Road to Fondwa

In memory of the 2-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, take some time to watch the video, “The Road to Fondwa.”

“The Road to Fondwa” – A Documentary about Community Development in Haiti from Justin Brandon on Vimeo.


Are Sustainability and Resiliance Mutually Exclusive?

A recent article in the Bulletin for Earthquake Engineering outlines the ways in which sustainability and hazard-resilience can and must work together for safe housing in Haiti. “While many agree that sustainable redevelopment and self-reliance is essential for Haiti, few appreciate how it can be practically achieved, particularly in the domain of urban residential redevelopment” (p. 2).

The authors outline the types of materials have been used in Haiti: “Historically, due to the lack of wood, for use either as formwork or as a partitioning alternative, and the high cost of steel, cement and quality aggregate, Haitians employed construction with heavy masonry walls made of hand pressed concrete masonry units (CMUs) and lightly reinforced, undersized concrete columns, made with inferior raw materials and having inadequate strength and ductility. This combination, along with the lack of beams that would better engage the columns against earthquake loads, created systems that actually performed well under strong winds common to the Caribbean, but were conversely proven to be extremely vulnerable to earthquakes, failing through brittle collapse modes, as documented in the authors’ personal reconnaissance database through their field work in Haiti” (p. 2).

The authors explain that Haiti has a unique mix of requirements — it is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has suffered massive deforestation, and is in areas prone to both earthquakes and hurricanes. Moreover, Haiti’s government shows very little oversight in construction. They conclude, “The lack of locally-available construction materials, including the wood necessary for formwork to cast earthquake-resilient concrete frames, the steel necessary to provide strength and robust ductile behavior, or the quality masonry for confined or load bearing masonry construction makes the expense of this style of construction too great to serve the needs of the majority of displaced Haitians living in extreme poverty” (p. 4).

They conclude, “As Haiti has taught us, vulnerability stems from two potential sources: (1) lack of knowledge and (2) lack of resources to implement this knowledge properly… The only remedy is to flank these efforts with policies that encourage and support research to develop alternative, low-cost, sustainable housing that provides hazard resilience, while operating within the economic and cultural constraints of these regions so that all families will have a legitimate pathway to empowerment.” (p. 7).

Do you have ideas for how to make buildings both sustainable and resilient in Haiti? Submit your proposal to

Focus on What’s Important – Haiti Photos, January 14, 2010

Photo from National Geographic

Today we’re going to look back at the images of Haiti immediately after the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck nearly 2 years ago.

Photo from the National Geographic

Photo from National Geographic

There is a real need for sustainable, safe housing. You can be the one to change the future of places like Haiti. Join the challenge at

Science on a Mission: Engineering in Haiti

Photo by Alexandros Taflanidis

A recent blog post on the Scientific American website discusses how researchers from the University of Notre Dame are working to conquer problems of sustainable housing in Haiti.

Civil Engineering Professors Alexandros Taflanidis and Tracy Kijewski-Correa were asked to travel to Haiti to give aid and advice after the 2010 earthquake. After seeing the devastation, Kijewski-Correa reported that the problem was beyond the buildings; in an interview, she said, “Cultural and economic factors need attention. We can’t just provide building codes.”

Read the article to find out more, or check out their project website at Engineering2Empower.

Slow Progress in Haiti – Nearly Two Years Later

President Carter reports, “We have seen some the villas, some of the fancy homes along the beachfront being repaired. But there hasn’t been much evidence yet of reconstruction of the homes in Port-au-Prince,” according to an article published last week from the Washington Post outlining the slow progress being made rebuilding Haiti.

The article reports that there are still 500,000 people in Haiti living in makeshift camps (down from over 1.3 million just after the earthquake).

We can help — beginning tomorrow!