Can a Midwest studio and design firm improve the health of rural Africa?

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), has recognized emersion DESIGN for their work in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati, School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID).

Teaming with Professor Michael Zaretsky and several other SAID faculty and students, emersion DESIGN helped develop the master plan for the Roche Health Center, a 14-building complex in Roche, a small village in northwestern Tanzania. The villagers of Roche have compared their healthcare situation to living on an island. With no medical facility in their village, they have to walk four hours to the nearest hospital in Shirati. In emergencies, this becomes a life threatening situation. Even by car, it takes nearly an hour to get to Shirati. The need for a health center was great, and through partnerships between architects, engineers, Village Life Outreach Project, the Shirati Health, Education, and Development Foundation, the Tanzanian government, and the University of Cincinnati Colleges of DAAP, Honors, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, the idea for the Roche Health Center was realized. Construction began on May 30, 2010 and on April 4, the following year the first building of the Roche Health Center complex was completed and opened to patients.

emersion DESIGN encouraged the students to consider the role the Roche Health Center building plays in the grand master plan for the site and to offer forward thinking for the future of the community that this project will foster. Chad Edwards describes being involved with projects like the Roche Health Center as part of emersion DESIGN’s culture. “One of [emersion DESIGN’s] focus points is to work with clients that do good for society… [The Roche Health Center] certainly fits that bill, especially when you think about Tanzania’s 1:50,000 doctor to patient ratio. It’s not every day you get the chance to be a part of that change,” Edwards said.

The NCARB jury praised the Roche Health Center project for “being replicable in many parts of the world needing quality building design and construction.”

NCARB National Award For Collaboration

Net-Zero Energy/Water

Bioclimatic Design

Passive Ventilation

Community Based Design

Non-Profit Client


University Partner

Project contact
Chad Edwards
513 841 3907
emersion DESIGN offered critique of Michael Zaretsky's DAAP design studio.
The Roche Health Clinic was design to allow local materials and resources to be manipulated into new building practices.
University students and faculty traveled to Tanzania to teach the new construction practices.
The clinic utilizes passive design techniques for capturing breezes, filtering light and capturing rain water.