Kay e Sante nan Aiti

Earthbag house design for Haiti
Earthbag house design for Haiti

It’s great to see more house designs and projects to rebuild Haiti. This particular design is very good. I recommend going to their site (see link below) and checking out all the details.

“Kay e Sante nan Aiti was a competition by the ARCHIVE Institute centered around designing sustainable housing units and a master plan for a community of people living with HIV/AIDS in Haute-de-St. Marc, Haiti. These buildings needed excellent ventilation and structural resistance to seismic activity and hurricanes. Many of the current projects for temporary housing in Haiti have fallen into disrepair as they are used for much longer than intended. To combat this we wanted to build a variation of the traditional Kay or Creole house. Our site presented many challenges, being off-grid from both electricity and water as well as being situated on very hilly terrain.

My role for the project was to figure out the most suitable building techniques, technology, and materials for the site. Water tables for the site revealed that a well would need to be very deep before being useful so we proposed a treadle pump system paired with a water filter from open source engineering site Appropedia. We chose earthbag building techniques over concrete in order to avoid transportation costs and make use of usable soil on the site. Not only was this a cheaper alternative to concrete but it prohibits mildew (as it acts as an insulator and does not transfer heat as easily as concrete) and is highly resistant to shear forces caused by earthquakes. We designed the roof to create a soler chimney for passive air circulation and used water bottles in the roof to refract in light during the day.”

Read more at the source: Jordan Manning

15 thoughts on “Kay e Sante nan Aiti”

  1. Shane,
    It’s that kind of thinking one finds with ‘do gooder’organizations that are building small boxes in Haiti to house the residents in the countryside, and call them “a home.” When the people of Haiti will ever have a landscape with different style of houses to live in? There was a time people thought that Haitians were too poor to have cell phones, and now if you ask Digicel and other cell phone providers in Haiti what they think about this assumption they will differ.

    So, don’t assume the people are used to a certain way they will not be open to other ways. They call that progress, my friend. And it is time that Haitians are allowed to succeed and not just barely surviving.

    • Teaching basic living and business skills and allowing communities to grow on their own is one of the best methods of revitalizing them. That’s what Dr. Jerry Epps is doing with Teach Democracy.org. He’s offering free videos, training, business guides and some microfinance that allow groups to pull themselves up by the bootstraps (self help).

  2. Revision,

    The people of Haiti cook “outdoors”

    The venting design is good for sure.

    Sounds too harsh, the design is closer than most attempts I have seen. I have to say that, though the design is not perfect for the Haitian lifestyle, this design is better than most.

    • I edited your comment to say ‘outdoors’.

      They probably compromised on the design to please different groups. They were probably aiming for maximum structural strength and so they went with a closed form. Also, some Haitians desire a more modern/Western looking home, and including an indoor kitchen might have made the project more desirable in their eyes.

  3. This is not a culturally appropriate design for homes in Haiti. The people of the Caribbean cook outdoors where they live and sleep only if they are affluent. Fifteen percent of Haitians are affluent and don’t need homes like these. The rest of Haitians can’t use a house with two indoor bathrooms and a kitchen. Where will they get the running water? How will they pay for the gas for their stove?

    A culturally appropriate design would have a home with a patio for making meals. Haitians don’t live life indoors. They live on their patio’s and porches. Inside is for sleeping and storing possessions.

    There is definitely a place for earth bag homes, but this particular design could will work well with the kitchen area opened up. Not trying to be negative, but this is another design on a long list of naive building designs for Haiti.

    • Virtually all Haitians cook outdoors, so I’m sure they’re aware of that. I’m guessing they didn’t show the outdoor kitchen, which would probably be around back under a shed roof. And yeah, two bathrooms seems a bit much.

      Also, I would suggest not using earthbags above the bond beam. You want the weight closer to the ground in earthquake regions. Those areas could be framed in quicker, more easily and be safer.

    • I’m far from an expert on Haitian culture, so I won’t speak to that point.

      I will say that outdoor cooking is very common worldwide. From my subjective observations, (no hard statistics to back this up) the warmer the climate the more outdoor cooking tends to be commonplace.

