Better use for styrofoam

October 25, 2013

view from roof
View from the Christianville site, near Gressier, looking east towards the mountains


Many of you know Dale and Ingram from their days at CODEP.  I first met them there and had been interested in visiting their new site.  On Friday, they spent time with us at Christianville, where they now work.


Christianville is famous for its goats, chickens, and fish (a church in our neighborhood in Apex sponsors some of the goat farming).  Most of the eggs, meat and fish are used to feed the many school children the mission supports.


Interestingly, we met a volunteer at the site from Apex who works with NC State’s goat project. He was in town working on breeding.  If you compare the size of the goats below to the photos we usually post, you’ll note that the goats at Christianville are HUGE.



The goats come when their Haitian master calls, “Goat, goat!” No, that is not Kreyol.

fish farm

Local homeowners are being encouraged to start a small fish pond

the size of this blue-lined container


Christianville is an innovative place, from how they are working to help Haiti to the many partnerships they have in place.


maringa tree

Maringa tree leaves are being fed to the fish



University of Florida Lab, now being expanded


new kitchen

New culinary school, almost completed



One of two guests houses, this one where Jimmy Carter stayed

for both of the Haiti Habitat for Humanity blitz builds


remaining seminary

The sole remaining classroom from the 2010 earthquake,

recently remodeled to become a classroom/potential guesthouse.


What we found most intriguing at Christianville is all the construction that Dale is supervising, building new earthquake- and wind-resistant buildings out of wired styrofoam.  The construction technique is called SCIP, structured concrete integrated panel construction.


foam house


The buildings are lightweight, so if they do collapse in a storm or other disturbance, they won’t hurt anyone.  The structure above was built in one day.  They’re cheaper to build than concrete block buildings, too.


foam core up close


Wiring makes the foam pieces strong and resistant to break-in with a machete, something people fear who live in the all-wood houses built by many organizations since the earthquake.  The walls will flex if necessary and are impact resistant.



After putting the walls together, the workers blow concrete on every surface.  There was a forest of jacks inside this new orphanage building to hold up the roof while the concrete was still wet and heavy.



The workmen did not want their photo taken so we didn’t get a good shot of the parging.  They were working efficiently, while being careful to make sure the walls were flat and true.


embedding wiring

This construction technique makes electrical wiring a different kind of challenge.


cooking school


When a building is finished, like this one set to house the new culinary school, the exterior is smooth.  You can’t tell that it was made of styrofoam, and even better, it was amazingly cool inside.


Many of us have read about styrofoam causing harm to the environment, and certainly in Haiti, unsightly styrofoam food “clamshells” are often blowing around.  We pick up one in front of the guesthouse almost every day.


It was great to see styrofoam being used in such a positive, “constructive” way.


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