Haiti reconstruction with ferrocement impresses UNDP
High ranking visitors to a newly started production unit in Port-au-Prince (Haiti) congratulated the manager of the local EcoSur partner for an impressive start into a new project which aims to form micro-enterprises to produce construction materials for the country's reconstruction. Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and actual administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) expressed her satisfaction at the high quality of walling and roofing elements produced by the women and men of the workshop in a neighborhood badly damaged by the 2010 earthquake.
Starting March 2012, Byron Lopez, from EcoSur partner "Sofonias Ayiti" (Kreole for Haiti), received the green light to initiate this project as part of the local UNDP program. He met with 60 preselected people of "Canapé vert", a neighborhood in downtown Port-au-Prince and selected 20 women and 10 men to learn the production of ferrocement panels and later how to build low cost safe houses. The project aims to empower women to run their own businesses, but without excluding men, and as construction is a traditional male domain and involves hard labor, this gender mix seems ideal.
Helen Clark (white hat) Haiti director of UNDP, Jessica Faieta (orange hat) and
Byron Lopez (green), manager of Sofonias-Haiti
There are different tasks to be done in such a workshop, some of them involve a medium educational level, others are less demanding in this respect, but demand strong bodies. For all of them there is one common denominator: quality.
Ferrocement is a technology that was first used in France in 1848, and later was popularized through roofs that span more than 100 meters, like the ones built by Nervi in Italy 60 years ago. The idea to produce small size panels was born some 30 years ago in Cuba and applied in a few housing developments.
EcoSur partner sofonias Nicaragua redeveloped the technology and in the last years more and more projects are using it successfully.
Quality is easy to control
Many housing programs in developing countries suffer from low quality, often due to low level of instruction of the builders and of the material producers. This is a problem specifically acute in Haiti, and the large demand for construction since the earthquake has made this worse. The ferrocement walling and roofing elements are stable within themselves and span up to three meters, they cover a wall section from the foundation to the ring beam and do not need any other structural elements. As they are produced in a supervised environment, their quality can be controlled. The surface of the thin but strong elements is smooth and can be painted to give a happy look, no plastering is needed.
The assembly of the elements on the construction site is easy and fast, therefore very well suited for post disaster reconstruction, for urban environments and also for slum upgrading. Sofonias has built solid ferrocement shelters in Haiti and also hundreds of sanitary units (dry toilet and shower) using ferrocement panels. Several reports have been published in former issues of the E-magazine.
- A year after the earthquake in Haiti
- Haiti: Post Disaster Reconstruction
- Haiti: Two years after the earthquake
Training and education program
This project will concentrate on preparing the 30 "apprentices" to produce good quality panels and to assemble good houses. This involves a tough program of manual labor, mixing concrete, pouring and curing the panels, demoulding and moving them around. They have to learn how to set them into foundations and to secure them with a ring beam on top. That is why the team includes several people with masonry experience who will be trained to direct those tasks. But the building up of micro-enterprises is much more than just the physical tasks, that is why the selection also includes women with experience in the market, although not in the construction sector. They will learn some of the specifics of the construction trade, and of course receive formal business education.
The teaching team is composed of Managers, Engineers and master masons from Sofonias Nicaragua who are building up the new Ayiti chapter, and a Haitian trainee who has been with them for over a year, he is assuming responsibilities step by step. The training program has been adapted to the local realities, after at the beginning the team based their work on past experiences in Nicaragua, where they have been running a formal masonry educational program for years. Actually, the masonry instructors are former students who graduated several years ago from this dual education program (Please check: First graduates in dual education program).