As a board member for Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod (HHCC), I have witnessed, firsthand, the impact of creating home ownership opportunities for working class families in our community. Several weeks ago, I traveled to the village of San Juan de la Maguana, in the Dominican Republic, for a house build with a group of other HHCC volunteers.
We worked with construction techniques that were very different from anything I had worked on or designed before. The first house was made of pre-cast concrete panels and a corrugated metal roof. We poured concrete into metal forms, which were laid out to bake in the sun, and then stacked the dried panels within vertical aluminum channels to create walls. The structural integrity seemed suspect to me until all of the panels were erected, and I saw how simply and strongly they supported each other. Once the walls were in place, we parged seams and imperfections, and then painted them inside and out. This work was done in three days, leaving only the roof, plumbing, and wiring, all of which would be completed in about a week.
The second house was constructed of concrete block – a process more familiar to me, but still a learning experience. We spent a day making concrete, pushing it in wheelbarrows to the foundation substrate, and pouring a slab base for the house. From there, our team began laying the block walls. We weren’t there long enough to see this house completed, but the entire process should be done within 6 weeks.
Habitat for Humanity began working in the Dominican Republic in the late 1980’s and has constructed more than 6,000 homes for local families, with the help and generosity of countless teams (and experiences like ours). The work is just beginning, as I learned there are more than 1.5 million people in that country without a decent place to call home.
The experience was perspective granting in a number of ways. I learned some simple, effective methods to create a comfortable shelter, and was reminded of the luxuries I enjoy every day here on Cape Cod, especially the blessing of family and friends. I am thankful to Hutker Architects for believing in the Habitat mission, and for making this experience possible for me – it will forever change my reality.
If you are interested in getting involved, Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod has many group builds planned – in our own community, and in places all over the world. We would love to see you there!!!
To learn more: http://habitatcapecod.org/
About the Author:
Charles e. Orr, AIA, LEED GA, is Chief Operating Officer at Hutker Architects, A dedicated volunteer, he has served his community is many ways, but his biggest passion is Habitat for Humanity Cape Cod, where he has served on the Land Acquisition Committee since 2009 and on the Board of Directors since 2012. He was recognized with the Community Impact Award from the Homebuilders and Remodelers of Cape Cod for his work with Habitat.