      It’s not unique to warm climates, though. Even the Inuit culture smokes a lot of fish in outdoor smokers.

      Plus… in my own personal experience. Food cooked outdoors is just plain better. It’s more fun. It tastes better. It also tends to attract a crowd of interesting happy people as well.

      Sometimes I think the way to solve every war or conflict on the planet is to just invite the opposing sides to a BBQ. Just be careful about who you attempt to serve pork to.

      • Sadly, the trend in tropical countries is to get a ‘more efficient’ gas stove and cook inside. This is having a negative cultural effect in my opinion. There’s less socializing as people retreat inside their homes, watch more stupid TV, etc. Also, more and more women are entering the workplace and have less time for household chores. Cooking with gas makes cooking much faster. The stoves in developing countries are very inexpensive. A top of the line 2-burner gas cooker is only $30 or so and can last for up to 10 years. (They sit on top of the counter.)

        Me? I like having options. Sometimes I like the convenience of quickly steamed veggies. Sometimes I love the taste of crockpot soup (just made my best vegetable bean soup ever). Rice cookers are good for families who eat a lot of rice. But food grilled outdoors is hard to beat. That’s what I ate for many years. I probably saved 1,000 hours on clean-up. I sure don’t enjoy scrubbing dirty pots and pans.

        • I don’t have any objection to someone cooking indoors, especially if they have a safe means of doing it. It’s nice to have that option during bad weather days.

          I also don’t have any objection to using a gas cooktop, especially if it is fueled by something like a home biogas plant.

          As far as crockpot cooking goes. That is a great way to cook healthy. Remember… a solar “box style” cooker is essentially a crockpot slow cooker. Put your veggie bean soup in a pot in the solar box cooker in the morning and forget it. Go to work. Come home and have a hot meal sitting in the cooker waiting for you.

          From one of my favorite blogs. Esther from Niger showing how easy and fun it can be.


          Notice that she has a cooker that she leaves outside all year round. It’s always out there ready to go. When one falls in love with solar cooking, this, or something similar is the way to go. Rugged all weather design. Not a flimsy portable cooker that you have to get out and set up.

          • That’s on my list. I have a long list… One big goal is to identify, learn how to make and then fabricate what I feel are the top 10 appropriate technologies. Obviously that includes a solar cooker. I’ve been working at this for months in my spare time. Long blog posts like this burn me out. I might just publish what I have with a disclaimer (“These are just examples of what I’m looking for.”) and ask for reader input. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do soon.

          • I always say, just have fun with it.

            It’s a great way to try different things. That which doesn’t work only makes you smarter for the next try. Feel free to use whatever materials are locally available.

            Just be smart about it. Use common sense. Don’t burn yourself. Don’t go blind looking into a focal point or something like that. Don’t leave large concentrators unattended out in the sun to catch other things on fire. I’m sure everyone already should know these things, but I guess that’s why it’s called “common sense.” From time to time it’s still worthwhile to be reminded of such things though. Helps prevent complacency about the obvious.

  4. It’s a pleasure to see more earthbag houses in Haiti. I just returned from Haiti. I spent six (6) weeks building an L-shape earthbag house in Haiti. The plan is from your site. I kept going back and forth to your step by step guidelines on youtube during a seminar I held on how to construct with earthbag, and to every step after during construction. Neighbors and passerbys were amazed at the site. You may remember, Owen, that I contacted you early this year about the project. I hired a crew of 11 construction workers to build the house in the early phase and 6 teenagers to fill bags. Luckily, we had good weather (no tropical storm) I just received pictures of the roof completed yesterday. I would love to include one picture with this reply, but don’t see how. As soon as I get the blog up with the pictures I’ll send you the link for posting.
    Thank you so much for all you’ve done to advance this concept.

    • That’s great news. Thanks for writing. You can email me some photos if you want. My email address is at the top of the page under About Us. And please send us the link when your blog is available. This is the best way for sharing project info.

    • It’s very well thought out. The passive venting and curved corners are good features. And they’ve developed a culturally appropriate design — something that’s often overlooked by aid projects.


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