130207_Technical Studies Abstract


At the local time of 16:53 on 12th January 2010 an earthquake of 7.0 hit one of the most densely populated suburbs of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. 250,000 residences, 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed, a million people homeless and 316,000 people dead. One month later an earthquake 500 times more powerful, hit central Chile resulting in the deaths of 525. Haiti was a disaster of working practices in engineering and construction, not nature.
Introducing any new practice of working is difficult in any field. In a proud culture such as Haiti preaching a new form of building to the construction sector is riddled with problems. Low skills, lack of equipment and illiteracy, not to mention theft from a project, whether political corruption or material theft on site, all cause an environment not in a position to implement quality output which is all the more dangerous in Haiti, a site of huge seismic and natural threat. Materials in this location are defined by skill and natural resources. A lack of timber due to deforestation has resulted in concrete becoming the 21st Century vernacular and as a result any skills associated with construction have been aligned to work with concrete.
Any attempt to introduce timber structures to Haiti requires a two pronged solution. (a) Low cost of material, and a mentality in both the (b) public (demand), and the (c) building sector (supply), sympathetic to the use of timber.
To resolve this, the technical design process has been split into four main parts:
(1) Occupational Strategy; which aims to determine a means of developing solutions of occupation for the local population grounded in the existing Haitian ‘Lakou’ typology of courtyard living.
(2) Material Strategy; looks at what is available in Haiti right now and speculates on how what is available can be compounded into new possibilities of materials able to withstand seismic impact. This is added to with a strategy of developing a source of timber for use in a construction sector. The typology and availability of materials will then determine any subsequent strategies.
(3) Structural Strategy; looks at how materials can be implemented into a structural system which allows for the Haitian vernacular ‘Lakou’ design (1) to be implemented in the building system. The structural strategy also looks at the limits of design versus materials in seismic areas and tests compounds of materials as well as seismic building techniques to develop a low cost, easily buildable structural system with proven seismic credentials.
(4) Construction Strategy; will produce a method of building able to be deployed in Haiti and develops a method of deployment to a workforce mostly illiterate yet can result in the successful implementation of aspects 1, 2, and 3, all of which will revolve around the central aim of producing a low technology, easily buildable timber solutions for an earthquake zone.
(5) Education Strategy; will run parallel to the cycles of bamboo growth of which by year 5 after planting, is ready to be used in construction. This will provide the construction industry with the skills to complement the timber, providing a recognised qualification which is accredited by a central Haitian body and supported by international architecture schools. This will make sure of the longevity and expansion of the reforestation scheme and open new possibilities for wood based interventions in the Haitian construction sector.


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