On Jan. 12th a powerful 7.0 quake hit the impoverished nation of Haiti. There has been widespread major damage and a loss of life estimated to be between 45,000 to 50,000 (source: Red Cross). There are projections of 2-3M without shelter. Since then we have launched an appeal to focus on the long term reconstruction effort. In the first four days we’ve raised over $45,000 in individual giving and have pledges from a number of companies.
We primarily work in the reconstruction phase of post disaster situations and will be focused on transitional and permanent housing and community structures. We are partnering with AIDG, Yele Haiti and other local group by supplying them pro bono construction and design professionals, setting up community housing resource centers and support in the design and building of earthquake resistant structures.
Additionally we are producing french and creole versions of our rebuilding 101 manual (used heavily after Hurricane Katrina) and a earthquake resistant housing manual.
Our Current Reconstruction Plan – January 16, 2009
Right now the need is relief and recovery but very soon it will be long term reconstruction. Beyond the pre-existing issues with the building stock we need to think about upgrading and restoring in a sustainable manner. The NGOs focused on rebuilding need to be aware that in areas of great need structures are usually rebuilt in unsafe ways by well intention-ed volunteers.
Our long term reconstruction is a seven point plan;
1. Set up Community Resource Centers to bring architecture and building services to folks on the ground. See below for more details.
2. Translate and distribute of our Rebuilding 101 Manual.
The manual was originally developed after Hurricane Katrina and widely used in the rebuilding process.
3. Adapt, translate and distribute a Earthquake Resistant Housing Manual for local NGOs and community groups.
4. Provide Architectural and Construction professionals to develop and build community facilities inc. schools and medical centers
5. Train and Educate Incoming Volunteers in building safely and to emphasize the need for sustainable materials and construction techniques.
6. Complete the Youth Sports Facility and Disaster Recovery Center just north of Port au Prince that was developed in 2009.
7. Design, develop and implement community and civic structures for various clients and local community partners. This includes the reconstruction and building schools given the particular loss in structures.
Community Resource Centers
As have reviewed the damage we’ve assessed the greatest impact is to open community recovery centers – much like the ones we help develop after Hurricane Katrina. The two Katrina studios, supported by local partners and staffed with our building professionals, were integral in the housing of hundreds of families in East Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. If there is to be a community led long term reconstruction initiative for Haiti, we need to do the same.
Three reasons this is important:
1) Aid organizations, especially local groups, will know where they can go to get professional design and construction services. We can serve not one organization doing one project, but many. When we get it setup, they know they can walk in any day at any time to get professional help. This will prevent a lot of shoddy construction. We can host training sessions in job site safety and in basic building. Make sure that these volunteers really do have the skills and knowledge they need to build safely in a seismic and hurricane zone. We can engage local officials and coordinate the services we and they provide better.
2) Volunteer professionals who want to come down for a week or a month or just a few days will have a place to check in and be helpful doing damage assessments, housing plans, etc. Architects and engineers partnering with NGOs will have a local place where they can touch down, understand the local building codes and conditions. They can design remotely and know that someone will be shepherding the project on the ground and assisting as they need it. At the same time the services will have some continuity and the community will have a place they know they can come for design and construction help.
3) All of the work produced in these centers are shared openly, under Creative Commons license, and distributed through the Open Architecture Network. By connecting with other NGOs and open sourcing construction documents we can influence many building programs in the region. We can leave a legacy of innovative locally appropriate solutions to protect from future disasters (inc. hurricanes and climate change)
Right now, we are mobilizing a team on the ground that can support the many volunteer orgs flooding into the area and take advantage of the volunteer spirit of the professional design and construction industry that want to get involved and help rebuild.
If you want to support transitional and the long term reconstruction of Haiti in a more sustainable way then please think about making a contribution.
Updates: All updates will on this page. Additionally we’ve created a project page for Reconstruction in Haiti on the Open Architecture Network.
Twitter: The Official Architecture for Humanity twitter account is @archforhumanity and I’ve been doing on the ground updates at @casinclair – If you cannot contribute and want to support our appeal, please link to our site with your social network accounts and/or blogs.
Volunteering: In a few months we will organize a volunteer build for Yele but for now we request that you do not ‘go to Haiti’ unless you are a registered member of an emergency services team. We will be doing transitional and long term reconstruction, much like our work after Hurricane Katrina. If you would like to offer design, engineering or construction services please sign up here.
Chapters: The San Juan Chapter will be the chapter lead on rebuilding initiatives. We are also talking with the Miami chapter in regards for coordinating efforts from the United States. If your chapter is hosting a fundraiser please let us know.
After being involved in post-disaster rebuilding initiatives – from Kosovo in 1999 to Cyclone Nargis, Burma in 2009, we’ve become a source of communication about building better after disaster. In the last few days we’ve been covered in the New York Times, The Telegraph, NPR and Time Magazine to name a few. We will continue to talk about the need for bringing in professional design and construction services so that in 10, 15 or 30 years time we are not in exactly the same scenario.