Haiti: looking ahead to reconstruction

haiti-earthquake-devastationThe horror and devastation we’re seeing in Haiti after a massive earthquake leveled so much of the country barely a week ago is almost unimaginable.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen a country hit so hard by an earthquake and Haiti is hardly a country equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

What really surprised me is how so many of the buildings in Haiti crumbled under the magnitude 7 earthquake. I suppose, considering it’s such a poor country, we shouldn’t have expected the buildings there to be up to modern earthquake standards.

With the level of destruction and complete chaos still reigning in Haiti, it may be too early to talk about reconstruction, but it will have to happen at some point. I was watching a news story about the earthquake in Haiti when I saw a scene from the docks of Port Au Prince. Shipping containers were strewn about the dock and had fallen into the bay.

It occurred to me then that when Haiti finally does get around to rebuilding its battered buildings, it should consider a relatively new form of construction that might be quite appropriate for this hurricane and earthquake prone region.

hillside-shipping-container-homeUsing shipping containers as homes and apartments in Haiti may be a quick and easy way to create large amounts of secure and safe housing for the citizens of Haiti. Shipping containers have the advantage of being cheap, strong and are able to be built with in a modular fashion. It’s been done in other areas, unplanned, but it could be planned here.

Once a secure foundation is built, these containers can be welded together and stacked up to seven levels high, effectively creating a strong, cohesive structure.

Haiti has many problems with its infrastructure and these containers could be used as a template for construction in other areas around the world. Systems could easily be implemented on a cargo container apartment building to provide the occupants water, energy and safe waste disposal. Best of all is that their new home would withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.

On the building’s roof it would be easy to set up a series of solar panels and small wind generators to provide residents with electricity and the entire roof could be used to catch rainwater for residents’ use. Combine that with a storage and filtration system and residents have a way to secure some of their water needs. A greywater recycling system could also divert water to gardens for residents to be able to grow some of their own food.

modulute-container-apartmentsInstead of regular flush toilets, it would make more sense to install composting or incinerating toilets to preserve water. It would also lighten the load on Haiti’s overtaxed and destroyed infrastructure.

A layer of spray foam insulation for each container unit would help to reduce or eliminate the need for air conditioning, freeing up electricity for other uses.

I’ve talked before about going off-grid in the city, and while that may not be entirely possible, an increased level of independence would be beneficial for residents of such a building.

Ideally these containers would be converted in another location, shipped to Haiti and assembled there. The world has thousands of unused shipping containers and I believe it would be an ideal way to give Haitians a secure form of housing that could help them recover from this disaster.

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Alain Saffel

If I were to picture my ideal life, I’d be sitting in some far off land, sipping a coffee in a café, my backpack at my side, camera around my neck, motorcycle at the curb, pondering my next stop or maybe madly typing away on my laptop about my latest adventure.

One thought on “Haiti: looking ahead to reconstruction”

  1. i have several relatives who were also vicitimized by the earthquake in Haiti. thank God that they were not seriously hurt. i hope and pray that Haiti would be able to recover soon from this disaster.

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