Be Like Brit Orphanage


When a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and approximately 1.5 million people were initially displaced from their homes. To serve Haitian children, many of whom were orphaned after the earthquake, the Gengel family of Rutland, Massachusetts established the Be Like Brit orphanage and non-profit organization in memory of their daughter, Britney Gengel. Britney perished in the earthquake while on a community service trip with her college classmates. SGH consulted on the structural design for the building.

The mission of Be Like Brit is to serve the children of Haiti by establishing a safe, nurturing, and sustainable orphanage in an environment where they can grow, learn, and thrive. The two-story, 9,000 sq ft orphanage is arranged around two central courtyards within the B-shaped footprint to commemorate Britney.

The lack of seismic-resistant construction contributed significantly to the losses during the 2010 earthquake. SGH was eager to help the project team make this orphanage more resistant to earthquake damage. We researched building codes and standards applicable to Haiti and discovered that Haiti lacked an official building code and standards to ensure construction quality. Futhermore, we found that the limited information available for seismic design criteria for Haiti severely underestimated the seismic potential for the area. SGH collaborated with the project architects to develop a structural system that could resist anticipated earthquake forces, while supporting the architectural vision and allowing for a functional layout.

A memorial to the young woman who perished in the earthquake, the structure will protect the children living there during future earthquakes and serves as a building standard for other new construction in Haiti. As part of the construction effort, The Be Like Brit project has employed over 100 Haitian men and women, further helping the local economy.

Project Summary



Completion Date


Construction Value
New Construction
Health Care & Life Sciences
Britney Gengel's Poorest of the Poor Fund, Inc
Specialized Capabilities
Building Design | Seismic Engineering

Key team members

John Thomsen
John Thomsen
New Structural Design Division Head, Boston
Brian Twomey
Brian Twomey
Senior Project Manger