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We can say that Haiti and more specifically the areas around Port-au-Prince are an architectural disaster with slow progress removing fallen and damaged buildings, and repair or new construction nearly non-existent. One of the last major earthquakes was the magnitude 7.7 Cap-Haitien quake in 1842. Records indicate the city of 60,000 was leveled and 10,000 died from building collapse, fire and tsunami. The January 7 magnitude quake was centered near Leogane, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Port-au-Prince.
Many areas in Port-au-Prince have developed haphazardly and sometimes in incredibly dense patterns with buildings constantly being expanded to accommodate business or leasable residences to create income. Concrete and concrete block are the common building materials for several reasons including cost, availability, ease of use, etc. When the earthquake struck, poor construction along with ‘stacked’ buildings collapsed on each other. While cleanup and construction are occurring, the local builders continue to build using their traditional means and methods and designers (if the building is designed) continue to create building shapes as they did prior to the earthquake which are many times complex in shape and top heavy.
The non-profit AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group) is working with local designers and masons to teach seismic principles and provide basic training in the construction of block and concrete buildings. AIDG arranges 6 -7 one or two day classes per week held in different locations around the region as funding and instructors are available. Two AIDG engineers and a mason are sent to a designated class site along with an AIDG interpreter to teach a two part workshop for which 25 – 30 Haitians participate and at the end of the session receive a certificate for Basic Construction. A diagrammed handout with accompanying text written in Creole is provided for Part I of the class and addresses:
• Building shape and size along with interior wall placement
• Openings, overhangs and multiple stories
• Foundations and reinforcement
• Columns, beams and slabs
• Block making
• Preparation of materials and their placement
• Placement of electrical and plumbing piping
• Concrete and block repairs
• Informal testing for existing and concrete quality
• Rules of thumb engineering for seismic design
Part II of the class is a hands-on demonstration of materials refining (sifting of river sand), mixing mortar in correct proportions and building a small wall section of block and mortar including mortar placement and joint tooling. If time allows, block and concrete repair are also demonstrated.
Frank Ward instructs attendees during Part II.
Yung Moon Chang is a structural engineer with KPFF in Los Angeles.
Adajah Codio is a Haitian student who was studying engineering in Port-au-Prince until his school building collapsed in the January earthquake.
Frank Ward is a certified mason currently working in Washington.
AIDG is a non-profit providing rural villages in developing countries with affordable and environmentally sound technologies that meet their need for clean water, electricity, and sanitation, the basics of life. AIDG work provides a novel approach to sustainable development by empowering people with the physical tools and practical knowledge to solve infrastructure problems in their own communities.
AFH supports AIDG’s work in Haiti through a funding grant and provision of living quarters at their maison in Petion-ville.
Mason Training Locations
|Date, in 2010||Location||Number|
|March 8||Petite Place Cazeau (Ti Plas Kazo)||40|
|March 9||Delmas 33 Route de Silot||21|
|March 10||Delmas 33 Matthew 25||34|
|March 14||Fonds des Negres||21|
|April 5||Delmas 75 "Ophelinat Help The Children"||14|
|April 7||Delmas 83||17|
|April 8||Marin 26 "Orphelinat Holy Angels"||78|
|April 10||Delmas 95, Jacquet Toto||26|
|April 14||Delmas 89||28|
|April 17||Tabarre 49||108|
Check out AIDG's blog for more information.