SAN FRANCISCO — Forell/Elsesser Engineers Inc. has announced the firm’s selection by Build Change to assist with the post-earthquake permanent housing reconstruction and technical assistance program in Haiti.

The Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake damaged or destroyed an estimated 285,000 homes, leaving homeless 1.6 million Haitians, or almost 20 percent of the total population. Building upon its award-winning post-earthquake housing reconstruction programs in Indonesia and China, Build Change is partnering with Habitat for Humanity International and the Development Innovations Group on a U.S. AID OFDA funded project to provide technical assistance and support to the Government of Haiti on settlement issues and the development of permanent replacement housing.

As part of this program, Forell/Elsesser Engineers has partnered with Build Change to provide prototype designs for two of the five housing structure types being studied: a one to two-story reinforced masonry house and a multi-story mixed-use commercial-residential building.

Forell/Elsesser Engineers is currently developing a full set of layout plans and details, structural narratives, and construction cost estimates for both building types. These documents will be distributed by Build Change to the Government of Haiti and to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) working in the country to use as a basis for preparation of construction drawings.

Build Change’s goal is to use the engineering expertise of Forell/Elsesser Engineers and other engineering consultants to improve the construction of 50,000 houses during the course of the Haiti’s reconstruction. As part of this effort, the firm will be sending a team to Haiti the week of Jan. 10 to present the layout plans and details to the Government of Haiti, NGOs, and Build Change’s Haitian staff.

Forell/Elsesser Engineers is partnering with Geohazards International (GHI) on this project. GHI’s experience is in designing programs and guidelines for the mitigation of natural hazards in the developing world. GHI is contributing their expertise in seismic rehabilitation in the developing world and will be part of the team travelling to Haiti.

This project is a continuation of the efforts by Forell/Elsesser Principal Rene Vignos and Senior Associate Tim Hart on a number of reconstruction projects in Haiti. Both Rene and Tim have volunteered their time and expertise consulting a number of organizations that are involved in the reconstruction in Haiti, including Habitat for Humanity, Architecture for Humanity, and Architects without Borders. Both are also members of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) special sub-committee on Haiti.

The Haiti project is also a continuation of the relationship between engineers at Forell/Elsesser and Build Change. In January 2010, Forell/Elsesser Engineers contributed pro-bono engineering services to Build Change by performing a structural analysis of a two-story confined masonry home designed by Build Change’s designers in China and assembling a list of recommended low-cost structural modifications to improve the seismic performance of the structure.

Tim Hart has been a volunteer pro-bono engineer for Build Change since March 2005, first getting involved in Build Change’s reconstruction program in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Tim has remained actively involved with Build Change in their subsequent reconstruction programs in West Sumatra, Indonesia; Padang, Indonesia; and Sichuan, China. Senior Principal David Friedman has been an active supporter of Build Change for many years and saw firsthand Build Change’s activity in China when he travelled to Sichuan in 2008.

Build Change was created in September 2004 by Dr. Elizabeth Hausler with a mission to greatly reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by housing collapses due to earthquakes in developing countries. Build Change designs earthquake-resistant houses, primarily with confined masonry, for developing countries and trains builders, homeowners, engineers, and government officials to build them.

By building better homes and promoting better construction practices, Build Change was able to improve the lives of over 17,000 families in Aceh and West Sumatra, Indonesia and Sichuan, China.

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