BUFFALO, NY -- A new building on the Quisqueya University (UniQ)
campus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, provides some of the most powerful
evidence yet that Haiti's engineering community, with international
assistance from the University at Buffalo and MCEER, is undergoing
a dramatic transformation.
The building is the first on the campus to be built according to
seismic design principles, a direct result of the building's
architect and engineer attending earthquake engineering seminars
held by UB and UniQ that began shortly after a devastating
earthquake struck the island on Jan. 12, 2010. They are among the
more than 500 engineers -- estimated to be half of all working
engineers in the Haitian capital -- who are the first in their
profession to have received this training.
"The new building is more than symbolic," says Andre
Filiatrault, PhD, curriculum coordinator for the UniQ-UB/MCEER
seminars, former director of UB's Multidisciplinary Center for
Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) and a leader in
international post-earthquake damage assessment and the education
of Haitian engineers.
"It was closely inspired by one of the detailed examples
presented in one of our seminar programs. For example, the type,
positioning and geometry of the seismic force-resisting elements
are the same as those discussed in class, and both the architect
and engineer were trained in these seminars," he says.
Prior to the completion of the building, classes had been held
in a large tent, where temperatures often exceeded 100 degrees
The building reflects the dawn of a new reality in Haiti, where
there had been no building codes and no legal requirements to
prepare plans and submit them for approval by a government-run
That began to change just eight days after the 2010 quake, when
Filiatrault and UB's MCEER 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. MCEER and
UniQ then began reaching out to Haitian engineers, with the first
seminar held in May 2010, followed by three more held since then,
including the most recent held in August. All seminars and
materials were in French, a key part of their success.
"It was clear from the beginning that much work needed to be
done," Filiatrault recalls. "Haitian universities didn't teach
earthquake engineering and there are no government-enforced
building codes or professional licensing requirements for
practicing engineers in Haiti, so we established an educational
program to teach Haitian engineers about seismic mitigation in
design and construction."
Filiatrault is currently helping Haitian engineers write a model
charter for Haiti's new Earthquake Engineering Association. A
master's degree program in earthquake engineering for all the
francophone nations in the Caribbean is also being developed by
UniQ and UB MCEER.
The goal of the MCEER-UniQ partnership and seminars is to help
Haiti establish its own community of earthquake engineers. With an
estimated 1,000 practicing engineers in Port-au-Prince, MCEER has
trained 560 participants, more than 50 percent of that city's
engineering population, in methods of earthquake-resistant design,
Filiatrault says. In addition, 58 engineers from Haiti's Ministry
of Public Works, Transport and Communications have participated in
the seminars; their presence will help ensure informed government
oversight of the rebuilding process ahead.
"All of these efforts will add up to a safer environment for the
people of Haiti, where an estimated 316,000 lives were lost in the
January 2010 earthquake -- a death toll that could have been
substantially reduced through the use of fundamental seismic design
principles," says Filiatrault.
"The partnership between UniQ and UB MCEER was a strategic
effort to provide Haitian engineers with the tools to rebuild their
country," says Sofia Tangalos, MCEER senior program officer for
Education/Outreach Activities and Information Services, adding that
the seminars have been an effective collaboration between UB, MCEER
and UniQ. The key UniQ leaders include Jacky Lumarque, Quisqueya
University rector, and Evenson Calixte, dean of the School of
Science, Engineering and Architecture.
And two UB students -- both Haitians -- have advanced their
education and that of seminar attendees through their participation
in the project. Doctoral candidate Pierre Fouché, who
initially came to UB to study earthquake engineering with the hope
of helping his country avert such a disaster, has served as a
seminar instructor since the program's start and is now helping the
island to rebuild. Gael Lamothe, an undergraduate civil engineering
student, used UB's Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation
Laboratory to study typical Haitian construction materials (cinder
blocks, mortar, steel rebar) to compare their strength to that of
the same materials used in the U.S. His study found that the
Haitian materials did not meet U.S. standards, information has been
incorporated into UniQ-UB/MCEER seminars.
Two more seminars are expected to take place in 2012, followed
by the proposed launch of Haiti's first earthquake engineering
master's degree program at UniQ, which is being developed by MCEER
and UB's Office of International Education in collaboration with
UniQ. For more information, visit http://mceer.buffalo.edu/education/UniQ/default.asp.
The UniQ-UB/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
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
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.