Home Research, Development and Innovation in Construction REALOMETER DISPATCH #5 : Innovative Building Technology is Key to Rebuilding Haiti...

REALOMETER DISPATCH #5 : Innovative Building Technology is Key to Rebuilding Haiti Safer

Aldy Castor, MD, President,
Haiti  Resource Development Foundation
29  Oct. 2012

In August Tropical storm Isaac exposed the latest step backward in Haiti rebuilding.  The storm, not even a hurricane, blew off many roofs at a new Inter-American Development Bank funded housing project in Zoranje.  Fortunately, no injuries were reported, most likely because only around 25 of the 400 houses were occupied – and many months after their completion.

And now Haiti is cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy’s eye passed well away from Haiti, but nevertheless over 40 Haitians lost their lives, and damage is extensive.  We hope that GoH uses this tragic event to clearly define floodplains, and stipulate where it is safe to build. 

The dangerous Zoranje event was unnecessary if proper engineering and building technology had been employed.  These 400 houses will likely need to be largely rebuilt costing many more millions of dollars, and delay further urgently needed housing.  This video shows some of the damage: http://www.defend.ht/news/videos/environment/3319-tropical-storm-isaac-carried-many-roofs

Haiti needs better home building technology now.  Greg Higgins and I have been discussing ways to create safe housing since our trip to Haiti last September, hosted by HRDF.  As Greg mentioned in Dispatch #4, I introduced him to two Haitian architects in Port-au-Prince, Jean-Jacques Coicou and Auguste Guercy.  Greg demonstrated to them how the HabiTek system works, using actual HabiTek steel parts.  Both Haitian architects are very experienced professionals. 

After Greg finished his demonstration, Jean-Jacques exclaimed, “This is perfect for Haiti!”, and Auguste nodded in agreement. They were especially impressed, as I was, that a HabiTek chassis can be assembled with one simple hand tool (no electricity is needed), and by almost any able-bodied person, leaving the finish out to be undertaken over time – the Haitian way.  Also, because of the unique way the employs steel, occupants will not need to be concerned about hurricanes and earthquakes.  This is what “build back better” should be about.

We understand that pre-engineered and pre-fabricated steel is now too expensive for most Haitians.  However, with sufficient volume to justify mass-production, and fabrication done in Haiti, costs could be substantially reduced, and steel could become competitive.  HabiTek and HRDF have been involved in R&D activity to make HabiTek-Haiti a reality as soon as possible.  A demonstration project in Haiti is our first goal, and this will be the subject of future Dispatches.  I think HabiTek would be a game changer; and unlike the fiasco in Zoranje, it would be a serious step forward to assure that when the next hurricane or earthquake comes along, no one will be injured or killed.  That’s dealing with potential disasters BEFORE they occur, a mission of HRDF.


The Haitian Resource Development Foundation prioritizes programs that enable and empower various Haitian locales to further personal and collective independence. Engaging in a range of programs over 20 years, the HRDF continues a commitment to providing measurable results for program beneficiaries and program benefactors. Working with multiple international partners from North America and Europe, the HRDF is committed to fundamental improvements in Haitian villages to ensure greater economic vitality in the near future.