Post Earthquake Reconstruction in Haiti since 2010


Although natural disasters cannot be prevented, with proper building techniques and correct design choices, the level of infrastructural damage done can be minimized. On January 12, 2010, Haiti was affected by one of the most devastating earthquakes the country had ever experienced. With a magnitude of 7.0 over 200,000 people lost their lives and millions were displaced. The majority of the buildings that were destroyed were built in concrete but were not made to withstand an earthquake that powerful. Nonetheless, even after that event, concrete remains the most popular building material in Haiti. Since then, many changes have been made in terms of construction methods and regulations in an attempt to prevent the level of damage seen in 2010. However, unequal access to this information prevents the majority of the population from improving their building techniques. One of the key changes that was made was the creation of the country’s first national building code, Code National du Bâtiment d’Haiti (2012), which addresses questions regarding concrete construction and specifies the proper procedures when it comes to building and rebuilding. Although having the codes mark an important step towards better construction, they are inaccessible to most of Haiti’s population. Fifty-nine percent live below the poverty line1 and many of them continue to build informally with concrete. In addition, the code is written in French, which only ten percent of the population speaks, reads and understands. That further pushes away the fifty-nine percent. In effect, the poor face a language barrier. Simply because people cannot afford to hire the best engineers and architects to work on their homes does not mean that they should not have access to the information and protection provided by the code. Many are building informally and are not being supervised by higher authorities. If people are building their own homes it is important that they know the proper way to do so. A home should be one’s safe space. Therefore, having access to the information provided in the code is crucial. My project addresses this issue of accessibly to information. I will develop a series of pamphlets that will include key information that should be taken into consideration when building a home with concrete. In order to do so, I have been able to communicate with an earthquake engineer in Haiti who works with Build Change, an organization who helped developed the building code, to gather more information about construction and to discuss the code. Moreover, these pamphlets will be written in Haitian Creole, the language widely spoken, in order to reach as many people who will be building as possible. This project is not meant to be a solution to the informal building crisis in Haiti nor does it guarantee a fully earthquake resistant home. However, since so many continue to build informally with concrete in order to have a roof over their heads, it is worth thinking about what can be done now even as we work on developing a long term solution that would minimize the amount of informal building that takes place currently.



Haiti's architecture