Just after the tragic earthquake in Haiti, we wrote about the plans from renowned Miami architect Andres Duany for a temporary flat pack housing system. The initial design proposed a small cabin style home with a simple frame, netted sides and a supported awning. Over the past month Duany conducted research together with sociologists and anthropologists to refine the design for 1000 of these houses that will be donated to Haiti by composite panel manufacturer Innovida.
During his research, Duany says that his team was able to identify four separate classes of Haitians that live in very different ways, and that each home is tailored to their specific needs. To exemplify the model that will be donated, Duany’s revamped design for the since named “Le Cabanon,” home was prototyped and painted a pleasant aqua color for its unveiling last week at a press conference in Miami.
Le Cabanon homes are deceivingly simple structures that can sleep 8 people in an open floor plan with bunk beds. The construction would only take a few days, and initial tests show that the structure is earthquake proof and will withstand 155mph winds. The one room structure has a faucet that is connected to rain water tanks on the roof, so that the tenants would have potable water. However, there is no bathroom, as it is expected that water will not be available in many areas to use for a toilet. The original idea for nets on the building’s sides was traded for solid walls that would be assured to withstand the country’s rainy season.
There are several other designs for homes that were shown at the press conference to support Innovida’s proposal to build a factory in Haiti in 2010 near Port-au-Prince. These additional models could be built at that factory, which would employ approximately 1000 people. Some of these larger models that include bathrooms and expanded amenities, could range in cost from $2500 to $10000 to construct. With $15 million in investment capital, the proposed factory should produce 10,000 houses per year. You can see a tour of the homes in a video from WSNV Miami local news station channel 7.
The key to the success of these structures is the trademarked insulating panel system. Innovida CEO, Cladio Osoria, explained at the press conference that the proprietary panels are not made with traditional building materials such as wood, steel or concrete, but rather with materials used in the aviation and windmill industries. They are load bearing insulating panel systems with structural skins made of high-strength E-Glass fiber fabrics impregnated with a fire-resistant polymeric epoxy resin and a core made of a construction foam material and would be good for the conditions in Haiti, because they resist moisture, mold, and insects. The insulation ratings are equal to the level most people have in residential homes in the United States and range from an R14.6 value for the thinner panels, and up to R23.7 for the 4 inch thick panels.
Although the intentions are good, and housing is in desperate need, words like “epoxy resin” and “foam” would make the eco-minded person cringe when conjoined with “temporary structure.” Duany has said that the designs have the integrity to act as more permanent structures, and if the materials are so well suited for the environmental challenges of Haiti, why would they be only temporary? If they are not meant to be a long term solution, we question what would be done with them after their use in Haiti. Could they be transported, reassembled or reused? Furthermore, it would be welcomed information to know if the factory they propose to build would bring any negative environmental effects with it. Is there waste, off-gassing, or other harmful effects from the manufacturing of the panels?
The government has not yet made any decision for the proposals from Innovida, or from the dozens of other companies offering shelter options. With the hurricane season approaching fast, we are likely to see someone get the bid to start construction. We look forward to hearing more from Innovida, and from the decision makers in the Haitian government on the housing crisis. In a perfect world there would be a way to help remove of all of the rubble and repurpose it into strong, protective materials for rebuilding Haitian homes.
Via Jetson Green