An earthquake-destroyed school is rebuilt with hand-made blocks
There are many good-news/bad-news stories from Haiti’s reconstruction efforts. The good news is that children in Fontaine Haiti will have a place to go to school. The bad news could be that poor concrete technology will allow history to repeat. In 2010 many died in their schools under the rubble from bad concrete construction.
In a story titled Building Hope in Haiti we learn that the foundation of the new school was created using 5,500 hand-made blocks. The good news in this story is that a school is coming back into service for the children. The bad news is that poverty and the work of their own hands are combining to put them at continued risk.
“We have made 5,500 blocks, all hand-made” is the report from those who are building the new facility. Unfortunately hand-made and well made are not the same thing when producing concrete block in Haiti.
We have learned that even in an effort to reconstruct a more sustainable Haiti, that old habits are still a part of the construction culture. Many have looked at this issue and have reported the problems that poverty creates in block construction.
Erica Fischer, an Engineer at Murray Engineering visited Haiti to explore the problem of building construction and proper code oversight. Her report in May of 2010 illustrates many of the issues created from “hand-made” concrete construction. She compared US building requirements to Haiti’s when she said: “In New York, for example, concrete contractors and laboratories are required to sign off on each mix design with the Department of Buildings. In Haiti, there is little-to-no quality control on concrete mixes or designs”.
Neglecting to make building products correctly and then using the bad materials to rebuild cannot become normal again in Haiti. We must find a way to change the culture represented by Hand Made. We suggest to well-meaning people that they don’t build hope in a strong future upon a foundation created from failed concrete supply system.
We don’t blame people for doing what they believe will help the poor – we just feel that the foundations of good construction must be attracted first, before we settle on rebuilding the old ways. These old ways and the poor technology they represent will only produce more rubble and death down the road. We can fix this problem if we focus on the foundation.