Monday, November 21, 2011

Re-roofing in Haiti - House #1

After seeing Kyle Lamy's excellent pictures from our trip to Haiti, I thought some of you might appreciate some more detail on the construction projects our team undertook. (Photo credits: Kyle Lamy Photography, unless noted otherwise.) You can read an introduction to the Haitian trip here.

View My Saved Places in a larger map

The projects both involved roofs in the village of Galette, shown here as "House #1" and "House #2." (Regrettably, I don't have the names of the residents.) The subject of this post is House #1; I will follow with another post on House #2.

Typical house construction in this area of Haiti is concrete block walls built on rubble foundations, punctuated by cast-in-place concrete columns, usually at the corners. The roofs are typically corrugated metal on wood. Sometimes the walls are skim-coated with concrete to achieve a finished appearance. Often not.

House #1 is the home of a couple with several children, with the mother being the owner of the property. Although the house had a nominal roof, you can see that the condition was poor, at best - note the light coming through the holes. All of the metal panels appeared to have been reused from somewhere else, as evidenced by the multitude of nail holes.

The first order of business was to remove the existing roof, including the corrugated metal and the spliced poles supporting it. 

It was interesting to note that although we took no special care in removing the old roof, all of the materials were reclaimed by the residents and neatly stacked for future use.

After the existing roof was gone (and the odd rat inhabiting the walls killed), the tops of the walls were prepped to receive the new rafters.

Since the tops of the walls were particularly rough, the team installed new wood plates to provide a flattish surface. (Our in-country leader Jeff noted that the goal for Haitian construction is reasonably "straight and flat", not necessarily "plumb and square.") At the corners, the ubiquitous rebar extensions were re-bent over the plates to tie the roof to the walls.

There was no shortage of spectators from the school next door. We were a constant distraction, much to the chagrin to the teachers, I suspect.

Having set the plates in place, the rafters were toe-nailed to the plates, followed by purlins that were nailed and screwed to the rafters.

Credit: Moore
Finally, everything was covered by new corrugated metal.

One side effect of the new materials is the higher reflectivity properties, significantly improving the interior light of the spaces.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dialog in the Bottom

At first, hosting a public visioning workshop for Shockoe Bottom at the Virginia Holocaust Museum seemed strange and unsettling. The weighty narrative of THAT particular chapter of history provides some perspective for the inconveniences of finding a parking place or the non-local foods in the 17th Street Farmers Market. However, as the i.e.* sponsored event unfolded, common themes of memory and hope emerged as a conceptual backdrop for the conversation and the setting suddenly seemed appropriate (aside from being physically located in the Bottom and suitably sized for the event).

The event on Monday past, billed as being a continuation of the City government's focus on Shockoe Bottom, began with introductory remarks by Peter Chapman and Mayor Jones, signalling the City's commitment. Next on the agenda was an extremely brief summary of the Shockoe Bottom Economic Revitalization Study the City recently unveiled, with great emphasis given to the renovation of the Main Street Station Train Shed, presumably since that project is allegedly sunstantially funded. Finally, Floricane took the floor and led the assembled creative community through a short visioning workshop, focusing first on consensus themes for improving the Bottom (safety, traffic calming, mix of uses, etc.), followed by break-out sessions for topical brainstorming (Main St. Station, recommended goods and services, connectivity, branding, etc.). 

In typical fashion for workshops like this one, the real value was not the collection of Post-it notes nor the flip chart lists (though seeds of good ideas may ultimately emerge). The event was worthwhile because it created a forum to shape and refine ideas through generative dialog, not destructive debate. More, please.

Where is all of this headed? The answer will depend on leadership. This workshop was loaded with City administration, local activists, influential citizens, business leaders and energetic creative types. There were many potential leaders in the room. Where is the champion for a compelling narrative in this effort to revitalize Shockoe Bottom? Will the City's latest BIG EXCITING PROJECT in the form of the Main Street Station Train Shed renovation break the cycle of failed BIG EXCITING PROJECTS? Stay tuned. Only time will tell.