Weekends in Kabik are a great time to barbecue, chill out with a few beers and tan – pretty much the exemplary model of any beach town worldwide. Particular to Kabik however is the convergence of many interesting people from all over the world, who bring with them their projects, ideas, experiences and visions for the future of a prosperous & sustainable Ayiti. This past weekend we met Mike and Samantha from San Francisco who were in Haiti for the last month working on their collaborative media project. Mike is the sustainability director at Temple night club where the managing group has taken great initiatives to cut the club’s waste creation and power usage. Temple features an energy absorbing dance floor, composting toilets, rooftop garden and leads San Francisco’s nightlife scene in employing green alternatives. Mike found great interest in Terra Fantastica and gave a lot of props to the worldwide biochar movement. We look forward to potentially keeping in touch with Mike since he has a great understanding of how San Francisco has revamped its own renewability and how those steps could translate Haiti. (San Fran is the first city in the US to ban styrofoam). Our conversation branched out into other domains of green renewability, and he told us an interesting story about his stay in Port au Prince at the Haiti Eco Living Project or H.E.L.P.
The project incorporates different working concepts for creating livable structures out of local materials, something that many displaced Haitians need since January 2010’s earthquake. One architectural feat that has taken place on the site is called the Earth Ship, which is where Mike stayed over his time in PAP. Having been fascinated by his description, we looked up the Earth Ship today and it’s brilliant.
American architect Michael Reynolds dedicated his life to building self-sufficient homes geared toward taking care of people. The core idea is to provide permanent, sustainable, code meeting structures that take care of the inhabitants with built-in systems for clean water and sanitary sewage treatment. The educational aspect of construction that employs local Haitians – teaching them exactly how to build these houses – is crucial to the total success of his idea. In their first work in PAP Reynolds’ team discovered that many of the people they employed (bought lunch for) already had many of the skills required to complete the structures. Rather than waiting for outside intervention these locals are now empowered with sustainable know-how and a plan, and can avoid corporations, oil needs, and politics. The team then taught Haitians how to build earthquake and hurricane resistant houses using garbage sourced from within mile of building site.
The structure necessitates materials be easily obtainable for the common person to be able to build one. Recycled tires are filled with compacted earth to form rammed earth bricks encased in steel belted rubber. Tires are used along with earthquake rubble and aluminum cans, glass & plastic bottles that are compressed into little bricks for earthquake and hurricane proof walls. These structures have a few windows and allow light through the infusion of glass in the walls, which result in a bejeweled partition with a stained glass effect. Though this sounds like a sustainable hot box more than a house according to Mike the temperature was extremely cool and even, which is a testament to the Earth Ship’s temperature storing design.
Perhaps more interesting than the physical components are the building’s internal mechanisms that bring it to life. The house is powered by photovoltaic cells and wind power, which is built in. The plumbing system reuses water four times before it exits the house at which point it enters the external gardening cells. Shower/bath water comes from rain-water caught on the roof. Then it is sent to the toilet for flushing, contained and treated again then used in exterior botanical cells. Also if you want hot water heat is directed from the sun/natural gas (nat gas is only on if water is not hot enough; they call it “gas on demand” water heating).
All said it’s a whole idea that incorporates every facet of comfortable living, is entirely reproducible and eco-friendly. These ideas are what will push Haiti into an innovative future and bring the Haitian people in Port au Prince the standard of living everyone deserves.
The pictures below are of a beach clean up day run by Sophie’s friend Lolo. She pays a few guys to clean up the beach in front of her property in Kabik. A few select things are pulled out of the trash and set to the side to be reused for various art projects, and the plastics are sent to a recycling center in PAP. Just a snapshot of the cleanup efforts already under way in Kabik…