Architects and other housing professionals in the United States and beyond have been mobilizing to help the people of earthquake-devastated Haiti. Bolstered by fundraising events such as the worldwide PechaKucha Night for Haiti, which raised about $75,000 for Architecture for Humanity, nonprofit organizations have begun the intensive groundwork required to prepare for rebuilding efforts. “When you’re starting to think about rebuilding, land records are usually inaccessible or destroyed,” says Kate Stohr, managing director of Architecture for Humanity. “Even if they have records, the land is not ‘clear title,’ so you have to start at the beginning and figure out who owns it.”
Stohr’s group has placed a handful of staffers in Haiti to focus on these issues, and they plan to open a rebuilding center in Port-au-Prince this April. The center will provide design and construction administration services to other nonprofit and community-based organizations. Architecture for Humanity also has completed a free Rebuilding 101 manual written in Creole, French, Spanish, and English that is available online and at the rebuilding center. “So many people are doing self-help housing, in which they build their homes themselves,” Stohr says. “The goal is to educate the builder and consumer so they demand—and build—safer housing and buildings.” To the same end, the group is working on making plans available for “core housing” prototypes that can be added to over time, and it also has partnered with Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group to train local masons in earthquake-safe masonry construction techniques.
Habitat for Humanity, too, offers core housing designs that have been adapted to Haiti’s geography and culture. The organization is preparing to build its first 50 earthquake-resistant core houses on a site outside Port-au-Prince. It also has constructed some hurricane-resistant transitional shelter prototypes inside the city. “Another thing hindering permanent construction is the need for excavation and extrication,” notes Mario Flores, director of disaster response field operations for Habitat for Humanity International. “The rubble still has to be cleared.” Habitat is distributing 10,000 emergency shelter kits to help Haitians through the upcoming rainy season and has trained engineers and other building professionals to inspect structures for earthquake damage. “We have an aspirational number of 20,000 permanent houses in Haiti,” Flores adds. “It’s aspirational in the sense that we don’t have the funding to do that, yet.”
Andrés Duany, FAIA, principal and founding partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. in Miami, is working with InnoVida Holdings, a prefab building company that uses fiber-composite panels to create earthquake- and hurricane-resistant structures. InnoVida has pledged to donate 1,000 units to Haiti—some designed by Duany and his firm—and to open a factory there later this year, so the buildings can be manufactured locally. (View the slideshow for images of the work.)
How You Can Help
To donate to relief efforts in Haiti, please visit the following links:
Volunteer opportunities also are available. Check Architecture for Humanity’s website for the group’s particular needs; all who wish to apply to volunteer should fill out this form. Habitat for Humanity also may have some volunteer opportunities for architects; the organization is particularly interested in people who could make longer-term commitments (6 months or more) and who have experience designing and building integrated housing projects. Visit Habitat’s website for details.