Newsletter-Volume XXXIII-April '10
The Plan to Re-Build Haiti -- With Bamboo Housing
With so little left standing in Haiti's earthquake-stricken cities, hope can be a very difficult thing to find. But with smart planning and a lot of collaboration, an improved future for all Haitians could become reality as non-profit groups plan for new sustainable communities in the country. This April, GreenShoots takes a look at one such organization and their efforts to bring a better way of life to Haiti.
As one of the world's most dynamic renewable resources, bamboo plays a role in the reconstruction of the island nation.
A New Hope for Sustainable Living in Haiti
Even before the tragic earthquake struck Haiti in January, an MIT-based non-profit called Hope for Haiti was developing plans to rebuild the impoverished country. Organization leaders noted that the republic’s capital, Port-au-Prince, had failed to provide a higher quality of life for its citizens, and therefore focused their building efforts in the rural town of Arcahaie, about 20 miles north. The goal was to make the village self-sustainable – a place where Haitians could educate their children and make a good living without having to move to the more industrialized Port-au-Prince. After the unprecedented devastation caused by the 7.0 quake, Hope for Haiti redoubled its efforts to construct stable, eco-efficient shelters.
The new goal – to house 1000 people in 100 days.
Using bamboo to create these greatly needed homes was always part of the plan. Haiti is an almost completely deforested country, so initially, the bamboo will need to be brought in from surrounding areas. However, the long-term goal is to have Haitians cultivate their own bamboo groves which will provide high-quality construction materials up to 7 times faster than traditional timber forests can. The Hope for Haiti team also plans to incorporate other sustainable and environmentally-friendly building methods such as solar panels, reusable rainwater systems, and rammed-earth blocks instead of the reinforced concrete which failed to withstand the earthquake’s tremors.
Building eco-inspired housing is just the beginning. Hope for Haiti aims to make Arcahaie the new center for academic and agricultural education. Teaching sustainable farming techniques will provide Haitians with jobs, food for the community and goods to sell to the rest of the country and beyond. To see their vision through, the organization plans to build a school, dormitories, vegetable gardens, irrigation systems and a computer center.
The idea is to create a community which promotes self-sufficiency amongst its citizens. As architect and MIT professor Jan Wampler puts it, “The long-run issue is how to help Haiti become a more prosperous place. […] The emphases should be placed on building small communities to help with the overflow of people from Port-au-Prince, to act as a center for providing housing as well as a new sustainable model for the future. This is a sad opportunity to try to help in a new way.”