Check it out! First draft of the new graphics. Hopefully now it doesn’t look so bland. Now, on to the meat of this post. Let me introduce you to my ongoing humanitarian project, the “O’Kollow Project”. Originally, this was my capstone project for the Pre-Engineering Academy at Gordon Cooper Technology Center, but after I got quite a bit of feedback from everyone who I had talked to about the project that I needed to continue, I’ve decided to keep working on it to see where it goes.
Remember the Haiti earthquake of 2010? 1.5 million people were left homeless after that natural disaster; that’s 1,500,000 survivors with no where to live. Two years later, half a million were still without a home. Yes ladies and gents, you read that right. Two full years after the original earthquake 500,000 are still living under tarps, in the mud.Japan, 2011, another half million were left without a home there as well after the tsunami.
I don’t know ’bout you lot, but I see a problem there.
Around the 2nd year “anniversary” of the Haiti earthquake, NPR was doing a bunch of stories documenting the recovery (or lack thereof really) of Haiti. They described the conditions the people were living in; in tightly packed town squares or courtyards, in the mud, with only a tarp over their heads. There was no sanitation, and diseases were rampant. No security either, theft was common, and even reports of rape.
I did a little research as to how this could possibly have happened. I mean, we had all heard of all the Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and charities that had gone to Haiti to provide aid, and they’d had two years to get at least something done, so why hadn’t they? Here’s what I came up with. Immediately after the earthquake, of course, everyone and their dog rushed in there to “help.” It seems the first thing organizations like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity did was hand out a sort of “immediate reaction kit,” which consisted of a five gallon bucket with gloves, a hammer, and a tarp. This is logical, give them something immediate to get out of the rain, as well as tools to start cleaning up debris to give a place to start to rebuild.
Now here is where the problem arises. All of those organizations that went in to “help rebuild” did one of two things. A) They asked the locals what they needed to start fixing things, usually money or materials, and then said they would “be back as soon as possible with what you need,” and of course, they would never come back, or B) NGO’s that did come back to help rebuild went straight into the rebuilding permanent homes. Now imagine that, nearly every Haitian has been giving a tarp to live under “for the time being,” but that is all they have for shelter while they wait for the NGO’s to finish building their permanent homes, which as I’m sure you all can guess, a home like that isn’t build in a day or two. And with homes needed for 1.5 million survivors, you can see how the waiting list piled up, and how so many were stuck in conditions like they are today.
So the problem I saw was a need for some sort of temporary shelter that:
- Could be built cheaply and quickly offsite.
- Efficiently shipped to the disaster area.
- Erected onsite within a matter of hours.
- Would provide shelter from the elements, and security from outside threats to the inhabitants.
- Would have a lifespan of roughly 2 years.
Now, I’m sure that last point made some of you think, “Huh??”, so let me explain. These shelter are supposed to be temporary, meaning I don’t want the shelters to become the permanent residencies. These are merely to provide a stepping stone between immediate reaction, and long term rebuilding. I specifically wanted to make sure these didn’t become a shanty town, and to push the inhabitants to get out and try to do better for themselves. So, I only wanted the structure to last for a couple years at most, give or take.
Well, I finally came up with a design. It’s quite simple really. It’s essentially just a plywood box. A big open room 8 foot wide by 16 foot long, with windows along the entire back and front walls, with the exception of one door on the front. The walls are built in 8′ sections so that they can be stacked for shipping, and then quickly put together on site. The interesting thing is that since the structure is essentially just a box of plywood, there doesn’t need to be much interior framing, as the plywood itself is the load bearing structure.
From the design, my friend Dugan, my dad, and I built a prototype on my parents property. We’ve been living in it over the summer for testing, seeing what might need to be tweaked or fixed, as well as how the construction process could go better. Honestly, everything has gone well so far. You can take a look at our progress from start to now on our blog at The Adventures of O’Kollow.
I suppose my next step from here is to finish my report on my findings over the summer, and try to get ahold of some organizations who would be interested in using my design. My first thought was Engineers Without Borders, but if any of you have any suggestions, please feel free to let me know!
Brief description on the title: my friend Dugan and I originally started creating a primitive camp site to go camping on out in the woods. When it came time to find a place to build the cabin, it just seemed like an appropriate place to put it, so the two projects got morphed together, and honestly, I didn’t have a name for the humanitarian project, so the campsites name just stuck.
CLARIFICATION: This project was not specifically targeted towards Haiti, though it was the most documented disaster I could find. The design however is capable of being used in many different disaster situations.