[Strawbale] [Bwbnewsletter] Progress in Haiti
Builders Without Borders newsletter
BWBNewsletter at builderswithoutborders...
Wed Dec 1 19:14:02 CET 2010
After the earthquake last January, the world's attention and compassion
focused on Haiti, and many, many people wanted to make some kind of
contribution to ease the suffering. Members of the Builders Without
Borders network of natural builders and friends were among those who
wanted to help reconstruction in ways that would contribute to lasting
improvements in both structures and community.
After a year, the world's attention has moved on, and the intense
desire to contribute has sadly faded from the consciousness of the
majority. But many individuals and groups are still working hard to
make a difference. In the last year, we have seen examples of
excellent collaboration between diverse NGO's, and many committed
individuals. People have volunteered their expertise and inspiration
to carefully plan, and begin executing projects and activities in
support of Haiti. Below is a brief report from Martin Hammer, a
California architect who has taken a leading role, and agreed to serve
as Builders Without Borders project leader for work in Haiti. (The
report contains a lot of specifics and minutiae, which will give you an
idea of the level of detail needed to manage a collaborative project.)
Hello Builders Without Borders Team and others,
(note: this was written Wednesday night 11/24)
Greetings from Haiti! A bit of a difficult first day including
unexpected issues regarding the site at Grass Roots United, near the UN
in Port-au-Prince, but things seem to be sorting themselves out. Kevin
Rowell conducted a great bamboo workshop at GRU on Tuesday. About 25
attended, including people from the American Red Cross, Architecture
For Humanity and other NGOs. The people at GRU are terrific, and they
are doing great and varied work in Haiti.
Time is a real constraint with the Ti Kay Pay strawbale project,
especially for Andy Mueller, and it looks like we can't really begin
building until Monday. However, until then we are doing site prep,
materials procurement, and figuring out other things regarding
materials and the construction system.
We had a great trip to the Artibonite Valley today to see bale
production. The moisture content of the bales is an average of 12.6%,
which is great! The clear weather as we get out of the rainy season is
really helping. Average bale weight of the 1'x1'x2' bales is 13.9
pounds. Also, we did a test bale forming (2) 2x4's into a bale and we
were very happy with the outcome. So we're going with the detail of
putting 2x4s on edge as the top plate, recessed into the top corners of
the bales, for the top course. Andy suggested a great refinement in
the bale making process. Alternating direction of the "folds" of straw
at each layer. It makes for a more stable and dense bale.
I've attached photos of: the straw being compressed in the mold with
the farm jack; a bale being tied off while in the mold; and proud bale
makers Noel and Arol with one of their stacks of bales (120 of 200 are
made). Land owner Max Vieux was a great facilitator all day, and has
been since the process of collecting/drying straw and making bales
began some weeks ago. Kevin Rowell has also been enormously helpful,
teaching the process that he learned himself just recently, and
monitoring the collection and drying of the straw before we arrived.
There was slow going in the beginning, due to unfamiliarity, the
cholera epidemic (which began in Artibonite), and weather, but Noel and
Arol now really have the hang of it. They're more efficient, the bale
quality is excellent, and their production rate is up to 30 bales per 7
On the way from the Artibonite site back to the main road in St. Marc
we stopped in the village of Simonette to see and photograph more
examples of Ti Kays (small houses), the basic rural Haitian living
unit. I've attached a photo of two, including one that curiously has a
faux brick face etched or painted onto its front face. The other has
more traditional colors and patterns.
Today I also paid for a manual rubble crusher which is a huge
accomplishment. It will be delivered Friday. It's also a huge
investment at $2750, but BWB co-purchased it with Bruce King and EBNet.
Andy and I, Kevin, Bruce, and everyone involved with this work of
sustainable building solutions in Haiti expect it to be enormously
useful. Rubble as a building resource in Haiti has enormous potential.
Kevin has seen the crusher in action. I saw it in the flesh and it
appears to be a "simple" but sturdy machine (see photo), capable of
churning out 6-8 cu.yds. of crushed material per day (4 people
operating). It's a well-scaled, fairly portable machine for small to
moderate sized buildings. The rubble material can often be obtained
including delivery at no charge. Andy and I plan to use the crushed
material (which can be of a chosen size based on the setting of the
machine and/or screening) for material to fill the gravel bags,
drainage base for the earthen floor, and fine aggregate (sand
substitute) for the cement-lime plaster on the gravel bags, the
exterior lime plaster, and interior clay plaster. We did see excellent
sand in and being stockpiled from the broad Artibonite River. A good
source, but not enough to rebuild Haiti without destroying the river.
One could argue no one should take any sand from the river bed.
There is a bit of tension in the air as the elections approach
(Monday). Social unrest is a possibility, but we're hoping the
election occurs without incident.
Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) we hope to finalize location and layout of the
site and begin clearing and prepping it.
After we returned from Artibonite, as a matter of evening recreation, I
learned to swing balls of fire through the night air without setting
myself on fire (see photo). This is something all builders of bale
buildings should learn. Swinging balls of fire and strawbale buildings
under construction are such a good combination.
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