Happier International: Sustainable Housing in Haiti

Here’s a new project I just found. Full text is below. This is all I know at this time. Their website doesn’t provide any more info. Please let us know if you hear of more details.

Since January 2010 Happier International has been focusing on the current housing issues in Haiti. Our goal is not to create temporary housing but rather a permanent low cost solution that is not just affordable but also environmentally appropriate. We have taken into consideration several issues such as average annual temperature, hurricane factors, seismic stability, availability of building materials and skilled labor force. Our research has let us to the conclusion that “Earth bag” technology meets all of our criteria and does not require the use of expensive building materials, or the reliance on foreign manufacturing and importation of construction materials.

Our goal on this project is to provide financing for the development of an “Earth bag” construction company in Haiti. This will require the acquisition of land so that we may create a housing development project. Homes can be presold based on a model house design, and buyers will be able to participate in the construction process as a way to cut costs. The company will also make available skilled labor and technical support at a reasonable cost. Affordable financing options will also be made available to the consumer.

Beyond just housing development we recognize that it’s also about the rebuilding of a community that address the needs of all its citizens, including parks for children, proximity to grocery shopping, churches, and proper infrastructure of roads, health clinics etc. Our goal would be to equip each house with its own independent water, septic and solar/wind electricity as well as passive cooling.

Happier International

13 thoughts on “Happier International: Sustainable Housing in Haiti”

  1. Guys, guys, guys…

    There are sources all over for scrap billboards.

    They print them on big poly sheets, they are slightly textured (the good ones that you want, are) and they’re pretty darned durable.

    They’re plenty thick enough to use as “tarping” for roof assemblies. Easily.

    You can generally get them for free from sign companies who would other wise have to have them hauled off. We get them a trailer-load at a time (flatbed or pick-up drawn, NOT tractor trailer).

    Some of them are HUGE. You could easily use them as durable water resistant roof surfacing.

    They have billboards globally, right? [wink!]

      • I was thinking that you’d ship them over in the build kits… Oh well…

        It never even occurred to me that they might represent an environmental danger that was “significant”.

        That would imply that the ground beneath every billboard in America is a toxic dump… Oy.

        Thanks for the link.

        • The goal is to reduce the amount of materials that have to be shipped, as you’re well aware. The ports in Haiti are clogged and likely rife with corruption.

          I can’t say for certain just how toxic vinyl billboards are, but after doing some basic research I decided I don’t want those chemicals all around my house.

      • You’re certainly right about the corruption in Haiti. The only way that we’ve been able to get around it is to use the Cavalry to protect gear once it gets there.

        (Long story.)

        I was actually thinking beyond Haiti, to other places in need as well. Places like Southeast Asia and Africa come to mind.

        But, the “contamination factor” from the plastic (and the ink as well) does kinda mess up the vibe. It was just a thought. ;)

  2. While it sounds good on the surface, I wonder where they will find families affluent enough to be able to “purchase” these homes.

    My own group is quite active in Haiti (now dealing with the cholera epidemic that we all knew would come) and the level of abject poverty is just appalling.

    Haitian families can’t afford food, much less “model homes”. I can only hope that these investors find a way to package these homes so that it’s a realistic opportunity for families to find safe shelter.

    What we’re seeing on the ground in Haiti right now is the creation of “Company Town models” where a corp owns the neighborhood and houses it’s workers.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

    • I’m developing a concept for recycling plastic bottles into bricks for permanent subsistance level housing. You can see more about it at my name dot com.

      What I’m interested in about Haiti is the size of the plastic bottle trash problem.

      I’m also interested in the durability of dome roofs under hurricane conditions.

      Feel free to contact me, my first name at my full name dot com will work.

      When I see pictures of Haiti my heart hurts. Then I think of pictures of Japan in 1946. What worked to bring Japan out of total destruction was the same thing that can help Haiti. Commerce. It starts at the bottom and works up. It’s the great motivator.

      • I think most areas of the world, including Haiti, are overwhelmed with plastic trash. Think how many people drink bottled water. Then add on all the soft drinks… The plastic is already being sorted for reuse, so getting the supply should be no problem.

        Domes are the most wind resistant shape for hurricane areas, but they’re difficult to waterproof. Roofs made of plastic brick would be far less vulnerable to moisture damage than earthbags if the roof leaked.

      • Owen, I wonder if a combination of the mud and a plastic imitation of the thatch roof might be an answer to the leaking roof problem.

        The easiest solution would be a vinyl roof like is used on travel trailers. Outrageously expensive in that economy.

        There has to be a tried and true native answer that can be adapted using modern materials that need to be recycled. There has to be.

        • Any mud will just quickly wash away. It rains a lot there.

          There are lots of possibilities: shingles made from scrap metal or tires, thatch (I know how to reach one of the few expert thatchers in Haiti), elastomeric coatings, etc.

          I’ll be posting more solutions soon on this blog. The drawings are finished, but I need to pull together the documents. One of these solutions uses trash!

      • The other evening I was handed a coil of fiber optic house cable. The person giving it to me owns a large electronics recycling facility in Dallas.

        “If you want to do something, figure out a use for this” he said. “I have a ton of it that I don’t want to send to the landfill but that’s all it is good for now.”

        I talked to another friend about it because he’s a vice president of a major telcom subcontracting company in the southwest. He explained to me further that the fiber cable isn’t worth the weght to handle it. It’s a major problem because there are thousands and thousands of feet of big cable out there that’s considered worthless because it’s old technology.

        The bottom line is there is a huge amount of fiber drop and cable out there clogging up supply sources because transmission efficiency is out pacing demand. Advances are turning existing cables into scrap overnight.

        Looking at fiber optic cable I had to think about thatch roofs. It would be labor intensive but labor can be seen as opportunity.


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