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When Disaster Strikes: Beyond Tent Cities

Relief efforts are in full swing for the August 15 earthquake that killed several hundred Peruvians and left tens of thousands homeless. Instead of erecting flimsy, temporary housing in response, a group called Architecture for Humanity is appealing for a sustainable reconstruction plan to aid Peru. Peru Rubble As indicated by their motto—"Design Like you Give a Damn"—the group tries to bring architectural and design solutions to aid humans affected by various crises.

They reason that many houses in the developing world collapse during natural disasters because they are so poorly built—and that rebuilding efforts should improve on the housing stock that was there before the disaster. And the good news, says co-founder Cameron Sinclair at the Worldchanging blog, is that sturdy, affordable housing solutions already exist:


Of course the solutions are available and in the places where you'd expect them most: those prone to natural disasters. From the stabilized earthen block homes of Auroville, India, to the sandbag shelters by Cal Earth (used after the Kasmir Earthquake), and even in Peru with earthquake-resistant homes designed by Estrategia and Practical Action. After the 1976 Guatemala earthquake, Fred Cuny created Housing Pictographs for rebuilding efforts.

The problem, Sinclair goes on to explain, is that solutions created after one disaster aren't always shared so that they can be applied in response to another. Thus, in their appeal for funding to help the people of Peru they pledge also to make sure the solutions are shared:

[Architecture for Humanity wants to] create solutions that are appropriate for the people of Pisco and where they live, and can be scaled within the region. And those innovations can then be shared globally. Architecture for Humanity is currently running an appeal focused on long-term reconstruction in Peru. Instead of creating tent cities, we want to build safer structures that contribute to a sustainable future for Pisco, as well as other towns and cities damaged by this earthquake.

AfH has a track record in the area of post-disaster reconstruction, as explained in their latest newsletter:

In the last 24 months Architecture for Humanity has responded to Hurricane Emily, with temporary shelters in Grenada, after the South Asia Tsunami, with a series of housing, transitional school and community building solutions in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and after the Kashmir Earthquake, where we supplied architectural and engineering support. Since October 2005 we have worked on transitional structures in Bay St. Louis and Waveland, MS, helped to build sustainable homes in East Biloxi, MS and supported the inception of community design centers in Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, LA.

Read more about these and other projects on their website.

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