The Boston-based MASS Design Group started in 2008, when co-founders Alan Ricks, 32, and Michael Murphy, 35, then students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, met with famed Harvard professor Paul Farmer, who spoke about the lack of educational and public health infrastructure in the developing world.
"It was an 'aha' moment for us," says Ricks.
Soon after, they took on projects with the aim of improving the communities around them, like the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, which rethinks the typical model of crowded medical wards that exacerbate health problems like disease transmission. The design places much of the program on the exterior, while simple interior spaces allow for more light and ventilation. Passive energy and ventilation systems protect against system failures and naturally fight germs. MASS has used such simple technical innovations elsewhere, using the combination of large fans and Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) fixtures to drastically improve health conditions.