Right now the need is relief and recovery but very soon it will be long term reconstruction. Beyond the pre-existing issues with the building stock we need to think about upgrading and restoring in a sustainable manner. The NGOs focused on rebuilding need to be aware that in areas of great need structures are usually rebuilt in unsafe ways by well intentioned volunteers.
As we survey the damage, and in talking with our partners, what we think would help is a recovery centers - much like the ones we help develop after Hurricane Katrina. The two Katrina studios, supported by local partners and staffed with our building professionals, were integral in the housing of hundreds of families in East Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. If there is to be a community led long term reconstruction initiative for Haiti, we need to do the same.
Three reasons this is important:
1) Aid organizations, especially local groups, will know where they can go to get professional design and construction services. We can serve not one organization doing one project, but many. When we get it setup, they know they can walk in any day at any time to get professional help. This will prevent a lot of shoddy construction. We can host training sessions in job site safety and in basic building. Make sure that these volunteers really do have the skills and knowledge they need to build safely in a seismic and hurricane zone. We can engage local officials and coordinate the services we and they provide better.
2) Volunteer professionals who want to come down for a week or a month or just a few days will have a place to check in and be helpful doing damage assessments, housing plans, etc. Architects and engineers partnering with NGOs will have a local place where they can touch down, understand the local building codes and conditions. They can design remotely and know that someone will be shepherding the project on the ground and assisting as they need it. At the same time the services will have some continuity and the community will have a place they know they can come for design and construction help.
3) All of the work produced in these centers are shared openly, under Creative Commons license, and distributed through the Open Architecture Network. By connecting with other NGOs and open sourcing construction documents we can influence many building programs in the region. We can leave a legacy of innovative locally appropriate solutions to protect from future disasters (inc. hurricanes and climate change)
Willem Van Lancker is a product designer (UX) at Google with a passion for ethnography, maps, data visualization, and producing delightful user experiences.
Willem came to Google from IDEO where he worked as a communication designer focusing on understanding business systems and organizations through visual communication. Previous to IDEO, Willem worked for Apple, where he designed user interfaces for products including iPhone and iPad, and adidas, where he created new brand identities for various major league sports teams respectively.
Willem is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a degree in Graphic Design. While at RISD, Willem teamed with a small group of Brown and RISD students to create A Better World by Design, a now-annual three-day conference encouraging social and environmental impact within educational policy. He also served as a researcher and core member for RISDâ€™s Strategic Plan, charting a new course for RISDâ€™s academic programs and student life initiatives focused on how students of different disciplines can innovate through collaboration.
When he is not working on new innovations for Google, Willem can be found writing, sailing, playing squash (both the sport and the gourd), following English (and American) football, and occasionally regretting the decision to eat that bacon-wrapped hotdog from a food-cart in the Mission District.