Beyond the Build

Community Service

Fresh Air Design

Last weekend, I saw a 60 Minutes segment featuring MASS Design Group, a non-profit architecture firm with a focus on communities and wholistic design, who gained international notoriety for their work in Rwanda. Their name is familiar to us, as we have been working with them on the initial planning phase of a new project which we look forward to building.

MASS founders began as volunteers for Paul Farmer, a physician and medical anthropologist who gave them three design principles for hospitals. The goals were to be beautiful, help locals and create natural airflow, which would in turn cut down on the transmission of airborne disease. They went on to build this hospital in rural Rwanda, using local materials and employing thousands of locals along the way. To see all this come together was nothing short of amazing.

MASS has brought these design principles back to the U.S., choosing projects that serve the community and creating open air spaces that just make sense. Our team had similar goals when we built our place many years ago, including our tall casement windows that are easy to open and the overall campus design featuring loads of access to outdoor spaces and fresh air. Obviously, COVID-19 did not have many silver linings, but one might be that others are seeing the need for fresh air flow and rethinking ventilation systems just as our hospital discovered about half way through 2020.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.