While is it tragic what happened in Haiti I am wondering if a building could
even be effectively designed to withstand the
magnitude of the Haiti earthquake......... in-otherwords would say the Calf.
Building code have prevented many of the deaths
and destruction in Haiti or was this earthquake just too strong. I use Calf.
building code only because I know that state has many
earthquakes and does try and prepare their buildings for one.
I'm asking this question because if the United States is going to be the
ones to primarily rebuild the schools, hospitals, roads, etc.
in Haiti then perhaps We should just make the country part of us so at
least we know things will get built right and perhaps prevent
these things from happening again as such a large catastrophic disaster.
Difficult to assess the situation at this stage. Seems to me an inordinate
amount of damage to buildings that look to have been reasonably
constructed, eg massive concrete frame connections torn completely apart.
However, not much evidence of tortion joints anywhere? The seismic scale
doesn't really tell us much. Where was the epicenter? Right underneath Port
au Prince? A lot depends on the geology. My experience is limited to PNG;
The Siassi Earthquake, 7.8, caused a few landslides, sprung some pipes and
swimming pools ... not much else. 7.8 in Mexico City would be major,
because (I'm told) the city is basically sitting in a bowl of rock, so the
reciprocating wave is greatly magnified.
Interesting stuff Ken, not so far from something I have been working on.
[Got put on the back-burner, but there is a looming housing affordability
crisis here, it is now unlawful for land developers to mandate minimum size
for dwellings, so maybe it will come to the front again ...]
20 x 20 ... I was working on a 6m (19.7ft) x 3.5m (11.5ft) module. 6m
easily fits on a flatbed truck, 3.5m because that's a "wide" load but not
"exceptional" load under local road rules. 1 module has enough space to
comply as a dwelling, Can be lifted with simple cranage. 2 makes a family
Not sure of flat roofs for the tropics - uncommon here ...
Framed structures work well. Heat is gained, sure, but easily lost after
sunset, whereas masonry is a heat store and hugely inefficient unless fully
protected from the sun.
My stuff on design in the tropics, affordable housing, etc:
A personal take, but some of my stuff has been referenced by Prof Dick
Aynsley, UNESCO Professor of Architecture.
This was also the target price for the stuff I was working on - in Oz
dollars but there's more or less parity these days :-)
1000 gallons = +/- 3636 litres. Yep. It looks like Haiti has more periods
of tropical maritime than a typical wet tropics climate - dry periods
rather than rain almost every evening. Average rainfall only slightly
higher than NQ 'dry' tropics, but at least it doesn't all come down at
once? Tanks might work ok, but will need to be mozzy-proof. That part of
the Caribbean has Dengue as well.
Framed construction can work well where there are both earth tremours and
cyclones/hurricanes. Where wind is concerned, design is dependent on a
continuous load path throughout the structure, from roof surface to
foundation. The problem is not primarily the materials (provided they are
adequate), but how they are fixed together. I'm not so familiar with earth
movement, but, as I said before, joints need to have some sort of torsion
function. I've seen massive timber beam/column joints holding up in an
earthquake, because the joints were vine lashings - the joints tighten as
they move. Plate and bolt joints just tear apart.
Not sure about double glazing. Here, 6mm laminated glass, usually min. 21%
solar-reduced, plus extra-toughened for smaller spaces such as bathrooms.
Or maybe leave out the glass. Shutters would help protect from flying
debris, as long as they aren't the first thing to come off when the wind
In PNG we had small electric heaters to keep the air drier in enclosed
spaces like wardrobes. Not very effective. Maximising air movement is best.
Also discourages mosquitoes - they like still air. Good supply of plastic
tubs with lids and silica gel helps protect small items. Btw - dunno
whether they've improved over the years, but in my time, printed circuit
boards literally took on a life of their own in the humid tropics.
The initial building envelope is 16'x16', with loft area for sleeping
and storage, and a front porch.
