A PVC-frame yurt is assembled in Oaxaca. A PVC-frame yurt is assembled in Oaxaca.

Post-quake housing with yurts of PVC

Oaxaca collective came up with a temporary solution for earthquake victims

An innovative and sustainable form of housing inspired by the yurts used by nomads in Central Asia is providing temporary shelter to families in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region who lost their homes in the September 7 earthquake.

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More than 70,000 homes were damaged across Oaxaca and Chiapas in the powerful 8.2-magnitude quake, and almost 40,000 of them left were uninhabitable. The Isthmus region of Oaxaca was hit particularly hard.

With so many people left homeless, a group from the state’s capital that usually works on sustainable agriculture projects decided to turn their knowledge and expertise to the recovery effort.

While considering ways in which they could provide cheap and sustainable housing that was quick to build, the members of the Siete Jaguares (Seven Jaguars) collective remembered the yurt, a portable round tent first developed thousands of years ago.

“We thought of the yurt because it’s the quickest [to build], it lasts many years, it’s mobile, it has anti-seismic properties, it expands, it contracts, you press a button and it becomes one piece and . . . between two people you can carry it,” said collective member Alaín Lartigue.

Nine families in Juchitán, Ixtaltepec and Tehuantepec now have a protected place to sleep while they wait for rebuilding to begin because of the group’s ingenuity. Another 20 yurts will likely be built in the short term.

The shelter’s frame is built from 100 pieces of PVC tubing held together by 81 meters of waxed cord and 100 meters of steel wire while tarps and fabric are used to cover it.

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The total cost of all the materials comes to 6,500 pesos (US $356) but the labor to put up the four-meter-wide by four-meter-high yurts is provided free of charge with family members often contributing to the building process.

The collective’s objective, however, is not just to build the temporary homes but also to train others so they too can erect them and meet the needs of more families who have been left without shelter in the wake of the quake.

Two students from the Isthmus Technology Institute and a local architect who have formed an earthquake recovery group called Collective 8.2 were among those who received the training and contributed to the building of the yurts that are now providing much-needed shelter.

An indigenous Zapotec family from Juchitán was one of the first beneficiaries.

On the night of the massive temblor that struck just before midnight, 95-year-old Tomás, another four adults and five of his grandchildren managed to get out of their home just before it came crashing to the ground.

Tomás’ grandchildren say that the yurt is the biggest help they have received after the home their grandfather built with a lifetime of hard work was reduced to rubble in one disastrous minute.

“We all sleep inside, Granddad on the camp bed [and] us on the mats below,” explained Mileidy, the oldest of the children.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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