BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As Haitian citizens struggle to achieve some
normalcy a year after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake,
its structural engineers and architects are demonstrating an
unwavering resolve to rebuild the country the right way, despite
the daily challenges.
In seminars held in May and September in Port-au-Prince, some
held in tents in 100-plus degree heat, they are learning from some
of the world's leading earthquake engineers how to incorporate
seismic design into their work.
Approximately 350 engineers and architects -- about 35 percent
of all structural engineers and architects in Port-au-Prince --
have attended the seminars, organized by the University at
Buffalo's MCEER (Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake
Engineering Research), which is partnering with Quisqueya
University (UniQ) in Haiti. The next seminar will take place in
Port-au-Prince in March; more information is at http://mceer.buffalo.edu/education/UniQ/registration/default_EN.asp.
"The goal of the partnership and these seminars is to help Haiti
establish its own community of earthquake engineers to mitigate
damage to its buildings in the event of future earthquakes," says
Andre Filiatrault, PhD, MCEER director and UB professor of civil,
structural and environmental engineering in the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Within eight days of the Jan. 12 earthquake, Filiatrault had
assembled and deployed the first team of French-speaking structural
engineers to Haiti to conduct building safety inspections at the
request of the United Nations. When the team returned to the U.S.,
they knew more needed to be done: Haitian universities didn't offer
any courses or programs dedicated to earthquake engineering. There
also are no professional licensing requirements for practicing
engineers in Haiti.
While the magnitude of the problems facing Haitian society
cannot be overstated, Filiatrault says that there also is an
urgency to educate as many of the country's engineers as possible
about seismic mitigation in design and construction.
"Right now, there are requests for proposals going out to the
Haitian engineering community to rebuild structures that were
devastated in the earthquake," he says. "We are already seeing that
the engineers who have taken our seminars are insisting that their
firms' proposals adhere to the seismic mitigation principles they
Each seminar provides increasingly advanced training; the
September session covered the seismicity of Haiti,
earthquake-resistant design principles and the seismic design of
reinforced concrete and confined-masonry buildings in Haiti
inspired by the International Building Code.
In March, seminar topics will include post-earthquake building
assessment, seismic design load calculations in Haiti and seismic
design of buildings constructed with concrete, confined masonry and
wood. A special program will discuss the required properties and
quality control and assurance of materials used for the seismic
design of buildings in Haiti, a "critical aspect of
earthquake-resistant reconstruction in Haiti," says
Filiatrault notes that the rebuilding of Haiti will require a
massive overhaul of its engineering practices.
"The country's engineering sector needs many things: building
codes, licensing and examination procedures, more comprehensive
engineering curricula, all of which are critical to the rebuilding
of Haiti," he says. "This partnership between MCEER and UniQ
provides an important piece."
In addition to Filiatrault, instructors for the March seminar
will include UB doctoral candidate in earthquake engineering and
Haitian native Pierre Fouché, Wassim Ghannoum, PhD,
assistant professor in the University of Texas at Austin's
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and
J. Eric Karsh, MEng, PEng, principal, Equilibrium Consulting Inc,
Vancouver, Canada. All instruction is in French.
The UniQ-MCEER partnership reflects UB's strategic strength in
mitigation and response to extreme events that has been identified
in the UB 2020 strategic plan for academic, research and service
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.