Pele: Breaking Bad Construction in Haiti

Pele: Breaking Bad Construction in Haiti

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Feb 22, 2011
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These days students going to Pele are starting their lessons to the sound of crushing stone. While class at École Baptiste Bon Berger continues under the campus' many wood-framed transitional classrooms, the adjacent concrete school block has attracted the attention of about a dozen men in blue hardhats. On the newly-shored-up rooftop the men are driving sledge hammers into the concrete slab at their feet.

This crew of over a dozen men is composed of unskilled members of the Pele community. Well, unskilled leading up to an extensive demolition training course held by partner organization J/P HRO. With proper technique and equipment, the crew is now tackling the reduction of the condemned school block in alternating shifts.

Design Fellow Schendy Kernizan sent along some photographs of the hammering, and talked about how the Pele demolition was going to work. Perhaps the largest factor is that the demolition will be carried out by hand–no wrecking balls or dynamite, just two crews of eight local laborers (and a couple supervisors) breaking down the building piece by piece. A second alteration to typical demolition is the transportation of the debris–or lack of transportation. Wherever possible, rubble from the massive two-story block will be sorted on campus–with at least the first story's worth intended to become infill in the new construction. In addition to the substantial reduction of the material footprint of demolition and construction, this process also saves on rubble removal and material delivery trips to a tricky-to-access urban site.

The helmeted men are ripping out chunks of powdery concrete and lengths of rebar and tossing it onto the vacant courtyard below. They'll be doing this for the next couple months. With as much deliberation taken into the by-hand demolition and material collecting, the Haiti team is hoping to maximize safety and opportunity going into the eventual construction.

Photos by Schendy Kernizan. Original article on Students Rebuild.