Visit E2E Expo website to learn more and make sure to stop by our site at the University of Notre Dame

Month at a glance
  • Team completes construction of 2 prototype homes on campus
  • E2E campus construction featured in South Bend TribuneASEE’s First Bell, and on nightly news (WNDU)
  • Awareness events: Women’s Soccer Match between Notre Dame and the Haitian National Team and Rubble Stunts, with new EMPOWER bracelets. Check out bracelet design on facebook!
  • Final Senior Capstone Design project presented by Fink, Jensen, Rish, Zartman
  • Jensen and Gigioli present at Undergraduate Scholars Conference
  • Development Advisory Team (Jensen, Cadet and Reineccius) present recommendations
  • Fink and Jensen join E2E as graduate students, enrolling in the Summer of 2014

Home > Project Updates > April 2014 Feature Story

April 2014 Feature Story

Rewriting that Haitian Proverb: The Birth of the E2E Expo

In Haiti there is a proverb, Piti, piti, zwazo fe nich liLittle by little the bird builds its nest. It’s the truest embodiment of how homes were built in Haiti, little by little, block by block, with Gourdes scraped together at the end of a hard day’s work. Who would have dared to dream that nests could be built differently? Over the last month, I had a chance few dreamers have, a chance to see my dream become a reality, a reality carried on the backs of an entire flock.

Dreams become a reality when one (or in this case three) crazy dreamers align with other likeminded and passionate people. In this case, it was over 20 students partnering with principals, engineers, project managers, and construction professionals from ARCO/Murray National Construction and Western Forms International, and local contractors and vendors, particularly Paul Hundt Concrete, to bring the E2E housing concept to life on Notre Dame’s campus. Now there is no mistaking that pulling off any construction project, in one semester, using undergraduate labor is ambitious. As we reviewed the Spring 2014 calendar, this became even more apparent as there was really only one week this could be done: the week of April 21. That meant everything leading up to that week and that week itself, including the weather that had been especially unpredictable in South Bend this spring, had to click. I will admit that there were moments when I feared it could not be done, despite the nearly superhuman efforts of everyone involved. Had it not been for the dedication of our students, especially our four senior leaders Kevin Fink, Erik Jensen, Dan Rish and Ethan Zartman, and our Staff Machinist Brent Bach and his “get it done attitude,” that certainly would have been the case. (And of course their faculty advisors and private sector partners were no slouches themselves!) 

As the structural drawings were being finalized and the planning process was unfolding, these seniors organized the underclassmen to finalize many aspects of the E2E home, from pre-casting schemes for five different panels and a customized foundation to support them to their attachment to a frame reinforced by prefabricated cages. And this crew went to work, pulling out every tool in their chest, from structural analysis and design by prescriptive code to getting their hands dirty building  conceptual half-scale prototypes for their ideas and stepping them through trial and error toward full-scale component testing. And here is where engineering truly thrives, in ideas that materialize and are iterated and refined hands-on. No part of this experience lived only on paper, but was realized through practical ingenuity of our students. Yet even with all those calculations mocked up in the lab, you truly come to understand the constructability and feasibility of your design only by building it in full scale. And then you really are forced to understand both its strengths and limitations by then doing so alongside a comparison typology used in other parts of the developing world, in our case a reinforced concrete cast-in-place load bearing wall system, popularized by Western Forms International. So here we were, taking our initial modest goal for the Spring of 2014: build a partial prototype of the E2E Frame and Panel home on campus, and unexpectedly expanding it to a full-scale two room starter home with a covered porch. And if that wasn’t enough, we were also going to build another home that we had no prior experience with, again all with student labor. Ambitious? I’d say.   

But thanks especially to ARCO/Murray, it was indeed possible. In the weeks leading up to Easter, as spring struggled to arrive in blustery South Bend, weekly teleconference calls and emails turned into final structural drawings on Box that turned into a site walkthrough on Holy Half Marathon Saturday and suddenly a kick off meeting in Cushing Hall. All the while, students who never bent steel before were fabricating stirrups in the High Bay that became cages for the beams and columns -- admittedly at an initial pace of minutes per stirrup, dramatically quickened by Haitian ingenuity and a video on Facebook from Dustin that showed a more efficient strategy. This all started to feel so real. There was web cam allowing us to “spy” as our dream materialized from spray paint and stakes on soggy ground to excavated trenches and footings and then by Easter weekend dowels and column splices sticking out from a freshly cast foundation. Shift schedules, student foremen, risk management plan, and safety training. We were actually going to pull this off.

