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Off-grid clinic uses renewable energy to support health services in Chile

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The quiet coastal enclave of Caleta El Sauce is as beautiful as it is remote, which means the sleepy fishing village only receives regular medical assistance every 30 days. To assist visiting doctors, SAA arquitectura + territorio designed a small health clinic for the community—a rather difficult task given the hard-to-reach location and absence of readily available potable water and electricity. Thus the building was equipped with solar panels and prefabricated offsite to reduce construction time to just seven days.

The 25-square-meter Rural Health Clinic sits on a rocky ledge overlooking the ocean in Ovalle, north of Fray Jorge National Park. Elevated off the ground, the kinked prefabricated structure comprises two main volumes connected together at an angle. One half of the building houses a waiting room and medical room and is mostly opaque, save for a few small square windows, to preserve privacy. In contrast, the other half of the building is completely open on one side and functions as a terrace. A slatted black solar screen was installed on the ocean-facing facade of the building.

“Site layout was determined in relation to achieving a connection with the sea, while also generating connectivity with existing homes, but which, given its scale, was capable of projecting itself toward the coast as just another element of the landscape,” write the architects. A support shed for the rural health clinic includes photovoltaic panels that power lighting and charging equipment, a water tank and drain, as well as a small storage space. The clinic’s simple design is conducive to easy disassembly and relocation.

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