Purdue grad to test his emergency shelter in Haiti


A Purdue University graduate who designed an emergency shelter for victims of natural disasters and military conflicts is preparing to test his invention in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Rafael Smith has been honing the design of the collapsible structure that’s two stories tall with three levels. His goal is to have it become the standard for people across the world in need of long-term shelter as the result of wars, natural disasters or other unforeseen upheavals.

Smith and his partner in the project, Armand Mulin, visited Haiti on Jan. 31 and have selected a family of three to test the first shelter in Haiti, the Caribbean island nation that was ravaged by an earthquake in January 2010, Smith said in an e-mail message to the Journal and Courier, which reported on the project Sunday.

The father of the Haitian family, a man named Genesis, currently lives with his wife and year-old baby boy in a wood-frame structure made of scrap wood wrapped in a tarp with a corrugated tin roof.

“Genesis hustles different jobs in and out of the camp. He has set up a cyber cafe under a tarp in the camp and his wife runs a beauty salon (under a tarp) in the camp. The amount of entrepreneurship here would impress you,” Smith wrote in the e-mail message.

Since the family cannot afford to pay for the shelter, they have been offered a trade. Genesis will write a post on Smith’s blog each week about living in the Uber Shelter and the camp.

The idea started as part of the 24-year-old’s undergraduate thesis project in 2008, and he continued to improve upon it after his graduation.

Smith spent 10 weeks last summer expanding his idea at the Unreasonable Institute, a humanitarian-minded incubation center in Boulder, Colo., where he was offered business and planning assistance.

He has since partnered with transitional housing company World Shelters in Pomona, Calif. to enhance his earlier designs.

Smith says the 190-square-foot structures should be able to house five to eight people and cost under $1,000 to manufacture if made from recyclable products. The shelters are also equipped with telescopic legs that allow them to adjust to various terrains.


Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com


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