Seismic Training Efforts Help Haitians Help Themselves
The rectilinear concrete structure, with columns and beams in one direction and two-story shear walls at its ends, was "highly inspired" by an example given in the seminar, says Filiatrault, who had reviewed the drawings and offered suggestions to Wolfield. "When I taught in August, I didn't have to show [the class] drawings," says Filiatrault, whose new classroom was on the second floor. "I could point to [the elements]."
The building, 120 ft x 40 ft in plan, stands as "an example of improvement coming from teaching," adds Filiatrault.
UniQ, the second-largest university in Haiti, had dedicated its new campus in Port-au- Prince about three weeks before the Jan. 12 quake. The temblor destroyed all the buildings, save a gate house. The 2,000-student university was the first to reopen after the quake, in April 2010. At first, professors taught without pay.
The UniQ-UB program, based on a memorandum of understanding between the two schools, grew out of UB's post-quake building evaluation efforts, sponsored by the United Nations. "Since there was a huge need to train professionals in earthquake engineering areas, UniQ jumped into this idea," says Calixte.
There have been four seminars since May 2010. One more is planned soon. Designers learn about structural analysis, fundamentals of seismic engineering and seismic design of building materials, including reinforced concrete, wood, steel and confined masonry. The training can be applied to buildings as tall as four or five stories.
The key to the success of the program is that all courses are delivered in French by bilingual instructors from the U.S. and Canada, says Filatrault. "We found that language is an issue," he says, adding that a great deal of effort went into developing the curriculum and material. Only about 20% of Haitian designers are fluent in English.
"The engineers and architects are really willing to learn to do things right," says Fouche, also a teacher. "They need [official] support and training."
Of the 225 in attendance for the first week-long course, 115 returned for the next seminar, in September 2010. The designers in attendance paid a fee. "We wanted the program to be self-sustaining," says Fouche. "Some told us they didn't think the country would be able to absorb engineers willing to perform at that [high] a level."
Those who take all the seminars and pass the exams will have earned the equivalent of 150 professional development hours. They can use the credits toward the completion of a master's program in earthquake engineering that UniQ hopes to launch next January. UB is helping with curriculum development.
UniQ is in the process of getting funding for the program, which will contain 10 courses or modules, each running 30 to 36 hours. The plan is to run them in sequence, starting in September, for 10 months. This will allow visiting bilingual professors to teach the courses, each four to six weeks long. "We plan to take 40 to 50 students," says Calixte. The school has already added an undergraduate introduction to earthquake engineering courses, he adds.
The long-term goal is to recruit a number of local engineers to the program who could then become professors. If all goes as planned, the program would be self-sufficient in four years.
Most of the rebuilding in Haiti has been on private projects, say observers. Thirteen of 15 government buildings collapsed in the capital, and not one has been rebuilt, says Fouché.
Filiatrault adds, "It is a difficult situation in Haiti and one that is not going to be solved quickly. Leadership is needed."
Lamothe flew out of Haiti three hours before the quake hit. He first returned in December and was struck by the number of people still in camps. "The living situation was overwhelming, but there is some progress," he says.