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Portland State University Students build model “Home for Haiti”
Author: Suzanne Pardington
Posted: June 11, 2010

homes-haiti.jpgPortland State University architecture and engineering students built a 700-square-foot house on campus this week using a new material made mostly out of recycled paper, a model for thousands of green homes to be built in Haiti.

The students worked with Pacific Green Innovations, a Portland-based company, to construct the model home on campus with SwissCell panels, a new construction material that is strong, durable, and water and fireproof.

The company launched its "1,000 Homes for Haiti" project to quickly construct sustainable homes for Haitians who are still living in tents and under tarps nearly five months after a destructive earthquake.

"This is the perfect solution for Haiti because it uses almost no natural resources," said Charles Fox of Pacific Green Innovations. "We call it the one-tree house."

Fox estimates it will take four people four hours to build one house in Haiti with a full assembly-line production process. The PSU students started construction in the Shattuck Hall courtyard on Monday morning, June 7, and finished all but the painting by Friday.

Cassandra Rice, a senior architecture student, said she volunteered to work on the house to help the Haiti project and gain hands-on building experience.

"If we can do it, and we're just students, imagine everything they can do in Haiti," she said. "It's great that we as students get an opportunity to work on a project like this."

Fox said his company is working with the Clinton Foundation, the Haitian government and other organizations to find land and build the houses. His goal is to build about 10,000 houses over 10 months and employ about 3,000 Haitian workers.

Magarette Leite, a PSU architecture professor, said she and her students got involved in the project for humanitarian reasons and because they were studying new designs for portable classrooms and new materials in modular construction.

"The students got all fired up about the properties and materials and everything they could build with is," Leite said. "The students here are very sustainability oriented."

Clara Massey, a third-year architecture student, helped guide the first SwissCell panels into place and glue them down to form walls starting at 8 a.m. She wanted to work with the new material, because it is durable, recyclable and never seen before, she said.

"I really wanted to know how it was put together, because it's such a new technology," she said.

Other Haitian house designs will be on display inside the model house until June 29 in the courtyard of Shattuck Hall at PSU. House designs by Architects without Borders – Oregon, The Basic Initiative and engineers from KPFF will be part of an earthquake-resistant Confined Masonry Toolkit that will be distributed through masonry training programs in Haiti.