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'Earthship' homes rise from Haiti's rubble

From Edvige Jean-Francois, CNN
  • House built from recycled material called Earthship being constructed in Haiti
  • Architect hopes the demonstration project can be a blueprint for sustainable reconstruction
  • One million people still live in temporary shelters in Haiti since January 2010 earthquake

(CNN) -- Built from the rubble of the 2010 earthquake, new homes are slowly taking shape in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Among them is a curious looking abode called an Earthship.

It's the brainchild of American Michael Reynolds, an architect and motorcycle-riding son of the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 1970s who has dedicated his life to building self-sufficient homes.

"There's too much going on in this world in my opinion that is aimed at design, aimed at culture, aimed at tradition, but not really aimed at taking care of people. So if something takes care of people in a healthy way and doesn't harm the planet that we're on, then I'm for it," he says.

Earthships have been constructed in every state of the U.S. and further afield in Europe, and they are made largely from recycled materials. Reynolds believes they could be an eco-friendly part the solution to re-housing the one million Haitians still living in tents and temporary shelters.

Building 'Earth ships' for Haiti

"We want this to be by, for, and of (the people of Haiti) and so that's why the exchange with them is important," says Reynolds.

Much of the Earthship is constructed from used materials, while rubble from the quake is ground up to provide the flooring and walls. Waste water is re-used and the design promotes low-energy usage. Reynolds estimates that the other supplies needed would bring the cost to around $5,000.

If you can make a home that has everything for itself, people are empowered by that.
--Michael Reynolds, Earthship architect
  • Haiti
  • Earthquakes
  • Port-au-Prince

"It still needs to go down in price. I'm seeing that this could be built with much less in terms of bought materials. I'm seeing it could be $2,000," says Reynolds.

Other structures are being built alongside Earthships, with the aim of all of them to be disaster-proof and be sensitive to the local environment.

Patrick Delatour, Haiti's Minister of Tourism, says he's open to all ideas in the reconstruction of the country.

"Serious effort is being made to address the issue of coordination so that people who are coming here in Haiti with good intention will be welcome," he says.

"The only way for us to make sure that we will not have the same number of victims (in a future disaster) is to assure that we build according to anti-seismic and also anti hurricane."

Haiti has the chance to be an example to the rest of the world, believes Reynolds.

"If you can make a home that has everything for itself, people are empowered by that," he says.

"Something like Haiti can illustrate to the world that we could need less for living. And so Haiti could be built up a little toward that and I think that this could be a learning experience for the entire world."