RTM is proud to have a team of talented employees who not only demonstrate professional excellence, but also a passion for making positive change in the world.
Since 2012, Chris Kneeland, a project engineer at RTM’s Milwaukee office, has been dedicating his time to a team for a pro-bono project building a sustainable and energy-efficient orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti.
About the Project
Just after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) spearheaded a project to design and construct the first LEED-certified orphanage in Haiti. Orphanages were seriously damaged during the earthquake, leaving many children without safe places to live or clean water to drink. The goal of the project is to go beyond simply meeting basic needs, but also to provide an orphanage where children can have opportunities to thrive.
“We like to call ourselves the bridge – between that life that child comes from and where that child is going,” said Gina F. Duncan, Executive Director, Fondation Enfant Jesus in a promotional video for the project. “Children need nurturing, they need to be healthy, and they need to feel safe. And this is what we’re trying to provide in creating this orphanage.”
The William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center, formerly Project Haiti, will be a three-story, minimalist structure built out of concrete and steel with wood accents, housing around 20 to 40 children at a time. It’s designed to be a replicable model of sustainability and resiliency, providing its own energy supply on a daily basis, while also safeguarding against the possibility of another natural disaster. Allan Skodowski and Roger Limoges from USGBC led the creation of the project, along with lead architect Thomas Knittel. An international team of architects, designers and engineers is donating time and working together for the project’s completion.
Energy & Solar Design
Chris Kneeland became involved in the William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center project when a former classmate recommended him to design the solar energy component. The aim of the facility’s electrical design is to result in net-zero or net-positive energy production. The grid in Haiti is unreliable, and instead of suffering through power outages or relying on generator power, a solar energy system would allow the orphanage to produce as much power as needed.
Chris designed a solar energy generation and storage system, consisting of large rooftop solar panels and a battery bank. Each of the 72, 1×2 meter solar panels generates 350 watts, resulting in more than 25,000 watts to power the orphanage.
Because the panels generate energy only during the day, the facility also needs a battery system to store solar energy for use at night or during a natural disaster. The battery bank is an assembly of many large industrial batteries, and it is designed to power the building for up to 48 hours with no sunlight.
Industrial batteries typically last for 10 or more years, but if they run constantly for an extended period of time, they can be damaged and have a shorter lifetime. To protect the batteries, Chris also added a generator to the plans. If the batteries run for one day and start to get close to 50 percent depth of discharge, the generator will turn on to prevent battery damage. The generator is propane, which is a cleaner-burning and more readily available fuel.
Chris’ passion for sustainable energy and working for a good cause has led him to dedicate many hours to William Jefferson Clinton Children’s Center since 2012.
“I’m enthusiastic about working on it because of the different aspects,” he said. “I’m helping out those who just don’t have the help themselves, and at the same time, I’m doing something I like to do.”
Chris said that while he mainly works on the project in his spare time, the principals at RTM have been great resources, offering their time whenever he needs them.
“I’ve had a lot of support to work on the project,” Chris said.