impact in this smaller and somewhat overlooked community. 

For photos of construction progress and project updates:
Learn more–Ecole Nationale JM Henriquez


Media Contact: 

Alison Deknatel, Director of Communications, Operation USA

310.838.3455 or

Anne Alexander, Gensler Los Angeles
310.449.5772 or

Jessica Stanton, Miyamoto International
360.696.8930 or