Our Chief Operations Officer took this photo in Haiti today. “T-shelters” or “transitional shelters” are a popular solution in post-disaster situations. They’re built to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, to keep residents from being displaced again. They are expensive and subtract funds which could be used for retrofitting damaged homes or rebuilding homes. A family is living in this t-shelter, which is three years old now and clearly deteriorating. By some estimates, the [2010 earthquake in Haiti] killed 200,000 people and made 1.3 million homeless overnight by destroying or damaging 172,000 homes or apartments. But the new projects do not necessarily house earthquake victims, over 200,000 of whom still live in tents or in the three large new slums. In total, the new projects, with homes for at least 3,588 families, cost 88 million dollars. (In contrast, international donors and private … Read More
Look at the top of the wall. The decision to lay the top course of blocks on its side for extra ventilation was an extremely bad one, making it so the seismic load in the roof slab has no competent load path to the shear wall below. In the retrofit evaluation our engineers give this wall no credit for seismic resistance–it will have to be fixed.
By Gordon Goodell, Build Change Chief Operations Officer Feb. 27, 2014 Years before I came to Build Change I worked on a mountain rescue team. The first rule for rescue is “My safety, and the safety of my team.” At Build Change we work to limit our risk to the extent possible by ensuring that all buildings we use are seismically safe. By the nature of what we do, most of our staff at Build Change spend a lot of time in zones of high seismic hazard. We make our best effort to ensure that offices and other buildings rented by Build Change are seismically safe. We designed and implemented a seismic retrofit of our office in Port-au-Prince because we had concerns about its safety. The photo is of the apartment/office we rented in Bogotá, Colombia while we are teaching Colombian engineers … Read More
Sure, if they’re designed and built to be safe in earthquakes At Build Change we mostly teach people to build masonry houses or timber houses. We do not use plastic bottles, tires, straw bales, earth bags, or any number of other approaches which have been touted as environmentally-friendly, cost-effective methods to rebuild devastated areas. Why? What’s wrong with homes made from waste materials? Or plastic bottle houses? Or straw bale houses? Well, nothing, really. A lot of argument goes on over whether one building system is better than another, particularly in the seismically active zones where we work. There are really only two things that matter: 1. Can the house be built so that it is safe? 2. Will people want to live in it? All the other questions and issues can be rolled into these two. If the necessary … Read More
The problem we have at Build Change is that the destruction in the wake of major natural disasters is so huge and the need to rebuild is so great, that we don’t have enough hands to rebuild it all. Teaching local people how to build an entirely new, unfamiliar structural system, whether it is earthships, plastic bottle homes, or precast concrete panels, adds unnecessary work to an already enormous task. Instead, we choose to work within the systems and designs the local builders already know and use. We teach about lateral systems and connections, which make structures able to withstand the horizontal forces of earthquakes and high winds. The lack of essential lateral systems, like diagonal bracing or connections between roof, walls, and foundation are nearly always the missing factor that led to the tragedy of collapsing buildings. By using … Read More