The Design Observer Group

Posted 08.01.11

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Designers Build Home at Haiti Earthquake Relief Expo

Places is pleased to welcome a new partner school, the University of Minnesota College of Design.

In mid-July, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian President Michel Martelly attended the inauguration of the Build Back Better Communities Expo near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The event showcased winning designs from a competition to discover solutions for rehousing displaced Haitians following the January 2010 earthquake.

Among the 60 prototypes unveiled at the expo was a home designed by the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota College of Design. The CSBR partnered with Minneapolis-based groups the American Refugee Committee, THOR Construction and MSAADA Architects, founding the Haiti Reconstruction Partnership in collaboration with the Dania Foundation.

HRP’s home was designed and built to be durable, sustainable, secure and cost-effective. Its features include durable concrete block construction and metal roof, engineered for earthquake and hurricane resistance; flexible and expandable floor plan; 39-square-meter floor area; security grills and shutters over windows to allow natural ventilation; large front and rear porches with outdoor cooking area; and bathroom with toilet and shower.

“Our proposal draws heavily on Haiti’s most valuable resource: the resilient spirit of its people,” said Jim Lutz, lecturer and co-director of the University of Minnesota's M.S. program in architecture, sustainable design track. “The design is based on traditional Haitian homes and will provide an important means of training the next generation of builders in appropriate construction practices. The reconstruction effort will not only provide much needed housing for the people left homeless after the 2010 earthquake, but will help rebuild the devastated economy as well.”

The BBBC Housing Expo is an initiative of the Government of Haiti, with support from partners including the Clinton Foundation, John McAslan + Partners, Harvard and MIT.

Thomas Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, wrote about “How Haiti Could Change Design” for Places in February 2010.