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Haiti devastation exposes shoddy construction [BBC]

BBC News Jan 15, 2010

BBC News

By Ayesha Bhatty, BBC News, London

Experts say it is no surprise that shoddy construction contributed to the level of destruction in Haiti following Tuesday's earthquake. But the scale of the disaster has shed new light on the problem in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Tens of thousands are feared dead after being crushed by buildings that collapsed. Scores more remain trapped under the rubble.

"It's sub-standard construction," says London-based architect John McAslan, who has been working on a project linked to the Clinton Global Initiative in the country.

"There aren't any building codes as we would recognise them," he added.

Mr McAslan says most buildings are made of masonry - bricks or construction blocks - which tend to perform badly in an earthquake.

Cheap concrete

There are also significant problems with the quality of building materials used, says Peter Haas, head of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, a US-based non-profit group that has been working in Haiti since 2006.


After the Destruction: What Will It Take to Rebuild Haiti? [Time]

Time Magazine Jan 16, 2010

Time Magazine

By Brian Walsh

At 7.0 on the Richter scale, the earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 was strong, but hardly record-breaking — very similar, in fact, to a 7.0 temblor that hit the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. But that's where the similarities end. The 1989 San Francisco quake left up to 12,000 people homeless and killed 63. The 2010 Haiti quake, however, will likely make over a million people homeless, and its death toll could be 50,000 or much higher. (Read a TIME reporter's account of the devastation in Haiti.)


Mass. native’s group lends a hand [Boston Globe]

Boston Globe, Jan 22, 2010

Boston Globe

By James F. Smith

Sakis Decossard, Peter Haas and Catherine Lainé in Cap Haitien, March 2009

Peter Haas (center), standing with his wife, Catherine Lainé, and a colleague, Sakis Decossard, is executive director of Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, based in Haiti. The organization is looking beyond the immediate effects of the earthquake toward the rebuilding.

Organization in Haiti focuses on rebuilding

A Massachusetts man who runs a nonprofit organization in Haiti’s second-largest city says it is not too soon to start thinking about how Haitians should rebuild once they get through the initial earthquake disaster.

Peter Haas, executive director of Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, said the immediate focus should be how to build affordable, environmentally sound, earthquake-resistant housing, to provide safer shelter and put people to work.


Managing Disasters With Small Steps [New York Times]

New York Times, Jan 18, 2010

New York Times

by Henry Fountain

A week ago, Elizabeth Sheehan, the founder of Containers to Clinics, a nonprofit organization in Dover, Mass., was preparing to deploy the group’s first medical clinic overseas. Made from two shipping containers, it was to be sent to the Dominican Republic, where it would begin to fulfill the group’s long-term goal of building health care infrastructure in developing countries through networks of small container clinics in rural areas.


A Winner in Haiti [Fast Company]

Fast Company, June 2009

By FC Expert Blogger Alice Korngold. Wed Jun 24, 2009
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert's views alone.

Recently named TED Fellow Peter Hass, Founder and CEO of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) announced the winner of AIDG’s Haiti business plan competition.

“We are excited to invest in COOPEN, a new business enterprise in Cap Haitien that will sell biodigesters to the 1,500 members of COOPEN’s agricultural co-op. Families will benefit from this low cost fuel for heating, cooking, and waste management. COOPEN will then buy back the effluent - the by-product of biogas production, and vermicompost the effluent to produce a higher quality product that they can sell on the agricultural market.”


10 Everyday Technologies That Can Change the World [Discover]


by Karen Rowan; extra reporting by Andrew Grant

Who knew that providing energy and water for all could be a matter of foot cranks and dirt power?

Pelton turbine. Photo by Xeni Jardin
A Pelton turbine from the micro-hydroelectric system currently providing renewable power toComunidad Nueva Alianza in Guatemala.Photo: Xeni Jardin; courtesy of AIDG

  A garden hose, a tin can, duct tape, metal piping, kitchen cleaner, and gasoline: That is all television icon MacGyver needed to make a flame-thrower to ward off a swarm of killer ants. In the real world, technologies that are affordable and practical are not so simple to create, but they can make a huge impact on people's lives. Instead of calling on complex solutions (reliant on engines and imported resources) for low-tech problems (such as cooking and lighting), some researchers are now developing what they call "confluent" technologies—ones that are effective, affordable, and sustainable for use in the developing world. Here's a look at the latest breakthroughs:


When burning gas is good for the planet [New Scientist]

New Scientist

by Mason Inman

Rural families can slash their energy costs, improve their health and help preserve local forests by harvesting natural gas from rotting manure, researchers argue.

They say the use of biogas plants, which store the decomposing manure and capture the natural gas it releases, could improve rural farmers' livelihoods, while protecting the environment.


Engineers Without Borders Bring Tech to Villages Without Power [Wired]

Wired Magazine

By Alexis Madrigal

EWB-SF’s Malcolm Knapp and Heather Fleming with low-cost turbine that they helped design. It will be tested in Quetzaltenango this spring. Photo courtesy Jim Merithew/

EWB-SF’s Malcolm Knapp and Heather Fleming with low-cost turbine that they helped design. It will be tested in Quetzaltenango this spring. Photo courtesy Jim Merithew/

A group of volunteer engineers are finishing the design for a home-brewed wind turbine that will bring electricity to off-the-grid Guatemalan villages by this summer.

