Perhaps even more significant than actual buildings are the knowledge-based offerings architects can supply, such as construction training and building manuals. “Typically, the first thing we do is a manual, specific to disaster mitigation,” says Kate Stohr, co-founder of the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity (AFH). “It gives people a tangible way to move ahead.” In addition to its downloadable, 32-page Haiti Rebuilding 101 manual, her organization has been providing CAD and Revit training to Haitian architects and engineers. The training takes place in AFH’s recently completed Rebuilding Center in Port-au-Prince, which is designed to act as a support hub for local construction-related activities. (Click here for more information on Architecture for Humanity.)
Other groups also are helping to bolster building skills among both tradespeople and non-professional builders in Haiti. In 2010, dozens of architects, engineers, and reconstruction experts came together via the online Haiti Rewired forum to adapt an existing confined masonry manual for the country’s post-earthquake situation. (The confined masonry building method has long enjoyed popularity in Haiti, but a widespread lack of understanding of its structural principles there led to thousands of earthquake-related deaths.) Among several key players on this project were Architects Without Borders’ Oregon chapter, the Palleroni-led student design-build program BaSiC Initiative and volunteers from the engineering firm KPFF.
In addition to rebuilding Haitian homes and schools, Building Goodness Foundation currently is raising funds to build a trade school in Thomassin, Haiti, that will offer training for construction jobs and other in-demand professional positions. And Architects Without Borders’ Seattle chapter sent groups of architects and engineers to Haiti in April and August 2010 to assess the safety of structures in the towns of Léogâne and Petit-Goâve. They evaluated about 750 buildings, mostly residences, and found about 30 percent to be ready for reoccupation.
shaping the future
Credit: Courtesy Mike Stoneking
While some of today’s architects already are working on disaster recovery and rebuilding projects, a greater number of experienced hands will be needed in the years ahead. Climate change, overdevelopment, and other factors both natural and manmade are contributing to an exponential increase in hurricanes and flooding. “I learned in the field, but we want the next generation to be better prepared,” says Palleroni, who also teaches graduate courses in international humanitarian action through Erasmus Mundus, an academic cooperative run by the European Union. “It’s becoming an increasingly important part of professional lives in the future.” Clearly, design schools are beginning to agree. This fall, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design will debut a new area of concentration in its Master in Design Studies program called “Anticipatory Spatial Practice.” It will focus on helping students develop the skills to create pre-emptive solutions to post-disaster situations. And the College of Architecture, Art, + Design at Mississippi State University has instituted a certificate program in public design, which incorporates courses taught through the university’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, Miss. Programs like these will give more architects the tools they need to be of real service to nonprofit relief organizations.