Almost two months after its Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti no longer dominates the news. But it’s still top of mind for Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, co-founders of the design services nonprofit Architecture for Humanity (AFH). The group, which has been part of Haiti’s recovery since the first post-disaster hours, published “A Plan for Reconstruction”—an edited version of which appears here—on The Huffington Post on Jan. 17, and then on its own site on Jan. 18. Updates appear on the AFH site as partnerships are made and actions move forward. Reached by phone weeks later, Sinclair says of the plan, “It’s been pretty well received by all communities.” Because half of Haiti’s population is under the age of 20, he notes, getting schools up and running is a pressing short-term goal. Of more immediate concern is how the many temporary housing camps will weather the rainy season, which peaks in May, and the hurricane season that starts in June. “One of our partners is managing a camp of 50,000—parts of it will flood,” Sinclair says, soberly. “The health issues related to that are going to be astronomical.” —Braulio Agnese
Haiti Quake: A Plan for Reconstruction
1. Community-Based Anchors: We will set up community resource centers to supply architecture and building services to community groups, NGOs, and social entrepreneurs on the ground. We’ve already talked with a dozen local and international organizations to create the Haiti Rebuilding Coalition.
2. Distribute Lessons Learned: Translate and distribute the Rebuilding 101 Manual we developed after Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami. If we only share “best practices” we never really adapt and learn. The handbook of “what not to do” is far more valuable.
3. Earthquake-Resistant Housing Manual: Adapt, translate, and distribute an earthquake-resistant housing manual for local NGOs and community groups. A coalition can work on this, including Haiti-based AIDG, Build Change, Engineers Without Borders, and other partners.
4. Provide Building Expertise: Provide teams of architectural and construction professionals to develop and build community facilities, including schools and medical centers. These teams will be local and regional, with some international support. The full-time staff must also have a unique knowledge of disaster mitigation and long-term sustainable development.
5. Build a Construction Workforce: Train and educate incoming volunteers and community members in building safely, emphasizing the need for sustainable materials and construction techniques. It is not about just building homes, but jobs.
6. Disaster Preparedness: Hurricane season is primed to devastate Haiti once again. If a hurricane hits Haiti head on, the loss of life will be severe, and every housing camp will be wiped out. Last year we developed a hurricane-resistant disaster-recovery center for Port au Prince. We will complete that project and look to implement other centers.
7. Build Schools: We will design, develop, and implement community and civic structures for various partners. Beyond the basic human right to give children access to eduction, if they don’t have a place to go, parents can’t work, and there is no economic stability. Schools are the focal point in community recovery.
8. Implement Digital Acupuncture: Working with groups like Inveneo, Samasource, AIDG, and the 50x15 Foundation, we can incorporate information communications technology into all of the community facilities. Bridging the digital divide, we can give the aid agencies the technology they need to expedite the recovery process but also upgrade the digital infrastructure of Haiti for the long term.
Credit: Ian White
Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair co-founded the San Francisco–based nonprofit Architecture for Humanity in 1999. The group brings design, construction, and development services where they are most critically needed, both on an ongoing basis and in response to natural disasters.
9. Safe, Secure, and Sustainable Housing:
It is our job to build homes that are not only safe but incorporate the needs, desires, and dreams of the families that will live in them. Additionally, we are not just building a roof over someone’s head—we are building equity. We can force better building codes by building examples of what the future will look like.
10. Support Social Entrepreneurs and Job Creation: As in many of our other post-disaster programs, we will work with women’s empowerment groups and artisans to help rebuild their facilities, speeding up job creation and the ability to distribute microloans.
11. Open Source and Share Everything: If your focus is social change, not financial gain, it is only innovative if it is shared. We were fortunate enough to win the TED Prize in 2006, and from that [$100,000] we built the Open Architecture Network. All of the works we produce are shared openly, under Creative Commons license. In two years, hundreds of humanitarian design solutions have been uploaded. By connecting with other NGOs and open sourcing construction documents, we can influence many building programs in the region. We can leave a legacy of innovative, locally appropriate solutions to protect from future disasters.