Imagine your neighborhood is devastated by a natural disaster. Your school, local stores and even your home are gone. Now imagine that no one around knows how to re-build. They don’t have the tools, knowledge, resources or training.
Everyone remembers the earthquakes that tore through Haiti in 2010. When the call came from overseas to go and help, two companies based in the United States didn’t hesitate to provide assistance.
Extending a Helping Hand
Dr. Tseng, president of the architectural firm Tseng Consulting Group in Miami, reached out to USG Corp. for economical solutions for a building in Haiti. The building was an all-girls Catholic school, the College Marie-Anne in Port-au-Prince that had been destroyed by an earthquake a few years back. Tseng was looking for a way to construct exterior walls for long lasting finish and quality, and fast construction, so he contacted USG.
“USG worked with Dr. Tseng to meet fire ratings and seismic guidelines specified by his team,” says Leo Pena, regional sales manager, Caribbean with USG. “In addition to providing materials, I also spent a week on-site along with Mark Pacelli, director of business development with Formulated Solutions, guiding the OECC supervisors on installation guidelines and procedures, and teaching the workers how to do basic things like score, snap and hang drywall.”
The Overseas Engineering & Construction Corp. was the Taiwanese group in Haiti that was providing aid through the building of roads and other structures. The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist international humanitarian organization, donated funds to pay the OECC and Dr. Tseng’s firm headed up the design.
Materials Provided by USG
Materials Provided by Formulated Solutions
USG is a distributor of Formulated Solutions’ New York Stucco product line in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Formulated Solutions supplied a New York Stucco Direct Applied Finishing System with a waterproof membrane for the exterior cladding. Pacelli demonstrated to workers how to properly install the DAFS USG Durock Brand Cement Board. The DAFS wall system includes a waterproof weather barrier rolled over USG Durock Brand Cement Board, basecoat with embedded fiberglass mesh, and a troweled-on textured acrylic finish.
“One of our biggest challenges was a mixed international work force of laborers who had never done any plastering or applied any type of cladding, and they did not speak English,” Pacelli says.
Pacelli says that a lot of the communication was done through a translator and by showing the workers proper installation techniques on-site. Everything worked out well in the end.
All of the overseers and supervisors were from the OECC and 300 to 400 Haitians helped do the installation work.
“These workers are essentially the future developers and construction workers of Haiti,” Pena says. “We would offer instruction and then they would teach each other.”
Prior to both of these companies involvement, there was little to no use of drywall or finish. Wallboard is sold in Haiti but there was a lack of training for skilled labor.
“Our goal was to educate the local workers and enable them to continue construction in and around Port-au-Prince,” says Pena. “It was truly the first step in creating a new class of workers that are exposed to that kind of construction.”
The project lasted about eight months from start to finish. Pacelli and Pena were in Haiti for one week to offer instruction and installation guidance, and they both returned for another week to see the outcome.
“The architect asked us to come back and review the project,” says Pacelli. “I was ecstatic at what they accomplished. The facades looked awesome.”
“We make it a point to go once a year, if not twice,” Pena says. “I will be there this summer to visit the OECC. If they have questions about the building, we’ll do an on-site visit but everything has gone smoothly.”
Both companies enjoyed taking the time and energy to travel to Haiti to be a part of this re-build. They also recognized that it was about more than just supplying the products.
“The time and money spent to train the Haitian people and to help build schools for the children of Haiti to succeed was well worth it,” says Pacelli.
“The project was more than providing building materials to a community in need,” Pena adds. “We were able to train this new group of people and enable them to teach others their skills. It empowered them to know that they were rebuilding their own country; they didn’t have to hire an outside company to do the work. I think it gave them a sense of accomplishment to be a part of the first building that went up after destruction.”