PUTTING A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS
(Montreal Gazette) - By David Johnston
RosEmere entrepreneur heads Quebec consortium shortlisted in an international competition to design new housing for earthquake-ravaged Caribbean country
A British firm mandated by the government of Haiti to run an international design competition for new sustainable housing for the Caribbean country has approved a proposal from a Rosemere man for closer study.
Malcolm Reading Consultants of London has told a local consortium headed by Rosemere entrepreneur Maurice Monette it will be invited to Haiti this fall to show off its housing prototype.
Monette said he plans to assemble the prototype in St. Eustache over the next couple of weeks. When the model home is completed, he plans to hold a news conference, then disassemble the home and put it in a container for shipment to Haiti.
Malcolm Reading is one of the world's largest construction consultants. It was hired last spring by the government of Haiti to assess thousands of housing proposals and select several hundred for closer study.
Monette learned on July 30 that his proposal was one of 265 from around the world that has been shortlisted from among several thousand proposals vetted by Malcolm Reading.
"I just can't tell you how good it feels," Monette said yesterday in an interview at his riverfront home in Rosemere.
Monette showed The Gazette a miniature model of the prototype he and his partners plan to start building next week. He said he will be showing off the same prototype at the fall reconstruction exposition to be held in Haiti. There, proposals that have been shortlisted will be examined with a view to naming the eventual winning proposals.
The Haitian government asked Malcolm Reading to look for alternative forms of permanent housing for the 1.5 million people who were displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. The 7.0-magnitude quake killed about 250,000 people and saw the international community pledge more than $9 billion for the relief effort.
Monette's consortium is proposing quake-resistant housing using steel rather than wood framing, with extrusion joints allowing for some building sway during earth movements. Joints connecting the floor panelling and underlying anchor screws have similarly been designed to allow for sway with earth tremors.
The consortium is proposing to use lightweight steel-plated foam panelling for the roof and walls.
Monette is president of Tenta Inc. of Rosemere, a suburb northwest of Laval. He has 40 years of experience in tent structures.
During that time, tent technologies have become more sophisticated and tenting principles have been incorporated into new models of affordable housing for Third World nations.
The housing model he is proposing for Haiti is one he first put together 15 years ago for use in the Congo and Angola, where Monette had contracts providing tents for refugee camps.
But political problems in the two African countries saw him finally denied access to local housing markets. After the Haitian quake, he got the idea of trying to recycle his old African project in the hard-luck Caribbean land.
He approached the William J. Clinton Foundation in New York with his ideas and, coincidentally, spoke to a fellow Quebecer there who directed him to the Malcolm Reading design competition.
Malcolm Reading Consultants looked closely at the blueprints that Monette submitted and found his ideas to be credible and worthy of closer study. He has been told not to schedule any vacations for late summer or autumn because he will be called to Haiti on short notice and expected to be able to show off his prototype very soon afterward.
"We're under a lot of pressure now," Monette said. "We don't have a lot of time ahead of us."
Monette's partners include seven Quebec companies, as well as two French firms with experience in small-scale waste-water recycling systems.
Malcolm Reading has been looking specifically for innovative and affordable new housing solutions with companion green technologies in terms of support infrastructure. Haiti is hoping to rebuild with new self-sustaining communities made up of 15,000 to 20,000 people each.
Monette is proposing to build one-storey buildings that have 10 residential units inside, each measuring 384 square feet. The number of units that a family would get would depend on how large it is. Most families would get one or two units.
The Quebec companies in Monette's consortium are Atara Equipment of Montreal, Groupe Fabritec of St. Jean, SMInternationalof Sherbrooke, Les Fondations Vistech of Sherbrooke, Finex of Valleyfield, Norbec Architectural of Boucherville and Baily Metal Products of Dorval.