Water Collection

Water collection and purification is of prime importance in Haiti. Surface run-off, erosion, and water contamination are some of the largest problems. Further, the collection and stagnation of water results in the spread of diseases like Malaria, Typhoid and other water and mosquito borne illnesses. Given the health and environmental consequences, mitigation of water concerns is a top priority. Lack of government relief and funds at this time makes large scale projects impractical and improbable, hence distillation at the household or community level offers a possible solution.

Currently in rural areas that have limited or no access to a municipal water source, most drinking water is collected from wells, springs and rivers. In the more built up areas, clean drinking water is primarily available through bottled water, increasing the demand on recycling and waste collection systems. The sources for the supply of bottled water are reverse osmosis, chemical treatment of local well water, and importation.

The small-scale solution to this problem outlined on the adjacent page can be the use of solar distillers. This is the most economical system for water purification for a town like Petite-Rivièrede-Nippes, a nearly endless supply of saline water is available from the ocean. A solar distiller can be created from a range of easily available materials and hence proves to be a dynamic solution, especially as initial costs can be quite low. Longevity of these distillers also makes them a prime choice. The scale of these distillers and the choice of designs can vary, from single slope, double slope, vertical, conical, inverted absorbers, and multi-wick systems. They can operate in passive, active or hybrid modes.



Waste Management

Waste management is best addressed by first classifying it hierarchically. With the sustainabilty of method chosen increasing from a controlled dump, also known as a planned landfill, to the efficient R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle- as a method of waste diversion. The latter being the new direction for many nations in the 21st century. For a country like Haiti that must address basic problem of hygiene and sanitation, waste management is a key issue. A range of solutions exists to respond to these conditions, beginning with the choice of the type of waste produced, to how it is collected for recycling or used to produce energy or to its clean disposal.

Combustion of waste is not ideal especially given the type of waste produced in this area. Data collected regarding the type and quantity of waste produced in rural Haiti suggests that composting or bio-digestion is ideal. With the incorporation of small scale composting toilets and bio-digesters across the country, close to 75% of the waste can be recovered. In Petite-Rivière-de-Nippes, the population and type of waste produced provide an ideal base to use small scale bio-digestion and local composting to provide energy for cooking, and enhancing fertility of farmlands.

Larger scale digesters, that can be community run, may also be appropriate for Petite-Rivière-de-Nippes. Criteria for such digesters include sites that have immediate access to waste material to efficiently fill the digester, sites at a higher elevation, and sites where the prevailing wind direction blows away from developed areas. As most digesters also require access to a moderate amount of water, being in proximity to a perennial water source is important.



Haiti’s geographic location suggests multiple innovative sources of energy production: tidal power, wind or hydro Power and solar Power. Understanding the types of energy produced from each source, as well as its quality, is key. A town like Petite-Rivière-De-Nippes, does not have an efficient method of energy production nor resources for easy maintenance and improvement, because funds and skilled labor are currently in low supply.

As the adjacent graphic shows, hydro power is relatively inefficient for this locality and hence both tidal and solar were considered. Tidal has its advantages, including reliability and high efficiency. However, relatively high investment requirements and large-scale changes to the ocean environment around an installation are drawbacks. Solar power is flexible, affordable, efficient, and can also be easily scaled to meet various requirements. Its inconsistency is addressed by providing structures with storage and back up sources of power to structures. Nonetheless, Haiti is located where sunlight is plentiful and highly predictable making solar an ideal choice. Calculation shows that the basic needs of one family (lighting, refrigeration, tools and radio/televisions) can be provided by approximately 2.7 square meters of solar panels.



Lamboo is a company that specializes in creating laminated bamboo building products. Their structural members are both beautiful and strong. Lamboo products are on average 40 percent more stable than wood in response to temperature and moisture changes; 10 times stronger than wood in tension; three times stronger than wood mechanically. In addition to the superior strength of Lamboo, it is also antimicrobial, pest resistant, and non-toxic. (

Stramit Compressed Agricultural Fiber Board
Stramit Compressed Agricultural Fiber Board (CAF) is a prefabricated panel system of wall construction. This prefabricated system allows for buildings to be erected extremely quickly. The panels are manufactured using wheat and rice straw, both purely waste products of agricultural harvest. Advantages to using the CAF panels include tighter building envelopes, utility savings, and thermal capacity. (

Earth Bags
Earth bag construction is a markedly sustainable method of construction using gunny sacks filled with soil or other natural materials to build structural walls. The bags are placed in layers on top of each other and different materials, such as barbed wire, can be used as ‘mortar’ to increase friction between layers and thus a reliable connection. Construction with this method is very appropriate for areas with an unskilled labor force. When bags are filled with soil they provide thermal mass which reduces interior temperatures in hot climates.

Rammed Earth Construction
Rammed earth walls are constructed by compacting a mixture of aggregate and a small amount of clay within formwork. Cement can be added to stabilize the wall and increase its strength and durability. The technique of ramming can be done by hand or with a mechanical device. Rammed earth walls resist compression forces well and like concrete can be reinforced. Research shows that these walls perform better under earthquake conditions than brick or block walls. Another benefit is that rammed earth walls have high thermal mass, which is desirable in some of Haiti's microclimate. The building technique is also sustainable because the soil can be taken directly from the site or a nearby area, limiting transportation costs. Furthermore, it provides the added benefit of being acoustically sound, as well as rodent and termite proof.

Bamboo is a fast growing plant that can provide food, building materials, charcoal and other products. It requires less moisture than most plants and can support reforestation, prevent erosion, and restore soil. These benefits of growing bamboo and its usefulness after harvesting make bamboo an ideal product for agriculture in Haiti. Bamboo as a building material is extremely strong and versatile. Typical elements used are canes, halved canes, lath, beading, boards and rope ties. Bamboo construction is advantageous because it can be pre-fabricated; assembly is simple; structural parts are easy to replace; structural members can be dismantled and reused.


 Site Locations

Through the on-going documentation process, students came to realize the importance of identifying appropriate sites for the intended projects. The four projects prioritized as a result of meetings and conversation with local officials, citizens, and politicians while in Petite-Rivière-de-Nippes included: 1) a market, 2) the food and agriculture co-operative, 3) a fishing dock and 4) a media center. Locating appropriate sites within the two-mile built-up stretch of Petite-Rivière-de-Nippes was a challenge. Realistic attempts were made to work with sites that in the future could be procured with the help of government entities and local organizations. Understanding land ownership policies in the context of rural Haiti was key in this step, as was talking to local citizens about their opinions.

Through the course of the two weeks on the ground in Haiti, site choices were finalized based on present site use, neighboring land use, as well as ownership. Proximity analyses were done to understand the strengths and weaknesses of proposed constructions on given sites throughout the town. 

On the adjacent page the graphic indicates the sites chosen and the initial programmatic decisions made. All the sites chosen are government-owned sites, or are believed to be vacant land that might be easier to procure and less disruptive to the local population than sites currently occupied.