WSU Charrette to Address Housing Issues in Haiti

OGDEN, Utah – Groups of Weber State University students will learn about applying their skills, working in teams and helping Haiti earthquake victims during a special event in early January.

Students in the interior design technology (IDT) and design graphics engineering technology (DGET) programs will participate in an interdisciplinary charrette, during which they will design living quarters for Haitians displaced by the January 2010 earthquake.

A charrette is a meeting in which stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve problems and map solutions.

After a Jan. 5 kickoff at the Shepherd Union, WSU student teams will have 48 hours to develop housing designs to accommodate 60 people (10 families with six members each) but will be limited to no more than 67 square feet of enclosed living space per person. Each team will produce a board illustrating its design solution and a short video or PowerPoint presentation for a panel of judges. The public can view the boards and videos and hear the announcement of winners Jan. 7 beginning at 7 p.m. in Shepherd Union Room 312.

Charrette organizers say that today, two years after the earthquake, more than 600,000 people live in tent cities, with obvious security issues. Complicating the housing situation are a general lack of land ownership and limited access to electricity, water and proper sanitation facilities, despite Haitians being very hygienic.

“Housing is a big problem, and it’s difficult to design a good, functional solution with extremely limited resources,” said Kristen Arnold, program coordinator and interior design instructor.

While accreditation standards require WSU to develop some design projects with a global emphasis, a WSU faculty member’s husband who traveled to Haiti in 2010 to supply humanitarian aid suggested the charrette. The physical therapist is part of a group of Davis County physicians undertaking humanitarian trips to Haiti and seeking housing design solutions. “He has shot some wonderful footage from Haiti and we’ll have him come to talk to students, show them the footage and give them the (charrette) scenario, and then it’s up to them to figure out what they can do,” Arnold said.

“It’s always great anytime the university can do something for the community,” she said. “In this case, we’ve got a group of physicians who go back to Haiti for humanitarian aid. Anytime students and outside groups can work together, it’s just good exposure for the university. Plus, it’s good for students to see something going on outside their community.”

In addition to possibly helping the Haiti earthquake victims, the charrette is designed to introduce students to design with a global perspective, foster creative thinking, increase speed in applying design solutions and presentation techniques, boost their understanding of team dynamics, and enhance communication skills.

“These are junior-level students who will have a chance to work with students in another discipline, so they will have an opportunity to consider opposing points of view,” Arnold said.

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Kristen Arnold, program coordinator, interior design instructor
801-626-7935 •
Brice Wallace, office of Media Relations
801-626-7581 •