Cuba’s disaster-hit homes get eco-friendly rebuild

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Cuba’s storm-proof eco-houses

Havana, Cuba (CNN) — “We never imagined having a house like this,” says Eric Martinez as he walks through the three small bedrooms with their flowered quilts and family pictures. The walls are freshly painted and pink curtains hang in the windows. “When the hurricane came through it left nothing, nothing at all,” he says. “It wasn’t just one house that was destroyed, it was a bunch.” Hurricane Gustav slammed into the Cuban coastal town of Los Palacios in August, 2008, a dangerous category 4 storm. It damaged 84 percent of the homes, many of them made of wood. Ten days later, Hurricane Ike tore across much of Cuba, dumping torrential rains on Los Palacios. And then in November, Paloma struck the island. The government put the combined damage at $10 billion. Now, a unique program helps victims like Martinez re-build their lives — and their homes. “Here, nobody imagined we would recover so quickly. And when you build for yourself, you feel good,” said Martinez. New houses have gone up all along the hurricane corridor in the western province of Pinar del Rio. Many of them are made entirely or partly of “eco-materials” — local resources turned into construction materials at a low cost — and all done in the community.  The project is the brainchild of Cuba’s CIDEM research and development institute. “In a context where energy is very expensive… and where resources are expensive and the environment is being destroyed, you have to look for local solutions” explained CIDEM director Fernando Martirena.  After hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, CIDEM moves in quickly to set up mini-factories using its own low-tech machinery.  “Usually in the aftermath of a disaster, the choice is whether you have tents or one of these workshops,” Martirena says. “We choose to develop technologies so you can come soon after the disaster, organize the local population and produce the materials for real, lasting houses.”  We would recover so quickly and when you build for yourself, you feel good. –EricMartinez, resident of post-hurricane house

  • Disaster affected homes rebuilt using low-tech and environmentally sensitive materials
  • Scheme is brainchild of Cuba government research and development institute
  • Project has been export to many other Latin American countries

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