Tarantulas, cholera and hurricanes
are but a few of the extreme
conditions a project team faces while
building schools in a devastated nation.
PHOTOS BY ALLISON SHELLEY
INIn the wake of disasters, project managers must do their jobs in some extreme environments. Helping citizens rebuild after earthquakes, hurri- canes or war can present project leaders with the some of the toughest challenges of their careers.
Disaster relief can also be some of the most
fulfilling work—if project managers can get past
the discomfort, frustration and endless delays,
says Eric Cesal, regional program manager for
the not-for-profit design services firm Architecture for Humanity. Mr. Cesal is currently based
in Pétion-Ville, Haiti, where he’s overseeing a
portfolio of disaster relief projects, including
construction of several schools and community
buildings, following the February 2010 earthquake
that crippled much of the island nation.
He has worked in disaster-stricken communities since 2007, including New Orleans, Louisiana,
USA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But he says
he has never experienced the level of devastation
and crisis that he found in Haiti.
“Haiti was the most severe natural disaster in
the modern world,” Mr. Cesal says. “Even those
of us who had worked in disasters before were
surprised by how many challenges we faced in
Haiti. It forces you to mentally reframe your goals
and what you are trying to accomplish.”
A PERFECT STORM
Mr. Cesal’s team has had to radically adjust its
approach to managing projects and assessing risks
to accommodate the extreme conditions it faces.
“A lot of things converge in Haiti that you’ve
never seen all in one place before,” he says.
Notably, the country faces the risk of hurricanes, flooding, cholera and earthquakes. This
convergence means all buildings must be designed
to withstand seismic loads and extremely high
winds, and construction schedules have to be
built around the six-month hurricane season that
starts in June.