Structural Design Challenges in Haiti (Seismic Zone column)
On Jan. 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the southwestern corner of the island of Hispanola, devastating the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Before Haiti became associated with devastating earthquakes, Paul Fallon, a Boston-area architect with TRO Jung|Brannen, Inc., was involved in designing a healthcare clinic for a medical group, Forward in Health (FIH), near the Haitian city of Les Cayes, located approximately 100 miles west of Port-Au-Prince. At the time the earthquake struck, the clinic’s site walls and building foundations were already complete. Although Les Cayes was spared from the devastating damage, Fallon immediately realized that the FIH group needed to consult with a structural engineer with expertise in seismic design to review the proposed clinic building. He contacted Associate Principal John Thomsen from national engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (SGH) for advice on how to make the proposed design more earthquake resistant.