By David Snell
President of The Fuller Center
I traveled last week to San Diego to look into a housing system that we have been considering for our project in the DPR Korea. We’d made travel plans before the earthquake struck Haiti but, in yet another providential confluence, we found that the system we were looking at will fit perfectly into our disaster rebuilding effort.
We went to visit Kenn Coil who heads up Lazarian World Homes. We were introduced to them by another little piece of divine intervention—Gohar Palyan of The Fuller Center Armenia had been in the States visiting with donors and she introduced me to Steve Lazarian, for whom, it turns out, Lazarian World Homes is named. We started talking about the
The Lazarian system uses insulated concrete form technology which they have refined significantly. There are only four components, the basic building block, a lintel form, plugs and end caps. Most polystyrene factories can be easily fitted with a mold to make the forms, so the system has global application with minimal transport expense. Houses built with the blocks are earthquake-, hurricane- and fire- resistant and have excellent thermal properties. They are inexpensive, use relatively little concrete and are very easy to build.
To make the situation even better Lazarian is a nonprofit and led by good Christian folks like us. So a partnership is in the making. We will work together to build the “Haiti House” which could set a standard for recovery housing in Haiti.
We know that the work we will do will necessarily follow the brave and courageous work being done by first responders—doctors and nurses, excavation teams and search dogs, engineers, heavy equipment operators and those who simply minister to those who are hurting. Once the way is open for us, though, we hope to move in quickly to provide decent, disaster-proof housing with families in need.
I’ve watched disaster recovery efforts unfold around the world, and one common thread is the need to get shelter in place as quickly as possible. This noble intention, though, sometimes leads to long-term misery. After a massive earthquake struck Armenia in 1988 thousands of metal containers, called domiks, were brought in from across the Soviet Union to provide temporary shelter. Hundreds of families still live in domiks, and one of the goals of The Fuller Center Armenia is to replace them with decent homes. When I visited Peru recently I found many families still living in tents provided by relief agencies from around the world following the quake there in 2007.
This happens in part because the tremendous outpouring of resources that quickly follows a natural disaster dries up in time. It’s part of a natural cycle—new disasters strike, new scandals erupt, attention gets diverted. The resources that were available to put up temporary housing aren’t available when the time comes to replace it with something permanent.
One of our hopes is that we can help Haiti leapfrog over temporary shelter and move directly to permanent housing. The system we’re working on is inexpensive, easy to use and results in a solid house. We’re unashamedly pushing for support now so that we will be able to build later.
Another thing we’re taking a look at is where to build. The assumption has been that we’d build in and around Port-au-Prince, but news reports indicate that people are leaving the capital in great number and returning to the countryside. We’ll watch how this develops, but there could be an opportunity for us in this. It reminds me of Shreveport where we built on higher ground with families who had fled Katrina and decided to relocate in a safer place.
There are so many questions that time will have to answer. In the meantime we at The Fuller Center will be working hard so that when the time is right we’ll be able to move quickly to help alleviate some of the suffering. This will be a continuing opportunity to listen closely to what the Lord has in mind.
For more photos and details on the "Haiti house," click here.
For other details on The Fuller Center’s recovery effort in Haiti and how to help, visit our Haiti page.