This is a totally stand alone application, off grid, if you will.
Most of the big stuff has been worked out and the finer aspects are
currently being worked on.
This package will be modular, in that it will be fabricated in a
facility, loaded onto ONE truck and then assembled on site.
The difficult part is making it modular and able to fit on one truck.
Aside from foundation requirements, this package can be made move-in
ready by 2 capable adults in less than 1 week after site delivery.
Total package cost? $15,000.00 US + delivery
I reckon 20 x 20 (6 x 6) also. Done as 2 x 6 x 3 modules? Bolt together
or freestanding - gap between has shade sail? In the interim period a 20
x 20 will end up with at least two families in it. Cooking outside.
Apologies. I used to think in both eg "3m of 4 by 2 " now I'd tend to say
"3m of 100 x 50 ". Not much better. 1 meter = 3.2808399 feet 1 foot 0.3048 meters - but here it's 'metre' (French). Corbusier reckoned they
should drop the metric system and use imperial units because they are
related to the human body / step etc whereas the metre is a fraction of
the circumference of the earth (and apparently they got it a bit wrong).
A wonder the Academie Francaise didn't go after him. Ah yes he was
The ply to both sides of walls should provide enough resistance to sheer.
But what about bottom plates to substructure? What stops the whole frame
lifting off the base? Traditional lightweight framing for cyclonic areas
has cyclone bolts - threaded rod running the full height of the
structure, nuts and washers each end.
There's a generous floor to ceiling height, so the framing above door and
window heads could be ply-faced trusses. Maybe vertical trusses either
side of openings.
Nice touch - simple.
Cyclonic (Hurricane) wind speed ratings here now range from 50 m/s
(metres per second) for built-up and sheltered areas, 61 m/s for open
areas, 74 - 86 m/s for rising slopes and escarpment lines.
How would the ply handle impact from flying debris? Better than most
alternative materials I guess ...
Best local report:
[ may need line-wrap removed]
Fair enough. But not - I trust - concrete dome (later in the thread). In
the tropics the occupants will be cooked :-(
Amazing ... I think it's a piece of spotted gum or similar hardwood.
Alexandra palms became more popular after this was published.
Btw - the image was used by engineers to calculate the wind speed, along
with traffic signs where the posts had sheared at ground level. No
anemometers around capable of staying together long enough.
Now I can tear up a few plates of them fish and chips but that pork n
bean on toast thing...good gawd man, whats wrong with you?
You HAVE to put cut up hot dogs in them beans!!!!!
And that spalted gum, I'll give ya $10US for it right now.
Would make a right nice candlestick it would.
Incidently, at 200mph that Alexandra Palm prolly had a nice bend to
it, so that gum-arrow was heading toward the ground when the impact
Regardless, it would have went all the way through a human body no
How far were you personally from the eye?
Sure would. There's other similar pictures floating around - one of a
huge beam that stopped just above a bed - that the owner was sheltering
under .... Colleague of mine had a home-made roof vent fixed on his
mother's roof. Survived completely undamaged. I reckon he should patent
150km or so. The more powerful the cyclone the more localised the effect.
At the time my job included trying to persuade builders that they needed
to take notice. Currently we have ex-tropical cyclone Olga, now a rain
depression, wobbling about wondering whether to dump on all of us.
The place will cope with 300mm over 48 hours but 400mm over 4 hours will
be different, especially with king tides on the way.
In Florida all the *specialists* advise getting under something heavy,
such as a door header or under a big table, or in a small room and I
have reservations about that. My first thought is, "What do you want
to have collapse on you, something heavy or something light?" I tend
to look at things from a structural perspective and I can usually
judge pretty good the the holding capacity of stuff, such as door
headers and the weight they are already carrying. Interior headers are
not normally headers at all but simple 2x construction and will offer
not much resistance to a roof collapse.
