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Forell/Elsesser Teams with Build Change on Haiti Homes Project

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San Francisco-based Forell/Elsesser Engineers Inc. was selected by Build Change to assist with the post-earthquake permanent housing reconstruction and technical assistance program in Haiti.

Forell/Elsesser Teams with Build Change on Haiti Homes Project
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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The Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake damaged or destroyed an estimated 285,000 homes, leaving 1.6 million Haitians homeless, or almost 20% of the total population.

Building upon its award-winning post-earthquake housing reconstruction programs in Indonesia and China, Build Change is partnering with Habitat for Humanity International and the Development Innovations Group on a U.S. AID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance-funded project to provide technical assistance and support to the government of Haiti on settlement issues and the development of permanent replacement housing.

As part of this program, Forell/Elsesser has partnered with Build Change to provide prototype designs for two of the five housing structure types being studied: a one- to two-story reinforced masonry house and a multi-story mixed-use commercial-residential building.

Forell/Elsesser is currently developing a full set of layout plans and details, structural narratives and construction cost estimates for both building types. These documents will be distributed by Build Change to the government of Haiti and to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) working in the country to use as a basis for preparation of construction drawings.

Build Change’s goal is to use the engineering expertise of Forell/Elsesser and other engineering consultants to improve the construction of 50,000 houses during the course of the Haiti’s reconstruction. As part of this effort, Forell/Elsesser has sent a team to Haiti to present the layout plans and details to the government, NGOs and Build Change’s Haitian staff.

Forell/Elsesser is partnering with Geohazards International (GHI) on this project.

The project is a continuation of the efforts by Forell/Elsesser Principal Rene Vignos and Senior Associate Tim Hart on a number of reconstruction projects in Haiti. Both have volunteered their time and expertise consulting a number of organizations that are involved in the reconstruction in Haiti, including Habitat for Humanity, Architecture for Humanity, and Architects without Borders. They are also members of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s special sub-committee on Haiti.

The Haiti project is also a continuation of the relationship between engineers at Forell/Elsesser and Build Change. Last January, Forell/Elsesser Engineers contributed pro-bono engineering services to Build Change by performing a structural analysis of a two-story confined masonry home designed by Build Change’s designers in China and assembling a list of recommended low-cost structural modifications to improve the seismic performance of the structure.

Hart has been a volunteer pro-bono engineer for Build Change since March 2005, first getting involved in Build Change’s reconstruction program in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. He has remained actively involved with Build Change in its subsequent reconstruction programs in West Sumatra, Indonesia; Padang, Indonesia; and Sichuan, China. Senior Principal David Friedman has been an active supporter of Build Change for many years and saw firsthand Build Change’s activity in China when he traveled to Sichuan in 2008.

Denver-based Build Change was created in September 2004 by Dr. Elizabeth Hausler with a mission to greatly reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by housing collapses due to earthquakes in developing countries. Build Change designs earthquake-resistant houses, primarily with confined masonry, for developing countries and trains builders, homeowners, engineers, and government officials to build them. By building better homes and promoting better construction practices, Build Change was able to improve the lives of over 17,000 families in Aceh and West Sumatra, Indonesia and Sichuan, China.

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