Continuing on some of the principles established around housing and habitat in PART 1,
3. [RESPECT] ECOLOGY
To give a concrete example specifically related to my experience (and UNOPS’) working in Haiti, looking at a more macro scale risk assessment are done in every neighborhood in order to identify areas of high vulnerability as a first step to determine environmental impacts and protection strategies. These are areas where we cannot intervene and reconstruct but need to adopt strong mitigation strategies. Most of the time, these are also populated areas in which case, relocation strategies need to be part of the equation in order to assist families in finding a new solution for their housing. Aspects of relocation bring about a relevant debate around the provision vs. the enabling of housing. Although many have a very dogmatic view on whether one option should be selected over the other, It is our experience, that both are needed depending on the context and situation. Knowing that many families who are in these very vulnerable situation are not there by choice, but because of lack of choice, one cannot simply displace families without pointing them to an alternative and expect them not to return…
At a more micro scale, urban design and architecture play an important role to create and adopt passive design strategies in order to optimize natural resources as much as possible. In Haiti, this primarily includes aspects of lighting, cross-ventilation, placing attention to the orientation of houses, their agglomeration, the use of topography, water management, etc.
4. [BRING] INNOVATION
When speaking of innovation, it is not necessarily looking at the use of new technologies or inventions, but innovation as a problem solving tool. Many times innovating simply means challenging the paradigm and making some changes in order to increase efficiency and benefits.
Once again to base this principle on a concrete example, all reconstruction efforts we (UNOPS) have done in Haiti support the new guidelines and construction codes put in place by the government (with the assistance of various other actors and organizations). The intent here ihas been to support existing policies and better building practices, not by challenging what already exists but by improving it. Thus, the housing reconstructions done in the neighborhoods are all done with confined masonry, the construction technique that is primarily used, taking advantage of accessible materials in the markets and neighborhoods.
Nevertheless, parallel to the commitment to safe and secure housing is to provide alternatives for both the population and the government. In this respect, bamboo- with its impressive strength, flexibility, durability, appropriateness in tropical climates and fast capacity to grow- is one of the most viable and exciting solutions to produce a local alternative for Haiti, and create new potentials for the country’s economic development. In order to begin fighting the stigma and presenting a new alternative to the government as well as local contractors and communities, UNOPS introduced bamboo in its housing designs through the construction of doors, windows, awnings and verandas for houses. Below is an example of the latter in one of our pilot houses (located in the neighborhood of Morne Hercule)
Stay tuned for PART 3!