Designing help for Haiti

After 48 hours of intensive efforts to create suitable housing for Haitians in need of shelter, Weber State University students in the interior design and design graphics technology departments presented their solutions for two panels of judges.

In the contest’s finale Saturday night, teams showed, through visual displays and video presentations, why their plans could help solve Haiti’s housing crisis. Judges then evaluated the presentations and decided which teams offered the best solutions.

Teams were required to adhere to several guidelines, including using resources readily available in Haiti and providing only 67 square feet of living space per person in the home.

In the end, the team of Emily Ivanich, Stacie Young, Lindsay Lohner, Kayla Farr and Jacob Sommers won the award for best overall design.While each team member had different responsibilities during the charrette, each agreed that their efforts to improve the quality of life for those living in Haiti set them apart from other teams.

“Haiti had a lot of deforestation problems and erosion problems even before the earthquake,” Farr said. “We decided that electricity, even just a little bit so they could cook, could preserve their natural resources and help them rebuild. So, we found solar-powered hotplates and put those in every unit. All they had to do was set it outside and let it charge, and they could cook with it so they could preserve their wood”

Other issues, such as water preservation, presented unique challenges for students participating in the event. Teams faced several problems that required ingenious creativity to solve.

“We also made features, like, our rooftop was slanted so it could collect the rainwater,” Young said, “and we had special water filter systems so the water could stay clean because their constant flow of fresh water is very limited. So they take what they can get, when they can get it. That was one of our big features in our design.”

Lori Hansen, a senior in the design graphics technology department whose team received the distinction of creating the most sustainable design, said her participation in the competition was a rewarding, meaningful experience.

“It was actually meaningful,” Hansen said. “Maybe something can come of this. Maybe something positive can come of our designs. It was tough for the 48 hours, but given the time frame, I think we did a really good job making it happen.”

Kristen Arnold, the interior design department’s program coordinator, said she and other faculty members were surprised and impressed with the quality of designs they saw.

“We are so impressed at the level of work,” Arnold said, “and how their teams worked out. And I think (the students) were surprised, too. They all did a great job. All of the projects are just as we expected. The presentation was fabulous. The ideas were creative. They took into consideration the natural resources and the things they actually could do. It was amazing”

Arnold also said events similar to this will likely become regular additions to the interior design program.