Description

Konbit Shelter is a sustainable building project with the objective of sharing knowledge and resources through the creation of homes and community spaces in post earthquake Haiti. Since January 2010, a group of architects, engineers and artists gathered together to do what they could to help the earthquake torn community of Cormiers. Using a “super-adobe” earth bag architecture technique originally designed by Nader Khalili and continued by Cal-Earth, the group, along with local residents, has built a disaster-proof, affordable and sustainable community center and a single family home.

Using a “super-adobe” earth bag architecture technique originally designed by Nader Khalili and continued by Cal-Earth, the group, along with local residents, has built a disaster-proof, affordable and sustainable community center and a single family home. The approach specifically addresses the world wide need for adequate housing. This system of building provides an easily replicable model, which can be built without using specialized construction machinery and can be participated in by the men and women of any community. Utilizing 90% earth, and only 10% cement, these structures are stronger than the now common cinder block and concrete slab construction. The technique also uses little to no wood, an invaluable asset in timber depleted Haiti.

The definition of Konbit in Creole is a traditional form of cooperative communal labor in Haiti, whereby the able-bodied folk of a locality help each other prepare their fields. It is a time for solidarity and cooperation in the face of adversity. Konbit Shelter is referencing the word with a global interpretation, people coming together to work cooperatively across national boundaries.

Objectives and beneficiaries

Initiated by a small group of artists interested in how the creative process might positively impact people’s lives in times of crisis, Konbit Shelter has collaborated with the village of Cormiers, Haiti, to create a community center and two single-family houses, as well as the seeds of initiatives in sustainability and education.

Strong points of the practice

The definition of Konbit in Creole is a traditional form of cooperative communal labor in Haiti, whereby the able-bodied folk of a locality help each other prepare their fields. It is a time for solidarity and cooperation in the face of adversity. Konbit Shelter is referencing the word with a global interpretation, people coming together to work cooperatively across national boundaries. Sourcing all the materials locally, raising money from creative communities in the United States and partnering with a small organization of farmers, the group were able to create jobs in the immediate aftermath of the quake. The building project offered meaningful work for people at a time when many were desperate to participate in something constructive that could restore a sense of efficacy amidst the chaos and displacement.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

The intimate scale of the project as well as thedirect relationship with people in Cormiers enabled the group to begin building at a time when most of the NGOs were still wrestling to get their materials out of customs. What began as an idea to share knowledge and resources through the creation of one building had forged a relationship that would evolve and grow.

In January 2011, the group smoothed out the last bit of earthen plaster, carved the last patterns into the hand-made doors, and adorned the structure with color. On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake – 7 months after we broke ground – they inaugurated the completed community center with a day of celebration and ceremony, organized by the Mango Growers Association of Cormiers and Ayiti Resurrect, a Haitian-American alliance of artists and healers.

Replicability potential of the practice

Everywhere.