The Devastation to Haiti
Many remember the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti in the early part of that year. The massive 7. earthquake wreaked havoc on an island that didn’t have much in the way of building codes. The natural disaster made over one million people homeless, and another 300,000 lost their lives. The story grew even more gruesome when a 9.5 earthquake hit Chile only a few months later. Only 500 or so people lost their lives to this earthquake almost 500 times as powerful as the last.
Many started to wonder why the quake took such a toll on Haiti and not Chile. What had they done wrong to be so ill prepared for such an event. Over the years, Haiti had faced massive deforestation. The poor populations then turned to concrete and cement, the cheapest building materials available. While strong enough to hold up the roof, the lateral shaking caused by the earthquake was the Achilles heel of millions of homes and buildings.
A possible solution
John Naylor, a diploma recipient from the Architectural Association, developed a plan for Haiti’s rebuilding that involved bamboo. His plan was threefold:
1. Rebuild Haiti so that it is protected from future natural disasters.
2. Use eco-friendly materials that will be good for the cost and environment effective.
3. Engender the continued use of eco-friendly materials to bolster the economy.
While providing for Haiti’s rebuilding, if the entire island country be re-materialized, it would effectively be a working and bounteous economy. In combating the housing of the large poor class, this plan would effectively combat their unemployment and poverty in general.
Teaching the Uneducated
With any additional architectural plans that are to be instituted over a large scale such as this, the designer faces a few obstacles. The first is the acceptability of his design. The Haitian’s have a very thick and rich culture – not being ones to change at the desires of just anyone. Being as such, Naylor designed his cost-effective houses to match the Haitian culture. They are called Lakou houses, after the Haitian name. They have a communal courtyard typology (see image below).
Secondly, Naylor had to make plans to teach the country’s labor force the proper techniques necessary when building these buildings. Using new resources makes this tactic extremely difficult, not to mention the large illiterate population in Haiti. Plans were made to educate small groups of locals who would then teach other groups
Bamboo Lakou Project
The plan was officially named the Bamboo Lakou Project, highlighting the implementing of bamboo into the countries culture and economy. Bamboo will serve a variety of purposes in the rebuilding, but it serves the most immediate concern of safety. Unlike concrete, bamboo is an extremely flexible timber (even more so than traditional lumber). Even in its ability to flex, it has a very high rating for strength retention. This is precisely what gives bamboo a higher earthquake safety rating than traditional wood. Bamboo is the key ingredient to the Bamboo Lakou houses. In order to build a cost effective system, Naylor designed his structures with all locally available resources and then just added bamboo, but.
Bamboo’s Eco-friendly Nature
Bamboo was chosen for the project for a few other reasons. Namely, bamboo is an extremely beneficial plant for the environment. It absorbs greenhouses gases like CO2 at a much faster rate than regular trees, and a produces 33% more oxygen than regular trees. The speed of its renewability is unmatched. Bamboo can mature in just 3 years, meaning that, when compared to a tree, bamboo can be harvested many many times before a tree can mature even once. Bamboo is a very realistic and powerful option if we are considering plans to rebuild Haiti’s buildings and their economy.
Bamboo can have a dramatic and great affect on the Haitian economy. Predominantly made up of the poor class, Haiti does not produce or export a ton of goods or wares. If bamboo use and growth were engendered across the island, it would give Haiti a substantial to export to surround countries, especially the United States.
Currently, China is the largest and pretty much the only substantial exported and harvester of bamboo. Bamboo’s popularity is rapidly growing, and the United States imports a ton of bamboo from China every year. Bamboo from Haiti would give America a close and much cheaper location to acquire this resource from. There are already hundreds of companies that sell bamboo in its various forms to the public in the United States. The demand is only growing.
Haiti stands to benefit from being a member of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) as well. In addition to being closer to the U.S., this provides them with significant tax breaks, making their product inherently more appealing to potential buyers from the U.S.
Bamboo can also reach levels of specialization within Haiti. Instead of just raw materials, factories can convert, or be built, to fashion bamboo into flooring, blankets, paneling and wares organic bamboo sheets, clothing, and more. The amount of jobs that can be created from these areas is significant.
Now all we need is for Naylor to execute on his project. Bamboo has a real chance to greatly affect this small country, bringing economic blessings as well as rebuilding the damaged structures of Haiti.
Haiti could see production and rebuilding on a substantial level in just 3 years, because of the rapid growth. Haiti could be supplying and rebuilding itself in as little as three years, even though some bamboo could be imported to jump start the process. Hopefully, the Haitian government welcomes and helps to accelerate this concept.