Keith Hautala


College: Engineering

Helping Haiti to Rebuild After the 2010 Port-au-Prince Earthquake

Published: Sep 5, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 5, 2013) — A University of Kentucky College of Engineering professor and a graduate student visited Haiti over the summer to work on a project that will help engineers there develop more earthquake-resistant building designs. 
Michael Kalinski, associate professor of civil engineering, and Melinda Jean-Louis, a 2012 graduate of the college who is now pursuing a master's degree, visited the island nation for 10 days in July. There, they joined Herby Lissade from the U.S.-based humanitarian organization Haiti Engineering. The team's mission, funded by a grant from Geoscientists Without Borders, was to gather data on soil stiffness at various sites ravaged by the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010.  
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake, with its epicenter near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killed an estimated 300,000 people and left much of the city in rubble. Haiti — with its long history of poverty, political strife, and violence — was already reeling from devastating hurricanes two years earlier. The country has been in crisis ever since. Three and a half years later, Kalinski likens the experience of visiting the capital to camping in a landfill.
"There is garbage literally everywhere," he said. "Open streams run right through the city, carrying all kinds of waste, including untreated sewage, while pigs, goats and chickens graze in the filth. Police presence is minimal and vigilante justice is common. This is what a world without government or infrastructure is like."
Day-to-day life in Port-au-Prince is largely improvised and ad hoc, and for most Haitians is an exercise in survival. Four out of five Haitians are unemployed, and most who do work earn the U.S. equivalent of $400 per year or less. Many of the city's residents squat in ramshackle buildings that tilt on their foundations in various stages of collapse. With few regular stores open, people line the streets in a perpetual makeshift bazaar, selling just about anything they can get their hands on. Food and clean water are frequently in short supply. Electrical power is extremely unreliable.
"It was a constant challenge to find electricity to power our laptops and instruments," Kalinski said. "Everywhere we went, we were always looking for ways to store electricity here and there. We would charge our laptops using inverters in cars, even if it was just a five-minute drive. We would use small USB-powered fans to cool ourselves at night because there was no electricity in the house."
In the absence of reliable government programs to provide essential services to the population, Haitians have traditionally depended on the Catholic Church. The church is responsible for much of the social and physical infrastructure within the communities. The local church buildings might function as the de facto town hall, community center, school, and medical clinic all in one. 
A countless number of churches in and around Port-au-Prince were brought down by the earthquake of 2010. Many of those that still stand have sustained serious damage. Some have been reduced to open-air altars, where services are still performed. Before any rebuilding can take place, engineers need to perform a seismic site response analysis to find out how the ground stiffness will affect shaking when the next earthquake comes. 
"Structures respond differently to earthquake stresses depending on how stiff the soil underneath them is," Kalinski said. "The impact of seismic waves is amplified by soft soil, and buildings on soft soil will typically shake more severely, and thus suffer much more damage, than those built on stiff soil or rock." 
However, Haitian geoscientists may not have the appropriate technology or expertise to perform suitable analysis, Kalinski said. The UK/Haiti Engineering project is aimed at addressing this deficiency, using new, relatively inexpensive and portable technology to measure soil stiffness. Working with local geoscientists and practitioners, the team performed tests at seven different sites during their visit in July. 
Jean-Louis, the graduate student, is currently working on analysis of the data the team collected, which will help Haitian engineers develop more earthquake-resistant designs. Jean-Louis was born in Haiti, but her family moved to the United States in 2004. Her father's work eventually brought the family to Lexington, where she graduated from Bryan Station High School in 2008.
