In-Situ Technology Incubators to Accelerate Sustainable Development Solutions: Can the Communities We Serve Become Their Own Engines of Innovation?

Faculty Research Grant
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Tens of thousands of Haitians in urban zones lost their lives in the January 2010 earthquake (Eberhard, et al. 2010) in the one place where families should feel most secure – their homes. Now three years after the earthquake, the majority of these displaced families are still waiting in transitional shelters for permanent housing they can call “home,” as forced evictions have disbanded their settlements. The continued absence of truly sustainable solutions to the urban housing dilemma in Haiti is no surprise. This can be attributed in part to the fact that existing options used in other seismically active developing regions cannot be extrapolated due to Haiti’s unique requirements and constraints. Perhaps the most pressing constraint is financial: engineering adequate seismic resilience of the existing housing typology can cost up to $20,000 – well beyond the reach of the majority of displaced Haitians who have no formal or stable source of income. This reality drove a group of faculty and students, operating under a university-led initiative called Engineering2Empower (E2E), to reimagine the concept of a Haitian home (and the way it is retailed and constructed) to meet the engineering requirements posed by earthquakes and hurricanes, while using locally available materials and skill sets, ensuring sustainability.