Architects act on Haiti

Monday 18 Jan 2010

What is being done in the aftermath of the Haiti quake?

One week ago Haiti fell victim to the largest earthquake in its history with devastation beyond all anticipation. The quake struck at 16.53 local time on January 12th and measured a massive 7.0 on the Richter scale. Estimates of the numbers killed range from 50,000 to 200,000. Haitian President Rene Preval described the scene in the capital as “unimaginable” and said: “Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed.” UN officials said at least 14 people had died when the UN’s five-storey headquarters and two smaller buildings in Port-au-Prince collapsed.

Plans for the rebuilding of Haiti have already begun. Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit design services firm, taps into a network of more than 40,000 professionals to bring design, construction and development services to where they are critically needed. Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Haiti quake the following was posted on their website: “For those not used to working in disasters the first week is chaotic, filled with stories of heroism and despair. The first responders are not the NGO's or medical personal but the families of those who are injured or lost their lives. It is an overwhelming situation to be in. It is also not the time for architects to show up thinking they can rebuild. People are trying to find their loved ones not think about what their lives will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years.”

The firm’s three to five year rebuilding scheme is already underway. The pre-planning and damage analysis stage has commenced and is expected to run for a year. From week 6 to month 3, the firm plans to establish a Community Resource Centre and Reconstruction Studio, followed by the organisation of land tenure and building ownership from month 6, which can continue up to year 5. In month 6 transitional shelters, health clinics and community structures are erected. These are expected to be completed by year 2. Work on schools, hospitals and civic structures is started in month 9 and aimed for completion in year 3 and permanent housing is started in year 1 and hoped to be finished by year 5.

Article 25, a UK registered charity that designs, builds and manages projects to provide better shelter wherever there is disaster, poverty or need, have said that they are currently monitoring the situation in Haiti, particularly the international response effort. They are also examining the best ways to coordinate with key agencies and channel built environment skills into the reconstruction phase to come.

Habitat for Humanity International is concerned with both the immediate and long-term recovery of Haiti. Kip Scheidler, senior director of Global Disaster Response at Habitat for Humanity said: “Habitat for Humanity is sending an assessment team into the impacted area. Once we know the full magnitude of this disaster, we’ll begin Habitat’s recovery process.”

Together with Yele Haiti and AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group), Architecture for Humanity has launched an appeal for supplying construction and design professionals and supporting the earthquake resistant structures in Haiti. This funding will be focused on providing longer-term recovery rather than emergency relief.

To donate, go to www.architectureforhumanity.org

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