"I am glad that I have a project like this to work on, instead of just writing a paper," Jean-Louis said. "I am always interested in doing something constructive, especially where Haiti is involved. This was just a perfect opportunity for me." 
The team's work was very well received, Kalinski said. They made a presentation to the Papal Nuncio to Haiti (The Vatican’s ambassador to Haiti), who will report to the Vatican in order to identify similar needs in other parts of the world.  Another important part of the project is the transfer of technology to local geoscientists in Haiti. 
"We will return to Haiti later this fall to present seminars to Professor Christian Rousseau and his students at the University of Haiti, along with other interested geoscientists and practitioners," Kalinski said.  "Ultimately, practitioners in Haiti will be able to perform the testing and do the analyses themselves."
MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, 859-323-2396;
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Labor Day - Academic Holiday
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Internship Info Session
Student/Faculty/Staff Mixer
Employee Educational Assistance Award
LNFS Presents: The Wolf of Wall Street
Last Day to Add a Class
Last Day to Drop a Course with 80% Refund
UK Volunteer Fair
LNFS Presents: Children of Men
LNFS Presents: How To Train Your Dragon 2
Black and Latino Male Initiative
Advance Your Swagger: A Night with Fonzworth Bentely
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Northern Iowa
Kentucky Volleyball vs. USC
LNFS Presents: Spirited Away
LNFS Presents: Mulan
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Kentucky Football vs. Ohio
#maxfest (Ukirklex Campus Ministry)
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Creighton
Lets Swing Dance!
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Morehead State
Diversity Organization's Council
Kosher/Soul? (Jewish, African American & Appalachian culture Fuse)
Working Moms Connection
Job Club - Job Search Strategies for Fall
Rock Star Professionalism Series
Massage on the Go
College: Do the Right Thing- A conversation with Dr. Smith
The Future of Islam
LNFS Presents: Fight Club
9/11 Vigil
UKNABJ presents: Ferguson, Missouri: A look at media, politics and black youth in the U.S.
LNFS Presents: Mr & Mrs Smith
Duo Damiana, Molly Barth and Dieter Hennings
LNFS Presents: 22 Jump Street
LNFS Presents: Searching For Sugarman
LNFS Presents: Sin City
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Men's Soccer vs. ETSU
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Pepperdine
Kentucky Week Farmer's MarCat and Craft Fair
Majestic U.N.I.T.Y.
Justice Delayed not Justice Denied: A Talk with Dough Jones
PRHBTN Gallery Reception and Concert
Men's Soccer vs. Xavier
Chellgren Seminar Series: Buck Ryan
Internship Info Session
Last Day to Drop a Course Without Appearing on Transcript
Caregiver Support Group
LNFS Presents: The Immigrant
Big Blue Commonwealth
LNFS Presents: Watermark
LNFS Presents: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Ryan Gardner Guest Trumpet Recital
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Lipscomb
LNFS Presents: A Band Called Death
LNFS Presents: Prisoners
The Case for Fossil Fuels-PEIK Seminar
Men's Soccer vs. Furman
Rock Climbing @ Red River Gorge
College of Pharmacy Open House
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Xavier
Diana Ferrus: 'Writing poetry has allowed me to live': Cultural Resistance in South Africa
Kentucky Law Schools Forum
Pinterest Party
University of Kentucky Chamber Winds
Employer Showcase
Job Club - 10 Questions to Ask Prior to Starting a Business
Men's Soccer vs. Lousville
Employer Showcase
Last Day to Drop a Course with 50% Refund
UK Elder Care Lunch & Learn
BPH Open House
Documentary Film Screening - Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis
LNFS Presents: Saving Mr. Banks
LNFS Presents: Culture Jam
LNFS Presents: Maleficent
LNFS Presents: Ponyo
LNFS Presents: The Little Mermaid
Opening Night Bohemiam Festival
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
Women's Soccer vs. Mississippi State
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
Kentucky Football vs. Vanderbilt
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Green Apple Day of Service: "Pick It Up"
Swing Dancing!
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
UK Chorale
Dirty Dancing Trip
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Auburn
#TrendingTopics: Immigration Reform
Apollo Duo - Flute and Percussion Guest Recital

Tue, 09/23/2014

Repeats every day until Wed Sep 24 2014 .
Tue, 09/23/2014

Reset Page