How Are Architects Responding to the Haiti Disaster?

Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz, via Flickr

In the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, countless relief organizations have stepped up to provide immediate aid to the Caribbean nation. Architects and designers are contributing as well, and with good reason: Since much of the damage could have been avoided with strictly enforced building codes or earthquake-proof structures, the architecture community will play a key role in ensuring that this disaster does not happen again.

Currently, Cameron Sinclair and Architecture for Humanity are leading the way in reconstruction planning, wisely eschewing a build-now, plan-later approach in favor of a long-term initiative. You can read AFH’s seven-point reconstruction plan here.

Long-term planning is essential, but so is short-term relief. Here is a look at some of the more immediate initiatives proposed by the architecture and design community. (If you know of any important programs we missed, please leave a comment below or send us an e-mail with the details.)

  • Article 25 is a UK based charity organization that believes that all people deserve adequate housing and shelter. It designs and delivers architectural solutions worldwide to those in need. Article 25 vowed to monitor the international response effort to determine the coordination between key agencies to ensure success in the reconstruction of Haiti.
  • The USGBC pledged its support to “rescue and rebuild” Haiti. In the past, the organization has worked in similar natural disaster zones in New Orleans and Greensburg and now promises similar long-term assistance. In the meantime for immediate aid, those interested are asked to donate through the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.
  • Habitat for Humanity is working to address the problem of immediate shelter in Haiti. The organization is removing the rubble of fallen buildings to begin the rebuilding process. Habitat is also working to provide transitional housing for families displaced by the disaster.
  • Engineers without Borders is not providing direct relief.  But it is rallying support for the cause by seeking out French and/or Creole speaking volunteer engineers to assist in the rebuilding process. Since EWB has several ongoing projects in Haiti, it is also possible to donate through its Web site.
  • In terms of proposed shelter solutions, a research group from Clemson University – SEED – utilizes shipping containers for housing in the time of disaster. The containers can be cut to provide light and windows, and can withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters. SEED chose shipping containers because there are 30 million unused in the world today. The surplus containers can be utilized immediately. SEED is working to make their project a reality in Haiti.
  • ShelterBox is a relief organization that immediately responds to disasters by shipping survival boxes to the disaster site. Each is equipped with a tent, tools and supplies to support a family of ten.

For most of the design community, however, the best thing that can be done to help is to raise money for the relief effort. Here is a short list of larger organizations in need of immediate donations: the American Red Cross; UNICEF; Doctors Without Borders; Partners in Health; the William J. Clinton Foundation; the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund; and the Yele Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

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