For over a year, general contractor Jeremy Holloman of Conscience International has spent half his time in Haiti building homes from concrete rubble. Now he wants to test their stability in the event of another earthquake and has asked SPSU for help.
Currently, the university is building a Rubble House in the middle of its campus, with the help of students.
“It’s still bad,” Holloman said of conditions in Haiti. “There’s not been a lot done. Mainly, you’re seeing transitional homes which are made from wood and plywood. … We know from other places that transitional becomes permanent.”
With rubble from the earthquake in plentiful supply, Rubble Homes are inexpensive and easy to build without power tools, compared to the traditional concrete block built homes. In addition, the construction technique’s use of pouring small pieces of rubble into wire mesh columns that make up the homes’ walls, provides improved safety.
“What the rubble does for us is, as the earth starts moving during an earthquake and the ground starts shaking, that rubble — since it’s all in there loosely — it can vibrate,” Holloman explained.
“That will act just like the crumples on your car — absorb a lot of force.”
But how much force the homes can withstand is where SPSU researchers come in. They’ll be applying pressure on the walls of the newly built rubble house on campus, to gather scientific data in order to create a numerical model. Other tests will be conducted as well.
“We hope with all of the information that we can collect here, to be able to take to funders who will pay for a shake test to be done on an earthquake table,” Holloman said.
For its participation, SPSU expects to gain a valuable experience for its students on a very practical building construction project. Between 40 and 50 students from different areas of study are assisting in all aspects of building and testing.
“We’re always looking for hands-on, applied opportunities,” said Dr. Ruston Hunt, Extended University dean.
“We’ve always stressed in all of our programs — whether the engineering program or engineering technology – that it’s not just theory or concepts.”
Each one-room rubble house measures 14-by-20 feet and contains no bathroom, which is not uncommon in Haiti. They each cost about $3,800 in materials and labor to construct. The project is funded through private donations.
Any Haitian who hopes to call a rubble house his or her home must have lost a home in the earthquake, own property, have three or more people living in it, and are required to participate in the construction, Holloman said.
So far, Conscience International has built more than 35 rubble houses in Haiti, with plans to increase that number to 1,000. Holloman plans to return to Haiti later this month and build 20 more homes, using information he’s already gathered at SPSU.
For junior Miguelande Charlestin of Port-au-Piment, Haiti, the project is more than just another class assignment. Charlestin lost a relative in the 2010 earthquake and has extended family members living in Haiti. The construction engineering major said she wants to return someday to help.
“It gives me an insight into what’s going on back home,” Charlestin said. “To work with the things that they do have and to form a beautiful place out of rubble is an amazing experience.”