December 1, 2014

In December 2013, following the devastation unleashed by Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, HKS’ Sheila Ruder spent 10 days touring and assessing several of the island nation’s remote hospitals and clinics with Mazzetti engineers and Project HOPE representatives. The goal was to not only get the country’s vital healthcare facilities operational once again, but to improve them through sustainable design methods.

The group toured damaged healthcare facilities in the Camotes Islands, located in the central region of the Philippines; isolated and sparsely populated islands on which Project HOPE had set up disaster medical relief missions. 

Following the site visit, the team prepared assessments and prioritized repair plans to get the clinics and hospitals up and running. The needs assessment outlined the healthcare facilities’ infrastructure and operations systems, and resulted in extensive recommendations on repairs and improvements in efficiency, infection control and cost-effectiveness, as well as environmental sustainability and its impact on human health and climate resilience, including cost estimates. 

Of the multiple recommendations the team presented to the Philippines Department of Health, access to potable water was an immediate priority. The team went to work designing a solar rainwater harvesting and purification system prototype that is inexpensive to build and maintain, and simple to replicate and install in multiple locations.

Mazzetti engineers returned to the Philippines to oversee the installation of the water capture and solar purification system which, according to Ruder, requires no plumbing, running water or wired electricity – a vital design consideration because the Camotes are isolated islands with inconsistent access to electricity and water.  

“The system is self-contained and independent of other systems, including water pumps and filters,” Ruder explained. “This resilient design is as free of maintenance and replacement parts as possible. And through the coordination of Project HOPE and local volunteers, the system can be installed using local staff to ensure it will be properly maintained and repaired in the future.” According to Ruder, Mazzetti intends to use the prototype to fundraise and install as many systems as possible at healthcare facilities throughout the Philippines.

 Ruder, a vice president and senior medical planner based in HKS’ Washington D.C. office, has enjoyed a productive relationship with Mazzetti through the two firms’ long history of partnering on healthcare facility planning, design and delivery. “Mazzetti has been tremendous to work with, and with our shared focus on healthcare and environmentally sustainable projects, it was a natural opportunity and an honor to work together on this important humanitarian effort,” said Ruder. Ruder is on the implementation team for Citizen HKS, the firm’s public interest design initiative. “It is on projects like this that Citizen HKS hopes to engage with like-minded firms such as Mazzetti and others. Together we can do impactful, innovative work.” 

Mazetti Principal and CEO Walt Vernon said, “We have long-term plans to invest in sustainable infrastructure across the developing world, where it can provide great value to local communities – whether they are recovering from a natural disaster or not.” Following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Mazzetti raised funds for a solar energy system, designed it, recruited volunteers to install it and upgraded the electrical systems at the hospital in Milot, Haiti, to support it.  “Sustainable design lowers operational costs for vital services such as hospitals and clinics, decreases the environmental impact while providing a constant and reliable energy supply, and most importantly, improves the quality of life for people.” 

About Citizen HKS

Founded upon the fundamental principle that all people deserve to live in socially, economically and environmentally healthy communities, Citizen HKS is involved in public interest design projects around the world. Since its founding in 1939, HKS has completed construction projects totaling more than $77 billion in more than 1,498 cities located in 84 countries. The firm operates from 27 offices worldwide. For more information, contact Ellen Mitchell at

About Project HOPE

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in over 35 countries. For more information about Project HOPE, visit

About Mazzetti

Founded in 1962, Mazzetti’s mission is to make the world a better place by creating better environments. The firm provides engineering design and consulting, equipment planning and environmental performance improvement services to clients in the U.S. and abroad. It has offices in San Francisco, Irvine and Sacramento, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Nashville, Tennessee; Denver, Colorado; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Houston, Texas. The firm serves the healthcare, mission critical, laboratory and higher education sectors. Mazzetti was one of the first engineering firms in the U.S. to add environmental performance improvement services to their list of client services. The firm is an eight-time Practice Greenhealth, Champion for Change Award winner, the first Portland business to receive the BEST Business Center’s new Portland Climate Champion recognition, became a recipient of the Colorado Environmental Leadership Award, and recently achieved Climate Registered™ status by successfully registering its comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory with The Climate Registry, of which the firm is a founding member.

Posted in Green Places
Tagged Citizen HKS, Mazzetti, Project HOPE, Sheila Ruder, Typhoon Yolanda