Currently earthquakes cause buildings to collapse and are therefore quite deadly, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Already there are modern high tech solutions that many earthquake prone areas use to ensure buildings don’t collapse during extreme shaking events. We can augment our current systems by using those from the past. In India the traditional kath kuni architectural style is designed to handle seismic events and has been refined over centuries. The techniques used in creating these kath kuni structures can be applied to buildings today to ensure a higher level of safety and thus make earthquakes less deadly.
In the mountainous region of Himachal Pradesh in India, near where the Indian Plate is colliding with the Eurasian Plate, many structures built in the kath kuni style have survived at least a century of earthquakes. In this traditional building method, the name, which translates to “wood corner,” in part explains the method: Wood is laced with layers of stone, resulting in improbably sturdy multi-story buildings.
It is one of several ancient techniques that trace fault lines across Asia. The foundations for the timber lacing system of architecture may have originally been laid in Istanbul around the fifth century. Stone masonry and wood-beam construction can still be seen in Nepal as well as in the traditions of Kashmiri Taq and Dhajji Dewari and Pakistani Bhatar. Even Turkey has a long tradition of similar construction methods. Despite their ancient origins, this model of construction has mostly fared better over centuries than much of the contemporary building across the continent’s many active seismic zones.
Here’s a chance for some people to help rebuild Haiti from afar. Good Magazine has launched a competition for idea on how to sustainably rebuild Haiti.
In the wake of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, Haitians have sustained an immense loss of life, with numbers still climbing, and the collapse of physical structures signifying the collapse of the governmental, social, economic, and infrastructural institutions those structures housed and represented. Many of those institutions and infrastructures were weak before the quake, as Haiti is among the world’s poorest nations, reliant on international aid and subject to severe economic disparity.
This earthquake was no typical disaster, and Haiti is no typical disaster-struck region. In many ways, Port-au-Prince and its institutions required rebuilding before the buildings collapsed. The relief effort of this particular disaster goes beyond air-dropping supplies and building emergency housing. Haiti also requires an emergency economic system (the banks and tax office have collapsed), an emergency medical system (hospitals have collapsed), an emergency justice system (courthouses and the federal prison have collapsed), emergency education (schools have collapsed), and an emergency government (the parliament and many ministry buildings have collapsed). People talk about emergency shelter. What about emergency institutions, only one of which is housing?
Participants in February’s Spontaneous Architecture competition are invited to take this question seriously, enacting a response onto the site included below. The site includes multiple institutions and social, economic, and governmental infrastructures as well as residential areas and open space parks currently being used as campsites for those in need of housing. Participants are asked to consider one or all of the institutions present and can operate on the entire site or a specific portion thereof. Responses can be strategic, organizational, institutional, and/or architectural.
Enter the competition here>
Repairs and rebuilding has been going on in Haiti after the powerful earthquake hit the country about two weeks ago. They aid teams have run into a problem around energy – there’s not enough diesel. Things that rely on solar power are still working – bizarrely the traffic lights are on such thing. The good news that comes from all of this is the revived interest in renewable power for disaster recovery.
We can all benefit from this research into renewable energy sources for disaster recovery.
Solar setups are quick to install, mobile, and relatively inexpensive compared to the price of rebuilding a damaged electricity grid. They can also be incredibly robust. Alan Doyle, a science editor at MSNBC, recently wrote that a single solar water purification system, recovered from the rubble by the Red Cross, is now purifying 30,000 gallons (over 110,000 liters) of water a day.
Sol Inc, a US-based solar street lighting company, has sent a first shipment of lights for roadways, food distribution, and triage sites. This may sound mundane, until you imagine trying to perform street-side surgery or find family members in the dark. The LED lights can also withstand hurricane force winds â€“ no small thing in a country that has also recently been hit by tropical cyclones. Sol Inc has promised to match donations for people wanting to contribute to the program.
Communications are another crucial need being met by solar. China’s ZTE corporation has donated 1,500 solar cellphones and 300 digital trunking base stations. The same technology was used in China when an earthquake hit the Sichuan Province in May of 2008. A similar project is being set up by a group from Holland.
Renewable energy in Haiti is not a new. Walt Ratterman, CEO of non-profit SunEnergy Power International was working on the electrification of Haitian hospitals at the time of the quake. He is currently still missing.
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