Hurricane Charlie, in 2004, caused me to readjust my outlook on
hurricanes as it was the first one I had ever went through in 38 years
of living in southwest Florida. Lots of close calls but never any
direct hits, til then. We were 3 miles from the eye and the
environment was completely barbaric. My wife and son huddled in the
laundry room the whole time only peeking out occaisionally to see
whats up. But I had to remain vigilant, I had to know what was getting
ready to kill me and get out of its way if possible. I watched the
bank of sliding glass doors in our living room bend-in severly in the
middle and put all my weight against it to keep them from buckling.
Meanwhile outside I saw the concrete filled PVC posts of our 6' high
estate fence snap off in domino fashion and whole 8' long fence panels
shudder then vanish. I later found one over half a mile away and they
rest were never seen again. Yes, it sounds like what you'd imagine a
freight train sounds like. And the power of such a thing is truly
unimaginable if you haven't experienced it. The whole earth
concentrating that power in a small specific area is downright
terrifying. It will humble all.
During that period and for several years prior most of my design work
was on the barrier islands off the coast. The body of water beween the
isands and the mainland runs vertically along the coast and is called
Pine Island Sound and that was the *highway* that Charlie chose to
follow. Entering the south end of the sound it Charlie headed
northerly with 200+ mph winds, scouring the land on both sides of the
sound. The east side of the sound was mainly wetlands with very few
buildings and the west side was a scattering of islands, Sanibel,
Captiva, North Captiva, Cayo Costa, Useppa, Boca Grand and all of them
received severe damage. Over the next few months I worked on 49
different remodeling jobs on those islands. I saw a wall in a master
bedroom on the 4th floor of a $4mil home completely encased in at
least 12" thick seaweed. Under the seaweed, hidden from view, was a
$100k entertainment system, completely destroyed. My first job was the
home that had received the most expensive loss ever in hurricane
history in the US. A home valued at $3mil, which faced directly on the
Gulf of Mexico, where some of the pilings snapped and the top floor
collapsed down onto the floor below, buckling the wooden pilings on
the ground floor. All of that had to be removed before reconstruction
could begin. The most amazing thing was that the 2nd floor kitchen had
corian countertops with an island with a 12" cantilevered snack bar.
Well that snack bar cantilever is where the corner of the collapsed
floor above landed and it held the load but transferred it to the
pilings below. That corian is some STRONG stuff!
Riding the boat across Pine Island Sound from Cape Coral to Useppa was
very daunting becaue there were many entire roofs submerged under the
water. On one trip I was riding my client Rory's Donzi racing boat at
50 mph and he had a mixed drink in his hand and Pink Floyd playing
LOUD and the lowerend of the motor hit one of those roofs snapping it
completely off at the transom. Rory was sitting at the controls and
slammed his face on the steering wheel. I and another guy were
standing at the moment of impact. The other guy catapaulted over the
bow and landed in the water but I instantly grabbed an upright and
almost snatched both arms clear out of the sockets. We puttered back
on a trolling motor.
Charlie spilled out of the sound and turned slightly to the east into
the enormous Charlotte Harbor. Upon entering the open water it picked
up a little speed and headed toward the city of Punta Gorda on the
northside of the Peace River. There, it wreaked total destruction on
everything at a maginitude never before seen. Yes, the damage to the
barrier islands was immense but most of those homes were built
recently and were able to sustain less damage because of it. Punta
Gorda, though, was mostly older homes, some built back 50-60 years or
more before people were concerned about things like building codes. In
a way Charlie took the trash to the curb, really. The newer homes
sustained the least amount of damage and the old stuff was, well,
Our home was designed by me and a large part of it was built by me and
the damage we received from Charlie was minimal. We lost our fence,
about $7k, some screen panels on our pool enclosure, about $300 and
some ventilated soffit panels, maybe $50. All in all we got lucky. We
replaced the fence and used 6000# concrete in the posts, replaced all
the screen panels and added 4 more cable braces, replaced the missing
soffit panels and installed 1000 more nails that anchor them to the
2x6 subfascia and ran a continuous bead of silicone caulk around the
whole house where the soffit panels intersect the J channel on the
wall. Live and learn.
