FRCH and University of Cincinnati Partner to Aid Haiti

I have experienced many highlights in my eight years with FRCH.  Looking back, one of the biggest highlights has been our on-going partnership with the University of Cincinnati in an effort to create and introduce sustainable design solutions for the rebuilding of Haiti.  This partnership has helped many individuals on many levels including the students, the University, FRCH staff, and most of all, those who were affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit near Port-au-Prince Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Liam Ream, AIA, Assistant Professor for the University of Cincinnati, approached FRCH in early 2010 to see if we could assist with a project.  He was seeking space, workstations, software (incl. Revit) and printing capabilities for a multi-disciplinary, multi-national studio of students who would be researching and developing solutions for rebuilding an orphanage in Haiti.  We quickly outfitted a space for the first group of UC students and warmly welcomed them into our office!

What began as a research project to design and rebuild the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Carrefour, Haiti turned into a long-term project with broader goals:  to research, design and implement realistic and sustainable rebuilding solutions for all Haitians.  Much care has been taken to pay homage to the dynamic elements of the Haitian culture in every solution developed.  Funding and support for the project thus far has been made possible by the Rotary Club of Cynthiana, Kentucky.

The focus of this endeavor has been to utilize sustainable resources which are readily available to Haitians while ensuring that proposed culturally-sensitive designs are both earthquake and hurricane resistant.  After much research and testing, the group unanimously decided on earthbag construction as the ideal method and actually spent a summer month building a life-sized model of an earthbag home in Cynthiana, Kentucky with Rotary-provided room and board and volunteer labor and construction materials.  The exciting thing is that many of the solutions they have developed could work not only in Haiti but throughout any area of the world threatened by natural disaster.

Since early 2010, FRCH has hosted thirteen students and provided meeting place for contributing UC faculty and visiting professional consultants in this on-going mission. Based upon a Haitian folk tale, the studio branded itself The Orange Tree Atelye (Haitian Creole for “workshop”).  The students work at FRCH on a daily basis and the interdisciplinary groups change quarterly – based on the focus the group elects to tackle.

UC students majoring in Architecture, Civil & Electrical Engineering, Industrial Design and Construction Management from the USA, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco and Bulgaria have all been involved in this noteworthy project and have received both scholarships and curricula-required cooperative education credit for their efforts.  This is extremely beneficial to them because, as they receive ‘real world’ humanitarian and technical experience in an office setting, they are able to receive some compensation during the economic downturn wherein it has been challenging for UC students to secure co-op employment.  For more information about UC’s co-op program, visit

It has been a pleasure to host these students in our office and watch the progress that they have made.  We hope that this partnership will continue and look forward to seeing what the future holds!

Check out the photos of the earthbag construction

About mikeotto
I'm the Director of Human Resources for FRCH Design Worldwide. Fulltime Dad, part-time rocker and occasional blogger, I believe that Human Resources professionals in the design industry need to be as creative as the designers they work for.

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