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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Haiti Day 3: Design Challenges

There exist numerous challenges to building in Haiti. Haiti began using concrete and cement blocks as the base building material to withstand the yearly hurricanes that sweep through the country. Floor upon floor, level upon level, buildings were constructed using a very heavy and non malleable material, concrete. The usage of concrete as the main building material only compounded the effects of the earthquake on January 12th. The result was 230,000 people dead, and many more injured. I personally saw for myself the devastation that a lone cement block can cause.

Immediately after the earthquake I joined a group of 6 teachers providing first aid just minutes after the disaster. The injuries we saw rivaled and surpassed any one might see in the emergency room. We saw 6 inch long deep gashes on heads, arms that had been almost cut off, and legs disfigured, all from one falling cement block. Now imagine an entire floor of concrete falling on you, survival was not possible.

As a result, many in Haiti are talking about alternative building methods. Yes, if built correctly concrete structures can be earthquake proof, but it is expensive. What about wood buildings? Haiti has been largely deforested and only 20% of the original trees remain. Imported wood as an alternative would also be costly. The question I present to you tonight, then, is what are suggestions for building low-cost earthquake and hurricane proof homes? If the people of Haiti are to rebuild their homes they must be safe, sound, and low-cost. The modern world must have a solution for this country, please help us find it.

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