22 January 2012

Post disaster steel-frame shelter, by Milton Funes, CHF International

CHF is a large US based American NGO with both development and humanitarian disaster response capacity. CHF presented lessons learned out of the Sri Lanka 2005 tsunami response, and discussed parallels and differences with their most recent response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake operation.
The steel-frame transitional shelters built in Sri Lanka were quite simple, temporary structures. In collaboration with the affected communities, some adjustments could be made that made these shelters well accepted. They were suitable in the climate, easily assembled and disassembled.
In Haiti, CHF built 5,140 transitional shelters in response to the earthquake, 2,000 of which were cold formed/light gauge steel and frames. Other ones were built using wood. CHF undertook a thorough review of the response, analysing the pros and cons of the two different material solutions. It is quite rare that operational agencies invest in such an analysis post-operation; it brought about very interesting considerations for the future.
The steel design was chosen, amongst other reasons, because of the disaster proneness of the context and the scarcity of wood. This was felt to compensate the higher cost of the steel design. Another conclusion of the review was that the affected population was more inclined to invest in the upgrading of the steel shelters than in the wooden ones. This indicates that the steel design was felt to be more durable, stimulating a quicker transition from relief to recovery. On the other side, the planning of the steel shelter project took considerably more time than of the one using wood. Another issue raised highlighted the risk of alterations to the original design that can compromise structural strength.

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