Bamboo Reconstruction in Haiti

Recently, John Naylor received the Foster+Partners Prize for a rebuilding program that he developed for the country of Haiti.  Called the Bamboo Lakou Project, Naylor outlined plans for a long term rematerializing of a devastated nation and a short term rebuilding program to assist with the homeless.  His project received attention from the Architectual Association where he also received his diploma.

This project was fascinating for a few reasons.  Naylor’s outlined provided for a low-cost system that implements new building techniques as well as protects local culture.  The bamboo lakou house represents the local Haitian customs, and features their communal courtyard typology.  The introduction of bamboo into the construction culture adds a lightweight and flexible material – much to the need of the earthquake-prone country of Haiti.   Bamboo will be a resource that can adapt to the materials currently available in the country.   The architectural genius developed the housing system to include current materials, and just adds bamboo.

Much of the devastation  that occurred in Haiti from the January 2010 earthquake was due to the resources used in construction.  In a country facing massive deforestation issues at the moment, concrete and cement quickly became the cost effective replacement for wood.  While economical, they were disastrous for earthquake safety.  Over one million were left homeless after the giant quake, and more than 300,000 lost their lives.  Compared to the 9.5 quake that hit Chile a few months later, where only 500 people died, Haiti suffered greatly.

Naylor mentioned that the project would be employed in hopes of engendering further use of bamboo across the country.  It is designed to encourage bamboo planting across the nation as a means of rematerializing the country.  Bamboo, which can be grown, matured, and ready to harvest in 3 years, would be the ideal crop to bolster Haitian economy.  As a trendy and eco-friendly product, much of North America (specifically the United States) has been taken by the eco-benefits of this plant and actively seek bamboo products, such as bamboo sheets. The chief supplier of bamboo products to the United States is currently China.  With Haiti being much closer, and a member of the CBI (Caribbean Basin Initiative) they stand to receive substantial tariff breaks that would make their products highly desirable by American companies and suppliers.

Having a large supply of bamboo for construction would help the country to get back on its feet.  Bamboo can grow so quickly that its effects on the nation of Haiti would be rather swift.  Bamboo forests would allow economic diversity in the way of specialization and would provide many with jobs that currently do not exist.  The demand for bamboo textiles, organic bamboo sheets, bamboo blankets, bamboo flooring, and other wares is currently high and expected to grow.  Haiti needs only to implement this project to reap the benefits.