The Haitian Cabins/ Les Cabanons d'Haiti/

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Location: Haiti. Earthquake-ridden nation

Designed after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, Les Cabanons d’Haiti is a proposal to provide an easy to build dwelling that is sufficiently sturdy to remain in place long-term. Using an innovative hurricane and seismically resilient aircraft technology whose foam core components are light enough to be handled by two people, these cabins are designed to be easily attached and arranged to create larger homes and compounds. Given the magnitude of the destruction in Haiti where hundreds of thousands were displaced, and the particular local conditions verified through numerous site visits and interviews, this proposal acknowledges that the scale and program of these cabin encampments exceed the one-size-fits-all approach of a typical post-disaster tent city.

Earthquake and Hurricane Resistant

Haiti is one of several places in the Caribbean that is subject to both earthquakes and hurricanes. Inexpensive buildings made of wood and metal panels, such as those in most shantytowns, are vulnerable in windstorms. The more expensive masonry block construction resists winds but, as seen in Haiti, can be most vulnerable in earthquakes. The technology for Les Cabanons consists of a durable, sustainable fiber-composite that is new to architecture and relief housing. The wall, floor, roof, door, and shutter panels are thin and light but are structural and insulatory-- with fire, seismic and hurricane resistant properties once assembled.

Easy to Ship, Build, and Maintain

Each cabin is cut from pre-cut, standardized panels that can be shipped flat and assembled on site with no waste. They require minimal skill training to erect. The various pieces are glued together with a special adhesive that chemically bonds them to form one solid structure. While plans and assemblages vary and can be individually customized and expanded upon, all units will guarantee a safe area for families. Foundations can be hand drilled by auger and the footings can be made from salvaged concrete blocks. Building sites do not require intact infrastructure. In the absence of sewer or septic facilities, waste can be accommodated via composting bags. A test module was assembled in Little Haiti, Miami, in March of 2010

Assembled to Meet a Range of Urban, Geographic, and Social Conditions

Ian Davis’s book, Shelter After Disaster, documents that in housing for the poor the cultural fit must be very precise. It became evident early in the design process that those in need in Haiti will not succeed on a long-term basis in misconceived housing, and the investment will be wasted. This led to the creation of six layouts that account for a range of six social scenarios that acknowledge economical disparities, cultural habits such as indoor or outdoor cooking traditions, and even religious influences on design such as window placement. Building capacity is measured in “beds,” a Haitian metric reflective of the true devastation suffered. Each prototype cabin assemblage is shown as part of an urban context, demonstrating its contribution to a larger community plan. Units were designed for a variety of terrains, as it is likely that housing will be encouraged outside of the destroyed urban centers.

This project is about bringing a space-age material into the realm of emergency housing. More importantly, however, it is about designing a functional dwelling that is able to adapt to larger scale settlement patterns, and in doing so contribute to the lifestyle and customs of a very particular culture.

The Charter Principles most addressed by this proposal are the following.

A Primary Takes of All Urban Architecture and Landscape Design is the Physical Definition of Streets and Public Spaces as Places of Shared Use

   The six urban layouts are specifically designed to spatially define and distinguish public and private zones relative to their more urban or rural character. Each layout by its very form provides a distinctive place-making character with a variety of streetscapes and enclosed gathering areas.

Architecture and Landscape Designs Should Grow Fro Local Climate, Topography, History, and Building Practice

  The urban layouts address different topographic conditions to which the elevated, modular cabins are easily adapted. The open spaces are crafted in each layout to provide both public spaces and private courts appropriate to each Social Scenario. The cabins, once assembled, are designed to withstand high winds, earthquakes, fire, and help mitigate extreme outdoor temperatures. Both as individual buildings and urban assemblies, they are very much of their place.

All Buildings Should Provide Their Inhabitants with a Clear Sense of Location, Weather and Time. Natural Methods of Heating and Cooling Can be More Resource-Efficient Than Mechanical Systems.

• The cabins are designed to provide natural ventilation, shade, and water collection. As they are oriented to the outdoors to a great extent, they have a very clear relationship to their tropical surroundings.

In attempting to be financially feasible, functional, easily implemented, and long-lasting for its users, this project particularly abides by the Canons listed under The Building and Infrastructure, namely nos. 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. The cabins are notable for the following features that address land conservation, energy consumption, durability, and maintenance.

The units are compact (160 sf for the basic model).

Each cabin can be built in 12 hours with no skilled labor-nearly 70 percent faster than traditional construction.

The foam-core material for all surfaces is high-quality, durable, non-flammable, waterproof, and does not provide a food

source for algae or mold growth.

Construction involves minimal to no on-site waste, air pollution, or natural-resource consumption.

Given the insulation properties of the material and the cross-ventilation from the openings, minimal energy needed to heat and/or cool the structure and provides excellent noise reduction.

Surfaces may be covered with any desired finish (paint, stone, stucco, wallpaper, etc.), but it is not necessary to do so.

Lessons learned: • Some poor prefer to remain homeless, finding rudimentary and temporary shelter, and who would likely sell or refuse provision of housing or materials. (Scenario I) • Some can only afford self-built dwellings in informal settlements. They need a formal agreement with a government agency or an NGO where in exchange for certain actions they are allowed to inhabit a location. (Scenario II) • Some are prepared to live in more formal settlements, but still in self-built houses. They need at least a deed, a platted lot and access to minimal, shared infrastructures such as toilets and water. (Scenario III) • Higher classes (Scenarios IV-VI) can afford separate dwellings, via subsidies or loans as needed, and should receive basic access to electricity, water, and paved streets. The middle class begins in Scenario VI. • Cooking and Eating: In Haiti, Most socialzing, cooking, and eating takes place outdoors, at the edge of the dwelling, and under shade. Yet where the cooking/eating takes place changes from more urban to more rural locations, with more privacy desired in places of higher density where neighbors may not be as familiar as those in smaller rural communities. • Sleeping Accommodations: Bedding and floor area have long been scarce in Haiti. Thus the planning metric became “beds per acre”. Rooms are multi-functional and sleeping mats, like Japanese tatamis, placed throughout a home for maximum sleeping capacity. • Openings: Certain Haitian classes reject windows, believing that spirits enter through them. Hence, these cabins were given openings that receive shutters of a material and a thickness that, when closed, are coplanar with the wall.

Transect Zone(s): T2 rural, T3 sub-urban, T4 general, T5 center.
Status: Proposed
Project or Plan's Scale: Block
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Project team designers: Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company
Project team developers: N/A

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