haiti, tent camp haiti
Adrian Wyld/AP Photo/The Canadian Press
A young boy makes his way between tents in a temporary camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,
Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010.

Innovative Temporary Homes Could Replace Tents in Port-au-Prince

February 02, 2010 03:14 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Expandable, lightweight houses are being developed for homeless Haitians in Port-au-Prince, though some experts suggest relocating the capital city is the safest option.

Homes Could Be Shipped to Haiti

Andrés Duany, an architect and planner in Miami known for his efforts on the “Katrina Cottage,” an alternative to the FEMA trailers, has developed a lightweight “core house” for homeless Haitians. According to Andres Viglucci of The Miami Herald, the houses are expandable and could be shipped to Haiti in compact packages, ready for easy assembly by local workers.

Simply designed, the houses could sleep eight in a bunk-style arrangement, and would be constructed from a composite material that is “thin but strong, durable, fireproof, waterproof and mold-proof,” Viglucci writes.

Duany is “a co-founder of the New Urbanist movement” that advocates “development of walkable, sustainable communities as an alternative to auto-dependent sprawl.” The New Urbanists designed and constructed thousands of homes for residents of New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, but those designs wouldn't work in Haiti due to cost, Duany noted. 

Rebuilding or Relocating Port-au-Prince

Reuters spoke with United Nations emergency relief official John Holmes. “Shelter is top priority” in Haiti, Holmes said. Nearly 7,000 tents have already been distributed, and 50,000 more are en route, but the U.N. is hoping to “avoid creating large camps” because they often turn into permanent homes. Holmes said the goal now is to let Haitians stay in tents “near the ruins of their homes and close to their jobs, rather than moving them out of the capital.” Later, Holmes noted, sturdier weather-resistant shelter will be necessary.

Rather than rebuild in an unstable location, some experts are suggesting moving the Haitian capital out of Port-au-Prince. Claude Prépetit, the government’s official seismologist, predicted the quake and says another even stronger one will occur within 20 years, according to Der Spiegel. Haiti is set to receive $2 billion in aid for “immediate disaster relief” and to reconstruct the city “with more stable official buildings.” But Prépetit has crafted a map that would lead “a bold exodus” to a new capital, perhaps in “the plain surrounding Dessalines,” which is one of Haiti’s safest places, seismologically.

Related Topic: Prefab homes

Prefabricated homes have become increasingly trendy in recent years, but despite being small in size, prefab homes are not necessarily more affordable. The environmental impacts of prefab homes have also been debated.

Even so, some manufacturers claim that their new prototypes are both affordable and eco-friendly. Prolific prefab manufacturers in the United States, such as Maryville, Tenn.-based Clayton Homes, have stepped up efforts to make their products greener and less expensive.

According to a Popular Mechanics article, the new Clayton I-House is so efficient that it “can be powered for a dollar a day.” The homes have an Ikea-meets-Apple feel, and are targeted at “younger and more affluent” homebuyers rather than traditional mobile home buyers. Clayton plans to sell the most basic version of the I-House, which can be expanded and features “Low-E windows, solar augmentation, high-efficiency appliances and superior insulation” for around $100,000.

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