When I built my office/workshop 3 years ago here in Hoosierville the
building inspector said it was easily the strongest building in the
county, cause I designed and built it to my standard Florida
specifications. But I don't have 200mph windows and there are trees
all over the place and tornadoes frequent this area. You can't always
escape mother nature when she's venting / ranting.
I agree. The advice is probably based on the post-event observation that
small framed spaces tend to hold up better than larger ones, but as your
experience shows, whole framed structures can take off.
After a 1998 blow there was a pile of house roofs and shipping containers
just offshore here for a while. No longer visible, but still a good fishing
Also maybe different for earthquakes. Our earthquake in PNG was picked up
10 minutes before it happened by the family cat. He hissed, his fur stood
on end, and he went and stood under a door head. We didn't understand the
reason, but there was no shifting him - ferocious critter at the best of
Not sure if dogs have the same facility - no one reported it anyway.
After the shake the cat relaxed and wandered off, whereas the local dogs
went on yelping.
Speaking of dogs. I have a female Cocker (Lady) that is the joy of my
life along with her Brittany sister (Brandy).
Every single time I enter the room she, the Cocker, will come racing
to me and start smelling my right knee.
She has done this ever since I first got her almost 10 years ago and
does it to this day.
Well about 3 years ago out of nowhere my right knee started coming out
of joint and usually at the most inconvenient of times.
Do you think she knew from way back then that something was wrong with
it and did it somehow emit a different kind of smell only a dog could
(I name my dogs after 70's songs. My last dog was a boy and his name
was Dustyn DaWynd.
Yep - our family dog always knows which part of me is on the blink. Seems
to be something dogs are good at - even the medical profession is beginning
to recognise it. Dog saliva is mildly antiseptic and is also astringent,
plus helps blood coagulate. Mind you - it's a major job when I've been
working on a car for a while ... On the other hand, the old car seems to go
better with a bit of blood in it :-)
Is Florida considered the tropics?
If not, it should be. HA!
Anyway, the domes will be sprayed with 12" of foam and all utilities
(HVAC) will be underground (basement) in waterproof, airtight
These domes will be permanently anchored to gaia with 40' long x 14"
sq tapered cast concrete pilings placed strategically around the
perimeter of the cast concrete domes. The floors will be cast in place
as well and all exterior penetrations will be able to withstand 1000
psi of pressure.
15 years ago I designed a Wafflehouse that faced the ocean with these
specs, cept for the dome part. It was waterproof to a height of 10'
and engineered to never lift off the ground no matter how high the
water rose and the windows were manuf'd by the company that did the
glass at Seaworld.
Yes, its all prohibitively expensive but, as the LIEberals say, "What
price can you put on a life?" LOL
Same thing on the islands I design homes on cept all the hardware,
even the plates on the trusses, must be stainless steel, and the rods
(and bolts on the piling/stringer connections) must be retorqued after
1 year, so access to them must be provided. ALL exterior lumber and
all framing members must be pressure treated or better.
I was recently informed that because of the increase in the thickness
of the window channels all rough openings must be at least 2" bigger
than before and they now require full 1/4" x 6" lags (with lead
sleeves for concrete construction) for anchorage (4" from each corner
and 12" o/c). There's more stuff too but I won't bore you. :-)
Interesting. Finally starting to see stainless steel here instead of
galvanised. Here it's usually only cyclone rods that can be accessed for
retorquing. I have accessible bolts in my house framing. Composite
steel/hardwood framed "Tomi" house (Reunion Island architect Maurice
Tomi's EXN system).
Could we get back on topic of this tread ?
Designing for Haiti ? what does that mean ?
