The Colorado Haiti Project, based in Boulder, conducts community-driven social programs in the Haitian town of Petit Trou de Nippes. One of their programs supports local agriculture and is encouraging locals to build small gardens to grow supplemental food gardens for their households.
A hurdle they are facing in implementing these 400 square-foot "victory gardens" is a lack of sufficient fresh water resources. My engineering team was tasked with designing a system that would collect and store enough rainwater to keep the gardens growing through a 3-month dry season.
Our initial plans explored the possibilities of plastic containers, gutter collection systems, and flood irrigation. Budget prevented us from working with plastic containers. Gutters/collection systems were deemed unnecessary, and discussions with a Boulder County farmer directed us toward bucket irrigation.
Our contact from the Colorado Haiti Project directed us toward using concrete as a building material due to the fact that it was a very common resource in the area.
We recognized then that our deliverable to the client would be a build manual for a concrete block cistern.
Testing consisted of two parts, a Matlab code to determine all of the factors that would go into the design (volume, evaporation, cost, surface area, etc), and a small-scale test build in Colorado.
Our small-scale build used full-sized cinder blocks to allow us to determine proper build practices and to test the water-retention properties of sealed concrete. From those testing parameters, we started to create visuals for the manual.
With additional feedback from the Colorado Haiti Project, we iterated the design of our manual visuals over the course of two months of the semester. Our original design had very little language and was modeled after Lego manual characteristics. Our subsequent designs incorporated text in English and in French as well as visual indicators to direct builders in the process of building our cisterns.
There are still iterations needing to be completed. A printed version of the manual is on the ground in Haiti and we will soon have proper feedback from the contact there who will oversee the execution of the builds. By the end of the summer of 2018 we will have a finalized manual sent to Haiti, which will allow them to begin construction of the cisterns before the dry season hits in the winter of 2018-2019.
We came in well under budget for the design process and will donate the remainder of our budget to CHP. The people of Haiti will meet the construction budget through local crowd-funding and assistance from the CHP. While our designs do not meet the initial budget requirements of the people of Haiti, CHP instructed us to design the cisterns to meet the water needs while reducing the cost as much as possible.
To learn more about the Colorado Haiti Project, visit their website here. To see other projects I have worked on, visit my Past Projects Page.