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Recycling earthquake rubble to build safe homes for Haitians

Posted by Lindy on October 19, 2010

By Bob Allen

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is entering a new relief phase in Haiti, moving families into permanent homes built from the rubble created by the Jan. 12 earthquake that left them homeless.

Using rubble from a family’s previous home, permanent housing for earthquake victims can be built for about $3,000.  The network has set a goal of building 1,000 permanent homes in the area of Grand Goave, Haiti, over the next three years.

Beginning with a trench foundation, steel mesh is erected into a basket-style wall form that is filled with earthquake rubble broken up with sledgehammers. Field-made metal hooks keep the mesh evenly spaced. When the wall baskets are filled, mortar is added to stabilize the structure. Additional coats of mortar provide a finished look, not unlike a concrete-block exterior.

Add a wooden roof frame covered with tin, Brendle said, “and you have a very serviceable home.”

Using materials from a family’s destroyed home allows them to remain in their old neighbourhood. It aids with cleanup and solves complicated land-use issues. Construction materials are purchased locally, and Haitians are employed, boosting the local economy.

“Many families with young children are eager to get out of tents and into such houses,” Brendle said. “As we learn and perfect this process, dozens of these houses can be built, providing permanent starter homes for Haitian families.”

Brendle said the homes will have a small porch in front and a privacy enclosure for a shower in the back. They also will have a composting toilet.

Because of the strength of the steel basket and the fact that the contents are allowed to shift during an earthquake, he said engineers believe the houses will withstand an 8.0 earthquake with only minor cosmetic damage.


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