Cheap, sturdy houses designed by an Australian man have survived Fiji’s devastating cyclone with barely a scratch and provide a potential blueprint for reconstruction efforts.
In Koroipita, on the north-west coast of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, residents are cleaning up after Cyclone Winston. But it is not a massive effort like those seen in other cyclone-ravaged parts of the country. Instead, a handful of men are repairing a small section of a collapsed retaining wall. Of the 230 houses, none sustained any significant damage after Cyclone Winston swept through the Fiji islands.
The man who designed the houses, Peter Drysdale, explained why the houses were so strong by pointing to the roof of one of the structures.
“Have a look at this connecting roof. You can see the strapping details. We use about 14 coils of steel strapping in every house,” he said. “And we use about 58 kilograms of nails. It’s all in the fixings.”
Mr Drysdale built Koroipita for people who had been living in squalid squatter settlements. He designed the small, simple houses to be tough after decades spent rebuilding cyclone-damaged homes in rural parts of Fiji.
“All the way from the pile, the stump, there’s no weak connection all the way through to the top of the roof,” he said. “There is 1,000 roofing and wall screws that go into one house. Roofing screws, not nails.”
There are a few houses neighbouring Koroipita and all of them have been badly damaged. But there is barely a scratch on the houses inside the community.
Villagers thank Drysdale for saving their homes
Ashika Kumar lives in one of the houses in Koroipita with her six young children. She said it was a terrifying experience when Winston struck, but she and her family were safe inside their house.
“It’s very scary but it’s easy for us to stay inside the house. Nothing happened inside the house to our children, so we are very lucky,” she said. “We also thank Mr Peter to give us a good house in Koroipita.”
In the wake of Cyclone Winston the Fiji Government has called for tenders to rebuild damaged homes in rural areas. Mr Drysdale said the houses in Koroipita could be built in five days and cost just $13,000 each.
“It’s here for the replicating if they want to. We don’t have any patent on this. We’d like to see them spring up all over the place,” he said.
He said the design could also be useful elsewhere in the Pacific to deal with other potential natural disasters.
“It’s more than just houses, this is a community we built here, and it’s a complete holistic solution for settling people moving into the cities and urban drift,” he said.
“In time this is a very critical model for settling large numbers of people due to climate change as climate change refugees.”
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