After the U.S. engineers finish the design, local workers in the town of Quetzaltenango will manufacture the small-scale turbine. It will produce 10-15 watts of electricity, enough to charge a 12-volt battery that can power simple devices like LED lights.


EcoGeek of the Week: Peter Haas of AIDG


by John Barrie

The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group is a new type of charity. They incubate sustainable businesses that tackle some of the world's most pressing social, economic and environmental needs by using smart sustainable technologies. Their founder and Executive Director, Peter Haas, took a few minutes to answer some questions from EcoGeek.


Big Tech Companies Can’t Forget Simple Gadgets, Inventors Say (Popular Mechanics)

Popular Mechanics

by Wayne Ma

The tech world is misunderstanding the concept of appropriate technology for developing nations as “low-tech,” leaders in the growing field of practical invention said today at the 2007 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Conference. In fact, the panelists agreed, it’s likely more difficult to design these technologies for rich, technologically-developed countries, which don't have to worry about limited resources.


Special diary from Guatemala trip (Weston Town Crier)

Weston Town Crier

By Meredith Rahman

 Weston - Every morning Carolina wakes up in a sleepy daze and walks on the soft dirt of her kitchen floor, compacted by generations of use. Thick smoke fills the room as kindling begins to burn on the stove. From dawn until dusk, 365 days a year, this smoke infests the room.


10 Questions - Peter Haas (The Sietch Blog)

The Sietch Blog

Written by The Naib

When I stumbled upon Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, I knew right away that they were doing something special. There unique approach to creating positive change involves long term commitments to the community; I was especially impressed with their commitment to green technology. I was lucky enough to be able to get Peter Haas, the founder and Executive Director of the AIDG, to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer ten questions for The Sietch.


Guatemala Project Builds Tech from the Ground Up (NPR)


Day to Day Many of Guatemala's rural indigenous communities lack infrastructure basics such as clean drinking water, sanitation and electricity.

A group of American eco-engineers in the United States from the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group is working with a number of Mayan villages to change that.


How to make a silk purse from pig excrement (Salon HTWW)

Salon's How the World Works Blog

Salon How the World Works

by Andrew Leonard 

The Internet facilitates many kinds of behavior, but shines at one thing above all else: If you need to find a manual to figure out how to reprogram a remote control, or set a function on your bike computer, or put together a Lego set, the Internet is so helpful it makes Prometheus look like a miser. Manuals, how-to instructions, spare part catalogs -- no matter how obscure, no matter how out of date (or how cutting edge), they all live forever on the Net.

I was thinking this, yet again, this morning, as I scrolled through a 30-page PDF file containing exquisitely specific instructions on how to build a biodigester septic tank that transforms pig [waste] into organic fertilizer and cooking gas. Not that I'm planning to install one myself in my backyard anytime soon, but I just feel happy knowing that should I ever need to, the information is handily available. Just as I am delighted to learn that using a laser printer, the right paper, a sheet of copper and a clothes iron, I can make my own printed circuit boards.


Weston Residents Take Local Eco-Values Global (Wellesley Weston)

Wellesley Weston

Cheryl B. Scaparrotta

 Peter Haas and Adam Hyde installing a windmill in Chicaclan, Guatemala for Don Felipe and his familyThe idea came to Weston native Peter Haas on a pig farm in Cuba. Haas was studying urban agriculture while traveling on a U.S. Department of Treasury permit, and this was the first farm he visited. He was surprised to learn that the farmer had installed a “biodigester” (a mechanism that collects animal waste and, through a process, promotes a controlled buildup of methane gas for heating, cooking, and lighting) built by his nephew, to treat pig excrement. The organic fertilizer generated by the biodigester enhanced the farm’s productivity. And amazingly, the farm was relatively clean, operated efficiently, and lacked the typical foul odor one would expect from a pig farm. The well was also clean and the kitchen was spotless, thanks to the biogas stove.


Empowering the world's poor (Weston Town Crier)

Weston Town Crier

By Habib Rahman

Weston - Last Sunday, Peter Haas, a lifelong Weston resident and co-founder of AIDG, presented one vision of empowering the world’s poor by developing economically viable environmentally friendly businesses in the developing world. It has successfully established several renewable energy projects in Guatemala and, contingent on funding, is hoping to start similar operations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. AIDG was founded in 2004 by Peter Haas and his friend Benny Lee, also a Weston resident. Two other lifelong Weston friends joined the board of directors – Adam Hyde and Grey Lee.

AIDG’s mission is simple – empower the poor in developing countries by creating indigenous small self-sustaining businesses that generate green energy. To this end, they have interns and volunteers, primarily students from top colleges like Berkeley, MIT and Stanford, work with local villagers, helping develop renewable energy plants.This summer a group of 10 Weston High School students and two chaperone teachers will go on a Teco-Tour to Guatemala under the auspices of AIDG. The students will travel through the country and work on renewable energy projects with local villagers. The operations are by design small and have to be affordable to locals, most of whom live on less than $2 a day.

"Our goal is to transform society one village at a time," Haas said.


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