We finally finished Haiti!
First, congratulations and thank-yous are in order for the 14 interns who helped build this structure: Cameron Day, Alexa Zanikos, Grayson Middleton, Katie Black, Catherine Alvarez-McCurdy, Julian Cross, Annalise Carington, Dana Eardley, Meredith Prentice, Allison Vigil, Rachel Seidner, Jacob Klein, Riley Francis, and Sam Abney.
We tried to use all local or recycled/reclaimed materials for this dwelling. This also involved some scrambling and changes of plans – like when we determined that we didn’t have enough tile shingles to make the roof how we had planned and switched to sawn-up door pieces. The cement blocks were left on the property, the pavers were found piled in a field, the gravel subfloor came from our creek, and the doors were found lying in one of our fields as well. We only had to buy mortar, some 2×6 rafters, and a few sheets of plywood. Now that’s building on a budget!
The first step of the process involved digging a deep trench for the foundation. Since the ground freezes and thaws here, we had to make sure the heaving of the ground did not crack our mortar. So with Cameron and Alexa – our first two interns – we dug a trench 30″ deep outlining the entire structure. That part was definitely tedious and I felt bad for Cameron and Alexa because they only got to see the foundation of the building and nothing of the aboveground features. After the trench was dug we filled the trench with concrete, leveled it, and let it cure. Due to rain delays and the difficulty of the digging, that’s as far as we got in the first internship session.
The second step in the process was laying the cement blocks. Everyone gained a new respect for masons. The work is not conceptually difficult, but it is practically difficult. Every block had to be “buttered” with mortar, lifted into place, and leveled. Grayson, Katie, Julian, Annalise, Catherine, Dana, and Meredith all had a hand in mortaring during the summer of 2011 and together we all got the cement blocks up to the mid-thigh level.
When Dana and Meredith and I tired of mortaring blocks in August 2011, we decided to work on the floor of the dwelling. All the dirt that you see piled in the middle of the structure in some of the pictures above was hauled off to the Cambodian structure to help form their rice paddy. The remaining dirt was leveled and then we hauled in gravel from the creek to make a nice drainage bed for the pavers that would make up the floor. Finally, we found the exact middle of the floor and began laying down the paver stones.
Then Dana and Meredith went home, ending the 2011 internship sessions.
When 2012 rolled around, we were determined to finish the Haitian dwelling as quickly as we could. Allison, Sam, Riley, Jacob, and Rachel were rock stars. They began mortaring and laid a level of blocks every morning and a level of blocks every afternoon until every block was in place. Along the way, they inserted the windows and built a narrow “porch” roof.
The last step was to put on the roof. We dropped 4×4 posts down into the corners of the dwelling to hook beams and rafters to. We cut and lifted rafters into place and them laid plywood sheathing on top. We waterproofed the plywood. Since we did not have enough clay tiles to shingle the roof, we looked around and found lots of sawn-up exterior grade metal doors. We decided these would make great shingles and threw them up on the roof. I think those metal doors as shingles give the structure an especially ragtag look.
The interior of the dwelling has a hanging bucket system providing “running” water and a bucket sink that drains water away from the house. Makeshift beds and some rickety furniture will complete the dwelling when we get closer to entertaining “guests.”