Scramble to save lives and sustain survivors leaves questions unanswered about how recovery will be led.

...months. The work of sorting out land tenure and building ownership may be able to begin in about six months but could take as long as five years. Meanwhile, transitional shelters, health clinics, schools, hospitals and community and civic structures will need to start construction within six to nine months, with construction of permanent housing ongoing for one to five years.

Donations Multiply

At least one U.S. construction-firm top executive was able to enter Haiti on Jan. 17 to assist medical professionals with power supply and logistics in reaching and treating the injured.

James S. Ansara, chairman and founder of Boston-based Shawmut Design & Construction, is assisting the efforts of Partners in Health, a non-profit organization, also in Boston, that had already been providing medical assistance in Haiti for 25 years. He accompanied PIH-sponsored medical teams to Port-au-Prince, where he is working to provide power to operating rooms and mobile treatment centers, says Tom Gomat, Shawmut CEO. “The logistics are difficult, but [the volunteers] are making progress,” he says.

Shawmut also helped obtain anesthesia equipment from hospitals in Boston that is being flown into the region by the U.S. Air Force. Earlier, the company helped organize transportation for trauma surgeons to fly to Haiti in a plane donated by a client, who Ansara did not name.

Shawmut, ranked No. 73 on ENR’s list of the Top 400 Contractors, with $872.3 million in 2008 building construction revenue, had been supporting PIH’s plan to build a new hospital in Port-au-Prince, before the quake, using the donated time of its estimators, architects and engineers, says Ansara. He notes that the firm, which was sold to its employees in 2006, employs a number of Haitians in Boston, one as a field superintendent.

Also now in Haiti, with Ansara and PIH personnel, is Christopher Strock, a Ph.D. construction student at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, who recently supervised completion of a pro bono bridge project in a rural part of the country and had been set to work on the new PIH hospital.

Ansara says he has made a personal pledge to match donations up to $1 million for a new relief fund, called the Haiti Fund, which is being administered through the Boston Foundation, based in that city.

Shawmut is matching all charitable contributions from its own employees and tapping its network of suppliers, subcontractors and competitors to contribute, says Gomat. “I’ve sent e-mails to 42,000 contacts,” he says. About 25% of the fund’s total will fund current relief efforts, but the remainder will be used to facilitate planning and construction of needed infrastructure over the long-term, according to Ansara.

Other industry firms and organizations are marshalling fund-raising. The Bechtel Group Foundation has pledged an immediate $100,000 gift to the American Red Cross to support its on-the-ground relief efforts. It is matching employee gifts on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $1,000 per person, up to a total of $400,000.