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Haiti: A Pathfinder to Post-Earthquake Responses for Environmental and Natural Resources

Sustainable Earthquake Resistant Housing

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Compiled by: 3rd year University of South Carolina Law Student Victor A. Dorobantu.

Issue:

In order to ensure that post-earthquake structures in Haiti will be in the best interest of Haitian residents, it will be critical to consider issues related to both sustainability/efficiency and durability in the face of natural disasters.

Background:

The cost of rebuilding Haiti will be enormous, possibly beyond $10 billion. One of the main things that many are concerned with in rebuilding the infrastructure and buildings of Haiti is to build them so that they will be energy efficient ("green") moving into the future, but also so that the buildings can withstand greater potential damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

sustainable_architecture_smGreen architecture, or green design, is an approach to building that minimizes harmful effects on human health and the environment. The "green" architect or designer attempts to safeguard air, water, and earth by choosing eco-friendly building materials and construction practices. There are several building techniques that can be used to design houses or larger structures that will meet this criteria including methods using bamboo, straw, or bags full of adobe. There are ways to build both "green" and durable that are being explored throughout the US and the world.

Possible Ways Forward:

One technique for building residential buildings using earthquake resistant means would be straw bale building - a technique which involves building homes made up of mainly straw. This approach is not only green, but should be very inexpensive because of the abundance of straw worldwide. Not only are straw bale houses extremely earthquake resistant, they are also roughly three times as efficient as conventional framing. Over the life of a typical thirty-year mortgage, this superior insulation can reduce energy costs by up to 75%, saving money and vital natural resources.

Other options are being considered by various stakeholders in the lead up to a rebuilding effort. One discussion of how to rebuild Haiti can be found at the "Plan to Rebuild" Forum: http://www.plantorebuildhaiti.com/

For Further Information:

Photo credit: USAID.


ABOUT THIS PATHFINDER

This project was researched primarily by the Spring 2010 Environmental Law Seminar students at the University of South Carolina School of Law: Victor A. Dorobantu, Erin Kee, Daniel Y. Lee, Katherine M. Malloy, W. Guy Quinn, William R. Timmons IV, Amanda B. Turner. They were supervised by Professor Kim Diana Connolly, and assisted by librarians Terrye Conroy, Rebekah Maxwell and Stephanie Marshall. Coordinating partners were certain staff of the Environmental Law Institute, Konpay, the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. All questions or comments regarding the pathfinder should be directed to Professor Connolly. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate. It is current as of March 26, 2010.