Posted by Karl Johnson on Aug 28, 2010
Related program: Haiti Rebuilding Center
Typically you can describe a simple, two-room school house in maybe two dozen "sheets." These sheets would include drawings and specifications of: site, floor and ceiling plans; interior and exterior elevations; electrical, plumbing and material specs; window and door schedules; SECTIONS; and a suite of details cataloging every material connection in the–achem–joint, and every possible measurement is labeled. These sheets become the explicit instructions so someone can build the whole school.
Give it up for Haitian contractors then for saving trees by fitting all these instructions ON TWO PAGES. That's right, the image above shows the entire drawing set for a two-room school extension–and this is standard practice amongst Haitian contractors.
But what are we actually looking at here? Do the roughed-out line drawings betray gross irresponsibility on the part of the Haitian building profession? Or are building instructions simply…simpler there? If a contractor knows already how every building in his career will be raised and with what materials (concrete block, of course!), then a set of architectural drawings plays a much smaller role in the whole process.
Leading up to the earthquake, building craftsmanship in Haiti went largely unregulated. It's customary to stake the fortunes of a building on the builder's reputation. A school we investigated a few weeks back was only two years old but our structural engineer declared it unfit to occupy.
Haiti cannot avoid now the glare of international scrutiny. When architectural drawing sets serve as legal documents as they do in the investing nations of the world, and when these nations have as large an investment in Haiti's recovery as they do, and we all want to see the safe, stable and thorough recovery Haiti deserves, then the humble construction practices of yesteryear will slowly be replaced by a more deliberate construction process. This process will take more money of course, but if things go right, that money lands in the hands of several sectors of the Haitian economy–which is the whole point of recovery anyway, right?