Can Haiti Be Rebuilt with Old Tires and Heart?
Dirt-filled tires, plastic bottles, rebar and heart could be the recipe for solving the shelter problem for the million or more homeless survivors of the Haiti earthquake. The buildings, called Earthships, provide solid, environmentally sound housing at low cost; best of all, they can be built by the Haitians themselves.

Last month a team from Earthships went to Haiti for a reconnaissance trip to find out how they could help with a sustainable rebuilding of the devastated country. Within an hour of landing, on a plot donated by NGO Grassroots United, they started building a demonstration model Earthship, with the help of 40 Haitians, ages four to 50, from one of the tent camps, In just four days they had built an Earthship out of 120 used tires, recycled plastic bottles gathered by local kids, rebar and a little cement. Reynolds and his team hope that the Earthship can serve as a model, a prototype for homes that can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, replacing the temporary and weather-vulnerable tent camps that still abound in Port au Prince.

The skills and materials needed for the construction are at hand in the country, fostering self-reliance without corporate interference, and a model that can be replicated in Haiti and elsewhere. The Earthship team plans to return this fall to add systems that will help the house collect its own water, contain and treat sewage, and have its own energy system based on solar power.

Over the years architect and Earthship creator Michael Reynolds has built over 1,000 homes from materials that most people consider waste. Inspired by news stories of garbage and deforestation in the 1970s, he began experimenting with building homes out of natural or reused materials, and added energy and waste treatment systems that make the houses into self-contained homes.

There is a group of Earthships in New Mexico and other models across the U.S., but the world has been slow to embrace this unusual building style. In a Wall Street Journal article from 2009, Reynolds pointed to the bureaucratic impediments to innovation in architecture, “We’re building homes today that don’t draw from the grid and have a $100 per year total utility bill. And they have flat screen TVs, broadband Internet and all the other comforts. The reason why more people are not doing it is because it takes forever for somebody doing a radical green project to get a permit.”

Perhaps healing a disaster area will bring the concept of Earthships to the mainstream.

Source: Care  2

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