And as panels cast by the students were curing in the shed, our work week began Monday after Easter and a humble job site in the vastness of White Field became a flurry of activity. The flock arrived, in shifts each day, at the most demanding point in their academic year, donning hard hats and fluorescent vests and steel toed boots and dusty work gloves. They felt the joys and the pains of construction, the details that worked out effortlessly and the ones that halted construction and sent work days into the early evening. They watched their professional mentors think through these challenges and patiently guide them over the course of a few days, and at each moment, their own confidence steadily grew. By the end of a week of long days, they were stripping and placing forms like pros so that by Friday April 25, right on schedule, they were ready, with time to spare, for the arrival of the concrete trucks to cast the frame. When the pour of the frame was completed, I watched as the sun peeked out of the clouds and started to beam radiantly off the Dome in the distance. I like to think it was God’s way of smiling and saying, “Good work, my children.” By Monday, a week after we had started, the forms were stripped off the frame, loaded up onto a trailer bound for Kansas City, and days later the first panels attached, with Dustin watching on a webcam from Haiti. My eyes welled with tears as the panels began to clad this fortified frame that I hoped for so long would bring safety to the people of Haiti. Alex, Ethan and Kevin just smiled, confidently, as if they knew all along that we could do it.

For us, victories are sweet but are savored only briefly, much like in Haiti, as there is still much work to do. The E2E Expo: Urban Housing Solutions for the Developing World will be opening this fall, and we need to now turn this job site into a showcase for more than houses but homes, for more than what is a dream but what is actually possible. We need to grow our ranks of likeminded and passionate partners so these prototypes are not just a conclusion to a busy school year but the beginning of a transformation of a nation. We have a story to tell and now a stage to tell it on. There are websites to build, PR to design, and most importantly, houses to be finished with roofs and doors and stucco so they can truly be homes. While the physical end result of this semester-long effort was the realization of two full-scale prototypes that now stand on campus as a focal point for the university’s commitment to Haiti’s recovery, in reality it is the non-physical end result that means so much more to me as I write this. Beyond the structural drawings, budget analyses, and construction strategies that resulted, it is the 20 changed students and private sector partners who walk away from this, not just with a sense of accomplishment, but the knowing that they were part of something special. They made the dream of not just E2E, but of thousands of families waiting patiently in Haiti, become so much more real. More importantly, their actions this past month confirmed for these families that they are not alone on this journey. They proved that it may be time to change that proverb, Little by Little a flock of birds will help to build the nest.

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.

Post Script

This short piece in no way can do justice to the scope of this effort and all the individuals involved, including many companies in the Michiana area who made site preparations and construction possible. The launch of the website will have so much more information and proper tribute to the men and women who made this all possible.  So stay tuned

Updates from Innovation Incubator in Haiti

With April under our belts, we have seen the coming and going of the final innovation incubator initial challenge pilot program! Again taking place in Ti Rivye, participants were asked to give a persuasive speech to a panel of judges from our good friends at Resilience Haiti. The winner will move on to the main event, where the group will be tasked with creating a strategy to convince fellow community members of the importance of savings in the housing process. Lamarre and Edson will now take some time to plan the logistics of expanding the incubators to other zones, after which we will continue with the initial challenges!Keep watching our Facebook page for photos!

Updates on Our First Home in Haiti

We had our biggest month by far in April for the E2E Model House. Formwork was completed, erected, concrete was poured for the frame. The whole process took a lot of planning, careful thought, and buy-in from local construction professionals, but everything was pulled off without a hitch. In the coming week we will strip the forms from the frame and voila, we will have our first E2E concrete frame in Haiti! Panel production is next on the docket, along with roof installation. Work is going fast and we cannot wait to see the finished product! Stay tuned on Facebook to watch this frame become a home!


Updates on the Campus Prototype Capstone

Well as this month’s feature story suggests, the structural work on the campus prototypes has been completed. It was quite a feat to construct the superstructures of two houses in a week with student laborers, but all things considered, we couldn’t ask for a better end result. We will be updating our Facebook album with pictures from the process (Album on Facebook). We now are moving forward with finishes: windows, doors, roofs and stucco/paint on the houses, with help from area carpenters, so that by the time the fall comes and the E2E Expo opens, we will have two beautiful starter homes!

E2E Endorses 5th IDRC Davos 2014

Involved or working in the field of Risk and Disaster Management? The Global Risk Forum GRF Davos invites you to submit an abstract for oral presentation, poster presentation, a session or a workshop on one of the conference topics. The 5th International Disaster and Risk Conference IDRC Davos 2014 will be held under the theme "Integrative Risk Management – Science, technology and implementation to strengthen the post 2015 framework" from 24 - 28 August 2014 in Davos, Switzerland. More information is available at