The Ceverine School recently finished its reconstruction and the new classrooms are officially Open for Knowledge. While not itself a Students Rebuild school, Ceverine can show us what's taking shape for the up-and-coming Students Rebuild schools.
The most important consideration for schools is making a comfortable and
safe learning environment for children–an issue whose availability has
varied for some of the different pre-quake schools we've encountered in
Haiti. Ventilation plays a large role, as does a building's lightness.
Structural engineers are nearly unanimously opposed to the use of
concrete roof slabs, for instance, as they burden walls and place too
much risk at stake. Engineers prefer the lightness of metal roofs, and
in some cases walls that reduce the extent of concrete block use as
We've seen several variations of this block-knee-wall-with-vegetative-upper-wall proposed by experienced and ecologically-minded builders for Haiti. While the straw bale house certainly pops to mind, several engineers are promoting bamboo as a strong, lightweight and natural solution to complete lower block walls (although bamboo is not any more readily harvestable in Haiti than mature wood at the moment). Also–these structure types are a departure from what Haitian builders are accustomed to and training (and some convincing) will have to accompany any new proposed building system.
Sometimes hurricane and earthquake forces combine to make design a very difficult endeavor. Part of the appeal of block buildings and concrete roofs in the first place is that they withstand hurricane winds–and the roofs are much less likely to fly away! Yet metal hurricane ties can do just as well for the wood trusses supporting corrugated roofs–these diamond pieces of hardware secure the truss to the wood wall framing…but aren't widely available in Haiti. (At one point, we needed all our hurricane ties flown in from Miami by a volunteer as checked luggage!)
Ventilation plays a smaller role in safety but is crutial for the comfort of a building's occupants. Ceverine has developed its window screens in such a way with the help of local artisans from the Studio Drum Collaborative. The screens use a unique combination of welded steel frames and woven grass shades–a terrific way to allow shade and passage of air.
With all the reconstruction starting around the country, it's easy to imagine groups like Studio Drum Collaborative soon being inundated with work. Local craft-based businesses around the country could really take off–and do much to boost Haiti's local economies. Architecture for Humanity has already asked the Studio Drum Collaborative to do the window and clerestory (overhead) screens for the next school project, Dignité (see below).
Ceverine School has captured some of the challenges of working in Haiti–but the school also pioneers local relationships–you don't see too many screen windows or hurricane ties on schools around the country, but they just might come into style.
Photos by Darren Gill and Tommy Stewart. Rendering by Architecture for Humanity