FAMU students design shelter models for victims of Haiti earthquake

A FAMU class project has turned into a humanity effort that may provide Haitians with adequate shelter soon. These models will be sent with volunteers traveling to Haiti.

Families are still homeless from the recent earthquake, so Rabbani Muhammad’s engineering class is developing strategies to protect those in Haiti who are displaced.

Muhammad, an associate professor and member of American Institute of Architects, has assigned his class to make models of a shelter protection system, which will be able to withstand strong winds, heavy rainfall and extensive heat.

“There has been hardly any movement from planning to implementation of a stop gap measure to shelter and relocate the thousands of Haitians still subjected to the high tropical winds and rain that is about to come upon them at the start of this hurricane season,” Muhammad said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the distribution of emergency shelter is on target to reach 1.3 million people by May 1. The office says that nine of 10 of those in need have received emergency shelter since the earthquake. However, they do note that distribution of emergency shelter should continue as the hurricane season approaches.

The shelter will be built with materials found at the site. Sandbags, which cost 37 cents, will need to be imported. The team estimates that 200 to 250 sandbags will be needed to do complete two shelters.

“The reason for constructing these models is to show my students and persons who may be going to Haiti to volunteer how to create a relatively save intermediate shelter to resist gale force winds, tropical down pours and earth quake motions with minimal materials found at the sites of the catastrophe,” said Muhammad.

Muhammad said planners are only focusing on constructing permanent housing for the grief-stricken country. Before building facilities, a settlement of ownership of lands must take place first. As a result, the process may take a long time to verifying and prove who owns what piece of land. This is time Haitians may not have as hurricane season approaches in June, according to Muhammad.

“Most of the Haitian government officials don’t have backgrounds in comprehensive planning and uniform building codes in seismic [earthquake] zones,” said Muhammad. “There has to be a quick solution and grass-root movement for this type of situation.”

Senior construction engineering student Philson Johnson, said these models would be a simple structure that two people can make within a few hours. A family of four can use it to sleep or live in. These models can also be used as a retreat or medical room.

“It’s meant to an intermediate structure, nothing permanent or temporary,” said Johnson, 25, of the Caribbean island of Nevis. “This is just to give them an idea that they can make a better civilization out of what you have already.”

Before sending the model plans to Haiti, students will construct and test the model in wind tunnels and natural rain falls.

“We can’t use anything that they wouldn’t be able to utilize,” said Tiffany Jenkins, 23, a junior construction-engineering student from Tampa.

Muhammad said the team will send models along with FAMU’s College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Architecture.