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Purdue University students are teaming up with Habitat for Humanity to develop disaster-resistant homes that could help developing countries.
The work has taken on a sense of urgency since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, killing more than 200,000 people and injuring thousands more.
"I think it gives us all a lot of drive, because this is life or death," said Lauren Meyers, a Purdue junior and member of Purdue's Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, program.
The Disaster Relief Housing Project began about two years ago and focuses on designing safe and stable ways to expand a home designed by Habitat for Humanity. Its original focus was on hurricanes and floods, said William Oakes, EPICS program director.
The scope expanded to include earthquakes last fall, well before the temblor hit Haiti.
"There are a lot of homes built on a sloping terrain, so landslides are another thing we are keeping in mind," said Purdue senior Peter Brinson, project leader for the team designing the homes. "Another huge obstacle is the fact that Haiti doesn't have a standardized building code to ensure safety.
"Hopefully, we will develop a standard for Haiti and the rest of the countries."
The EPICS students have worked on Haiti projects before. In 2008, their project outlined ways for builders in Haiti to create cement blocks using material that is affordable and easily obtained. Eliminating shipping costs made projects more affordable, said Purdue graduate student Nate Cooper.
With the new project, the EPICS team hopes to develop cultural information and house plans for six countries.
Oakes said he hopes to have the designs ready by the fall so builders from Habitat for Humanity can begin rebuilding and expanding homes in Haiti.
"I think the students are very interested, and there is an extra motivation for them," he said. "Because of the disaster, I believe they have a greater appreciation for the impact of their work."