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September 2014 Feature Story

Making One Home, One Expo at a time: how it began here at Notre Dame

So how do you take four years of ideas, failures, discoveries and passion and turn them into a singular stage? How do you make that stage one that is worthy to tell the story of Léogâne, Haiti? Indeed watching a vacant field on Notre Dame’s campus transform into concrete structures that blossomed from houses into homes was a beautiful metamorphosis facilitated by the heart, sweat and yes maybe even tears of a committed group of students and faculty. This beginning captured, for me, precisely my hope for each Haitian waiting in a transitory shelter – a dignified home.

By the end of April, two prototypes cast in concrete stood alone in Notre Dame’s White Fields, in the barren gameday parking lots waiting to be filled with exuberant fans. And as the seasons shifted, spring gave way to finals week, graduation and the start of summer with some much needed time away from campus for our hard working students. During that time, the E2E Expo site sat dormant – silently and patiently waiting, full of potential not yet fully realized, much like the rubble cleared sites scattered throughout Léogâne. Yet the power of these two concrete prototypes was already evident, as they garnered Notre Dame’s first NCEES Engineering Award for Connecting Professional Practice and Education. It was indeed the synergy between university research and construction practitioners that was finally bearing fruit, in ways we could not yet even anticipate.

And soon that power was harnessed as the long and sunny days of July gave birth to a resurgence of activity, with newfound skills in carpentry bringing corrugated metal roofs and shuttered windows onto this pair of prototype homes. Application of stucco, trim and vibrant paints of Caribbean corals and turquoise adorned these quaint houses now regularly catching the eye of passersby.

With August’s arrival, a construction site soon was transformed into a welcoming showcase complete with freshly trimmed grass, footpaths, landscaping and a proudly waving Haitian flag. Then the team took pause from their physical labor to turn their attention toward creating a complete multi-media environment that could recreate the experience of post-quake Haiti for visitors to South Bend. A week in Léogâne indeed provided the inspiration for a simple but elegant campaign that captured the essence of E2E’s hope for Haiti: “How do you build 60,000 homes a year, for the next 10 years? 1 HOME at a time…1 BUILDER at a time… 1 SAVINGS ACCOUNT at a time. It begins here at NOTRE DAME.” It indeed was beginning here, echoed in the posters sprinkled along the halls of buildings all across campus. It was beginning here, proudly displayed by a powerful video on the landing page of Notre Dame’s website. It was beginning here, with the official E2Eexpo website launched to recall the devastation of Haiti’s past with a hope-filled strategy for its future. It was about to begin. The expo was about to open.

 

By early September, it was time then for us to help the students of E2E truly recognize the impact they were about to have on a sister community they had never even visited. The Michigan game presented the opportunity for the E2E family to host a true visionary, Haitian contractor Paul Pierre-Louis, owner of Magepa and the first implementer of the E2E housing model in Haiti. The evening Paul and Dustin spent with our undergraduate team was for me one of the most powerful nights I had experienced since we started on this journey. Paul’s words still remain with me: we work for the “faceless,” people we will never know who will, even 10 years from now, build their homes differently because of the work that began here…that began at Notre Dame. His vision, shared with the eager collection of undergraduates, was inspired by the 2-room prototype showcased at the Expo, a model he could see serving so many in need from the frequently flooded lowlands to the steep hillsides of Haiti. Paul’s few days on campus interacting with visitors at the Expo and the E2E research team has helped to solidify this inaugural partnership between E2E and the Haitian construction sector and identify the next iterations on the home’s design to improve its appearance, construction efficiency and cost effectiveness. Paul returned to Haiti now realizing that he is backed by an army of young engineers, who, thanks to this visit, now also appreciate the “revolution” they are creating.

So as October unfolds, what will you find on a football weekend in South Bend -- the E2E Open House. You will find curious tailgaters passing through and taking a moment to view placards comparing the prototypes here to their counterpart in downtown Léogâne, flanked by streaming videos of the conditions in Haiti. You will see these visitors attempt to comprehend and appreciate the gravity of the losses, the barriers to recovery, the solutions offered by these prototypes and even their own role as a partner in this effort. You will see colorful posters and handouts capturing the efforts and dreams of this team of faculty and students, who personally stand ready in their black E2E T-shirts with a welcoming smile and enthusiastic explanation of how these simple homes represent so much more for a community 2000 miles away.

In only a few months it has been amazing to imagine how much impact one site – the E2E Expo: Urban Housing Solutions for the Developing World – has had already. It has united 5 sponsors, 3 corporate partners and 10 more private sector donors with over 20 Notre Dame students. Its construction process facilitated 6 innovation exchanges with Haiti to help accelerate the construction of the first E2E home in Léogâne. And through its physical and virtual presence, it has provided a fitting stage to tell a story not of Haitian unrest, devastation and poverty, but of Haitian cooperation, ingenuity, and opportunity.  It has inspired conversations around dinner tables, tailgating buffets, and board rooms. I hope you will take a moment to learn this story, either in person or in spirit, and I hope it will inspire for you a moment of pause and conversation. It all begins at E2Eexpo.org

Tracy Kijewski-Correa

E2E Co-Founder

About the author

Tracy Kijewski-Correa is the Linbeck Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. She directs the Structural DYNamics & MOnitoring (DYNAMO) Laboratory dedicated to addressing 21st Century Civil Infrastructure Challenges posed by increased urbanization and hazard vulnerability, using inter-disciplinary collaborations and context-driven technologies ranging from advanced sensing, simulation and cyber-infrastructure to sustainable systems suitable for developing countries.

The First E2E Home in Haiti

We are very excited to report from Léogâne that the first E2E home is nearly completed! Doors and windows are on their way, painting has started, and the structure is quickly becoming a home. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and we are excited to take that momentum into next year. The 4-room floorplan has been held up as the example of what is possible with our model and many are now realizing the flexibility of our system. As we refine the construction process, we hope to continue to lower the cost while improving the quality. Stay tuned to Facebook for photos

Crowdfunding

As we quickly transition from prototyping our first home to expanding to five homes next year, along with a pilot finance program, we are seeking ways for the E2E community of supporters at large to become more involved. As such, we are excited to announce a crowd funding campaign next month! E2E will be raising funds through the website IndieGoGo for two of the homes to be built in 2015, with the money going toward the subsidy and loan portions of the pilot finance program. Stay tuned to your email for an invitation to check out our campaign, contribute in your own way, and even receive a small gift in recognition of your support!

 

Updates on the Campus Prototype Capstone

The University of Notre Dame is proud to host Migration, Crossing Boundaries, Paths Forward – the 26th Annual Haitian Studies Association (HSA) Conference November 6-8. E2E is a proud co-sponsor of the conference and will be organizing/participating in three panel and roundtable discussions focused on the impact of the earthquake, barriers to recovery and the role universities can play in identifying sustainable solutions. 

Partners

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