Please read again carefully the Ben Nassar and Warm Worm message
We have to think about simple sollutions and adequate intervention
instead of following our own misconcepts about the world as it is
constructed be the western mind !
Haiti is now filled with rubble , or lets call it Urbanit , hence we
have to recycle the debris and provide the best sollution for the
locals to use the available resources, not only concrete rubble and
wood but also the sun and the specefics of the climate!
First of all this monstreous disater gives good opportunity to reshape
the urban pattens and enchance the quality of life in the future.
Some examples - wider alleys between teh traditional shacks, some
small squares where the poor people could grow some vegetables - ideal
will be this small gardens to be irigated by recycled grey water.
about the climate : solar chimneys are easy to build and could provide
draft for ventilation - both for living spaces and for compost toilets
( lhttp://www.strawbalecentral.com/cinva/sunnyjohn.html )
Small dwelings should be grouped to save on utilities in the beginnig
- later they could be supplied with adequate sanitary equipment and
running water. Design should allow this kind of staging .
Foundation walls could be build by on- site made gabions or earthbag
technique or something simmilar utilizing the hard rubble.
wood collumns could be made out of recycled wood in some boxed beam
kind of sollution .
I could go further with the design but I need some input from somebody
who is phisiccally there to evaluate the availability of recources in
Basically help is needed to build sound structure with stable roof ,
elevated from the ground ( crawl space ) and let the people do the
infill between teh structural memebrs in the way they want and with
the means they could get for free .
Something simmilar was done in chile :
Peace and Prosperity
Where is the client in all of these assumptions, do they not have a
say in any of this?
What is the baseline, that is, from where are you starting your
For 600 years people have been making assumptions about the place and
the people, like you are now, and after all is said and done you end
up with impoverished people that are little more than slaves and
nobody anywhere pays them any mind.
I saw the same thing in this group and elsewhere after Katrina, lots
of ideas but little action.
I designed 18 *hurricane proof* homes for the areas around the Katrina
disaster area which are continuing to be built presently.
What have you done?
**The words hurricane proof, in this context, have definitions that
are custom made for a specific model that may or may not fit your
Apparently bamboo can grow in Haiti (unsure how much of it is
currently available); makes a good building material for many uses,
(including reciprocal roofs?); can withstand many natural assaults
(possibly including hurricanes); grows fast (tall and straight?); and
I've just read that it might even be a treatment for some of their
soil-erosion problems (which earthquakes may exacerbate?). It's also
attractive and recyclable/renewable, etc..
Concrete indeed seems a bad idea from a few standpoints, including
high embodied energy, pollution, recyclability and the already-
mentioned concern for heat.
I'm not an architect, though, (I design with a leaning toward natural/
green/alternative/small/sustainable residential architecture) so
perhaps any resident alt.architecture architects will chime in and
correct/elaborate on some of this.
Take a look at that place on Google Earth, it is barren.
Just about all of the vegetation has been scraped from the earth,
right up to the border with the Dominican Republic.
This of course attributes to the vast amount of erosion and ruination
- the whole place is sliding into the ocean one grain of sand at a
They could line shipping containers end to end all around the
perimeter of that half of the island and then backfill them from ocean
dredging to create a stablized environment. Then airlift thousands of
containers and random drop them all over that barren wasteland and let
the people do with them as they see fit.
Also, they could D-9 vacated Detroit then scrape the whole pile up and
drop it down there in Haiti too so they could use all that building
material to set up their new shipping container homes in the style
they only imagined and use the rest for out buildings and farming
essentials. Oh yeah, also punch several thousand 4" dia holes all over
the island and insert concrete cased 2" PVC pipes for wells and the
water can be harvested with bicycle powered pump stations or better
yet, used the working cars that were turned in for Cash for Clunkers
last year as makeshift pumps.
The resources are all around its just a matter of having the proper
minds to make it all happen and happen at little to no cost at all.
Everything is already here, its just not in the right place and
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