Performance Evaluation of a Concrete Wall Panel-Frame Housing System for Informally Constructed Environments: A Case Study in Design Innovation for Haiti

Master's Thesis


Each year, natural disasters devastate landscapes and lives, uprooting communities around the world. Such disturbances invoke widespread human, material, and economic losses, as well as environmental impacts. Unfortunately in informally constructed environments, these effects often exceed the ability of the affected community to cope and respond using its own resources, creating either an unsustainable reliance on the international community or more often an incomplete recovery. Natural hazard risk is continuing to heighten throughout the developing world, where trends in urbanization that cannot be supported by frail governments and economies create disproportionate vulnerabilities within the building stock. In these environments, where complex geo-political and socio-economic processes impede the delivery of resilient infrastructure, there is desperate need for innovation that can shift the paradigm particularly in the oft overlooked residential sector. In response, this thesis offers a Design Innovation: a precast wall panel and reinforced concrete frame housing system. This solution was developed using the Design Lens offered by an Empowerment Model that enables a holistic consideration of non-engineering constraints on the innovation process. This innovation process is contextualized in the Design Space of Haiti, which has continued to struggle in its recovery from the devastation of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The thesis offers a detailed design of this new housing system and validates its capacity using a locally replicable experimental testing protocol and series of analytical investigations. The experimental investigation enhances the understanding of the precast wall panel’s response to out-of-plane loads induced by wind. Meanwhile, a comprehensive analytical investigation reveals the interaction between the as-designed panel system and the reinforced concrete frame in developing in-plane resistance to seismic demands. A series of as-adopted scenarios explored through nonlinear static analytical investigations further reveals potential vulnerabilities induced by local adaptations of the system that blend conventional construction practices and typologies with the proposed housing system. These efforts ultimately verify the ability of this housing system to meet the demands imposed by regional hazards, even in the presence of mild local adaptations, while assuring a design that is readily implementable using local materials, technologies, and skillsets. Perhaps most importantly, this thesis demonstrates the value of innovation and deep engagement with local stakeholders to empower the delivery of lasting solutions to the residential sector within informally constructed settings.


Attribute NameValues
Author Erik Jensen
Contributor Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Research Director
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences
Degree Name Master of Science in Civil Engineering
Defense Date
  • 2016-08-05

Submission Date 2016-08-18
  • structural engineering; civil engineering; international development

  • english

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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