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To Learn How to Rebuild, Haitian Engineers from Government and Industry Attend Earthquake Engineering Seminars in Record Numbers

Release Date: March 17, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. The outcome of Haiti's March 20 presidential election will determine much of the country's political future, but this week, more than 250 Haitian architects and engineers are taking the future of Haiti's reconstruction into their own hands when they attend the third UniQ-UB/MCEER Earthquake Engineering Seminar in Port-au-Prince.

The sold-out seminar is the result of a partnership between Université Quisqueya (UniQ) and the University at Buffalo's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), designed to teach Haitian engineers and architects how to incorporate seismic design into their work. It is the third in a series of seminars offered by MCEER since the January 2010 earthquake. To date, nearly 500, or 50 percent, of an estimated 1,000 engineers in Port-au-Prince have been educated through the MCEER programs.

For the first time, Haiti's Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communication (MTPTC) is sending personnel to the seminar; 58 engineers from the ministry will attend, supported by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

"Their attendance is critical," says André Filiatrault, PhD, MCEER director and UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, who is directing the UniQ-UB/MCEER seminars. "Both government and private sector engineers must be on the same page as they begin to reconstruct Haiti."

Filiatrault notes that the rebuilding of Haiti will require a massive overhaul of its engineering practices, including building codes, licensing and examination procedures for architects and engineers and more comprehensive engineering curricula.

"This partnership between MCEER and UniQ provides an important piece," he says.

Seminar topics 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 Haiti's buildings, a "critical aspect of earthquake-resistant reconstruction in Haiti," says Filiatrault.

Days after the January 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 316,000 Haitians and destroyed much of the capital city, Filiatrault led a U.S. team of French-speaking structural engineers to assess the structural safety of hospitals and other structures critical to the immediate relief effort in Port-au-Prince. The team also set up a protocol for continued seismic assessments of buildings for the United Nations.

In addition to Filiatrault, instructors for the March seminar will include UB doctoral candidate in earthquake engineering and Haitian native Pierre Fouché and J. Eric Karsh, MEng, PEng, principal, Equilibrium Consulting Inc, Vancouver, Canada. All instruction is in French. Founded in 1986, MCEER, headquartered at the University at Buffalo, is a national center of excellence in advanced technology applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquakes and other hazards, and to improving disaster resilience. One of three such centers in the nation established by the National Science Foundation, MCEER has been funded principally over the past two decades with more than $67 million from NSF, more than $47 million from the State of New York and more than $34 million from the Federal Highway Administration. Additional support comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other state governments, academic institutions, foreign governments and private industry.

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.

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.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum