What worked: AIDG Technology R&D Document Series

Making a pico-hydro electric system
Making a pico-hydro electric system

AIDG’s Technology R&D Program is pleased to present a new series of technical documents that have been produced during various projects we have worked on in the last 5 years. During the first 3 years of the program, the documentation was produced in a haphazard way, but around the beginning of 2008 we realized that that wasn’t going to provide a good base for future work the way that more systematic documentation could. Since that point, we have tried to document projects more thoroughly as they are ongoing, so that the information isn’t lost and we and others can build on the work that has been done. During the last year, we have been extremely lucky to have intern Ben Dana undertake the arduous task of pulling together information from many of the previous projects and put into one place.

In presenting these documents, we would like to accomplish two things. First, we would like to provide anyone who is interested the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and our successes, to see a bit of the process we have gone through in different development projects, and apply those lessons to their own projects. Second, we would like to tap into the worldwide appropriate technology community and stimulate further development of the technologies we have worked with.

We’re still developing a plan for how to best stimulate this type of development. In the next few months, we hope to pursue alliances and implement tools to allow the information to spread as far as possible, to encourage people to do further work, and to provide a forum for discussion of that work and presentation of results. In the meanwhile, we’d like to present several documents, and we invite everyone to comment on them, on anything and everything that comes to mind. We’re looking for feedback on format, appearance, the type and quantity of information that the documents contain, and anything else.

Mitchell-Banki turbine
Mitchell-Banki turbine

These are the documents we will be presenting over the following weeks:

  • Picohydro Bucket Generator
  • Build Manual
  • Turbine Performance Testing Results
  • Alternator Performance Testing Results
  • Serpentine Solar Water Heater
    • Build Manual in English and Spanish
    • Design Manual in English and Spanish
  • Rocket Box Stove
    • Build Manual in English and Spanish
    • Design Manual in English and Spanish
  • Jan Portegjis’ Hummingbird Electronic Load Controller
    • Our experience with the circuit and modifications we have made, in English and Spanish
    • Condensed Design Manual in Spanish
  • Mitchell-Banki Turbine
    • Design Manual
    • Fabrication Manual
    • Project Summary from Corazon del Bosque Installation
  • Waste Oil Foundry
    • Design Manual
    • Build Manual
  • Pelton Turbine
    • Our experience with the turbine and modifications we have made of Practical Action’s design
    • Manufacturing guide
    • Project Design Document from Nueva Alianza Installation

    For each of the technologies we will be doing a blog post, and the documents will be linked to from the blog post. I hope that you all enjoy the documents, that they are useful, and most of all that you tell us what you think.

    AIDG Haiti Update: Structural Assessments and Masons Trainings

    School Collapse at the Petite Ecole Francaise in Cap Haitien, Haiti
    School Collapse at the Petite Ecole Francaise in Cap Haitien, Haiti

    I got the call in the morning on Feb 16. Edline Estimable, our bookkeeper in Haiti, was in shock, utterly distraught. An elementary school down the street from our office in Cap Hatien had just collapsed just days after schools reopened. Several of her friends’ children attended the Petite Ecole Francaise. Already wrung out by the events of Jan 12, she couldn’t bare to say it or even think it, but she knew deep down that some of her friends’ kids had been hurt if not killed. But what happened? There had been a lot of rain in Cap that was for sure, but there hadn’t a new earthquake, not even the mildest tremor in Haiti’s 2nd largest city (100+ km away from the capital Port-au-Prince). It turns out it was a mud and rockslide. The school abutted too close to a rocky hillside. The rains had softened the earth; boulders and mud slipped and slalomed down, crashing through the school’s roof. Four 8-10 year old children died — 3 girls and a boy. Edline knew 2 of them. 8 others were wounded.

    Jessica Lozier, our interim Haiti Program Manager, had just picked up our 3rd team of structural engineers from the Cap airport when the accident happened. This had been a week of horrors for Jess. A few days before she had been in Port-au-Prince and had witnessed a horrific hit-and-run. She and our colleagues at SOIL helped bring the injured pedestrians to the nearest hospital. Now in Cap, she was helping pull out some of the hurt children as well as translate for foreign doctors who had been volunteering in country.

    <a href="
    “>From the Miami Herald:

    “It was madness,” said Jess Lozier, coordinator for Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, who arrived at the scene an hour after the accident. Lozier’s group works to provide sanitation, electricity and clean water to developing countries.
    Haitian National Police officers and doctors from the group Help Haiti Heal scrambled to dig surviving children from the rubble, as did U.S. Army troops. It was not known how many other children were in the classroom at the time.
    “The director of the school said all the other kids were accounted for,” Lozier said.

    In the aftermath of this accident, schools reclosed. The 7.0 earthquake in Pap had shown that schools were some of the least seismically resistant buildings in the city. Parents all over the country were already very much afraid and now this.

    What’s wrong with the current building techniques used in Haiti?

    While the school tragedy in Cap was not related the earthquakes per se, it further underscored the shoddy construction of buildings all over the country, not just in the metro Port-au-Prince area.

    Andre Filiatrault, director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) who led our 1st team of earthquake engineers in January, lists the following issues as primary problems:

    • Unreinforced masonry structures
    • Lack of symmetry
    • Lack of transverse reinforcement
    • Poor quality of concrete
    • Reinforcing bars without ribs
    • Quality of construction
    • Lack of building codes

    In an interview with NPR, Craig Totten from KPFF who we have been working closely with, had this to say:

    [W]hat he and [Darlene] Clovis have seen, in building after building, is soft mortar, poorly mixed concrete and rickety columns. The cinderblocks are made from material so grainy that it peels away with your fingernails.

    In Haiti, Many Buildings Left Standing Shouldn’t Be [NPR]

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    What is AIDG doing?

    If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we’ve been working with groups like MCEER, KPFF Consulting Engineers and the Association of Haitian American Engineers of New York to perform structural assessments of standing and partially collapsed buildings for the government, the UN, NGOs and the community.

    Marc-Henri Gateau, Anne Monnier, and Mike Suomi in Cite Soleil
    Marc-Henri Gateau, Anne Monnier, and Mike Suomi inspecting structures in Cite Soleil

    Ron Kernan and Sophia Tassy
    Ron Kernan and Sophia Tassy finish off an inspection

    To date we’ve reviewed over 1250 structures. For our small staff, this has been a monumental undertaking. The team on the ground now in Haiti hasn’t had much of a break timewise or emotionally.

    In the weeks after the earthquake, it was clear that homeowners, business owners, private citizens, and masons needed more than just reviews. If they were going to prevent the countless needless tragedies, they needed information on how to build back better. We know that most of the damaged and destroyed homes will be rebuilt by private citizens and local contractors out of masonry, concrete and steel. Without access to information on better building techniques, the same deadly mistakes that brought down houses in the quake will be made. So in partnership with Architecture for Humanity and KPFF, we’ve begun to retrain masons in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel in confined masonry techniques. The same techniques have been used in Chile to make buildings there resistant to earthquakes 700 times stronger than the one seen in Port-au-Prince. Here I must commend the leadership of Craig Totten, a principal at KPFF who got the partners at his firm to commit to sending a rotating roster of their engineers to Haiti to continue doing assessments. He’s also recruited masons in the Portland area to work with us to perform trainings of masons.

    Craig McMurtrie from ABC Australia accompanied the team (Craig Totten, Shawn Anderson, Darlene Clovis, Clem Fleck and Robert Miller from Portland based Fleck Masonry and AIDG’s Adajah Codio) on a mason’s training in Jacmel and filed this story:

    Duration: 5 minutes 58 seconds

    To date we have trained approximately 560 masons. Our initial goal with this project is 3000 over 10 months. At the rate that we’re going now, we think we can bump that number up to 10,000, but it all depends on funding. We need $190,000 – $250,000 to hit that goal.

    Masons training at Matthew 25 House (Delmas 33)

    Masons training in Delmas 33

    In terms of curriculum we’re using a translated version of “Construction and maintenance of masonry houses” by Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and SENCICO, originally edited by Marcial Blondet. The translation was crowdsourced by volunteers from Haiti Rewired, a project of WIRED.com. The April 12, 2010 Kreyol version can be found here. Graphics are currently being upgraded to better reflect the building styles in Haiti.

    AIDG is hiring! Program Assistant (Boston)

    AIDG is currently seeking a Boston-based Program Assistant to provide program and administrative support to the organization. The position is a 6-month temporary position, with the possibility to convert to a permanent position at the end of 6 months.

    Location: Boston, MA

    Duration: 6 months

    Position description:

    The AIDG Program Assistant will be responsible for:

    • Developing printed materials (invoices, reports, letters and other documents) for publicity, reporting, and presentations
    • Consolidating financial and operational information from field offices, and preparing reports for bookkeeping and accounting
    • Handling incoming emails, paper mail, phone calls and faxes
    • Assisting with fundraising, grant writing, and donor management activities
    • Maintenance of donor and contact relationship management databases
    • Processing donations and sending acknowledgement letters and receipts
    • Coordination of events, staff travel and meetings
    • Minor updates to the AIDG website
    • Providing updates to social networks (facebook, twitter, blogs, etc)
    • Assisting with recruiting and human resources management

    This is a full-time position with an initial commitment of 6 months. The position will generally require the applicant to work from 8:30am-5:00pm Monday-Friday.

    Preferred Qualifications:

    Applicants interested in this position should possess the following skills:

    • 1-2 years office management experience
    • Excellent computer skills, must be able to learn new programs quickly
    • A commitment to issues of international development, the environment, and appropriate technology
    • Detail oriented and extremely organized
    • Strong written and oral skills
    • Good penmanship
    • Must be a self-starter with good time management skills, specifically must be able to anticipate next steps for successful project completion

    The following additional skills are highly desired:

    • Spanish and/or French language proficiency (oral and written)
    • Experience designing or editing web pages

    AIDG seeks a versatile, mature, friendly, independent, and dedicated individual, who also possess a good sense of humor. The candidate must demonstrate initiative and ability to work independently with minimal supervision.


    6 month contract, salary commensurate with experience. Review after 6 months, with possibility to convert to permanent staff.

    Application Instructions:

    Qualified applicants should send their cover letter and resume or CV to jobs (at) aidg.org.

    AIDG backs Shelter2Home as housing solution for those affected by Haiti earthquake

    Duration: 2min 23sec

    In response to the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti Jan 12, 2010, AIDG is doing rapid investments in local businesses that can help with the reconstruction. One of these businesses is Shelter2Home-Haiti SA. The company, which will be based in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, produces emergency and transitional shelters from light gauge galvanized steel that can later be converted into permanent homes. AIDG’s Steve Lee interviews S2H CEO Donald Stevens in Port-au-Prince.

    Consider this post a Wikipedia-style stub. I’ll be updating it with more detailed information in a few days.

    Job: Executive Director, EarthSpark International [Haiti]

    Earthspark International

    Title: Executive Director
    Location: US with 25% time in Haiti
    FT/PT: Full-time
    URL: http://www.earthsparkinternational.org/qpr2_2.html

    About EarthSpark International:

    Energy poverty is hardship caused by insufficient energy sources and/or their inefficient or deleterious use. EarthSpark International is a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the causes and effects of energy poverty and thereby empower communities in need. EarthSpark achieves this by developing local businesses and country‐scale supply chains for clean and efficient energy technologies; providing technical education and training to farmers, students and small and micro‐enterprise owners; and mitigating local environmental damage caused by energy poverty. EarthSpark envisions a world where forests thrive; where schools, hospitals and businesses are reliably powered; where homes have safe, clean energy sources; and where all residents have the opportunities for advancement and health that robust forests and clean energy provide. This spring, EarthSpark launched its pilot Tree Nursery Business Project and Clean Energy Store Project in Haiti. Together, these projects are expected to have a significant impact on two towns with a combined population exceeding 50,000. Please visit EarthSpark’s website to learn about its history, leaders, and current projects: http://www.earthsparkinternational.org.


    We seek to hire an Executive Director who shares EarthSpark’s vision and convictions. The Executive Director will be an entrepreneurial leader with the capacity for perseverance and innovation, both as an individual and as a team member. This individual will have an enthusiasm for EarthSpark’s mission and will possess the ability to persuade, inspire and motivate others. The Executive Director will also be adept at solving the practical problems of daily operations in an entrepreneurial international organization.


    Other qualities the Executive Director will possess include:

    • Collegiality: ability to communicate, listen, and collaborate with partners
    • Strong sense of self, ethics, and integrity
    • Ability to learn by doing and to adapt and respond constructively to challenges
    • Experience working in low-income neighborhoods in the U.S., a developing country, or in the international arena would be valuable but not essential
    • A willingness to work at EarthSpark sites in Haiti about 25% of the time
    • Proficiency in Haitian Creole or French would be valuable but not essential
    • Community organizing experience (e.g., grassroots coalition-building with networks of community leaders and partners) would be valuable but not essential

    Duties and Responsibilities:

    Executive Leadership:

    • Serve as an international ambassador for EarthSpark, strengthening its reputation and public image
    • Continually refine and improve organizational approaches that support EarthSpark’s mission
    • Communicate frequently with EarthSpark donors, partners and extended network contacts
    • Coordinate and lead EarthSpark’s fundraising efforts
    • Manage day-to-day operations and lead by inspiring and motivating partners, colleagues, and EarthSpark’s extended networks
    • Engage the Board to help EarthSpark achieve its programmatic, financial and mission objectives
    • Work cooperatively with the Board to complete and continuously refine EarthSpark’s strategic plan

    On-the-Ground Duties:

  • Market research: requires survey design and analysis; strong familiarity with existing academic and institutional research in the development literature; strong familiarity with existing organizations working at the intersection of energy and development; strong familiarity with social, political and economic conditions of the developing world
  • Project development: requires cultural awareness; ability to conduct meetings with community associations with a translator; identifying strong, local liaisons and strong, local project managers; ability to set appropriate targets and goals for liaisons and project managers as well as to follow-through on targets
  • Project follow-through: requires site visits to project; coordination between international and domestic vendors, importers, distributors, and project manager via phone and e-mail Community Organizing:
  • Seek out community support and build a base of support in Haiti among community members and existing local organizations in Haiti
  • Based on community needs and participation, develop projects and programs that further EarthSpark’s mission
  • Coordinate with EarthSpark partners in Haiti to provide tools and trainings that will allow partners to realize their goals and meet performance targets
  • Help to implement and evaluate programs that support EarthSpark’s mission and the goals of its partners
  • Collaborate with partners in Haiti to measure EarthSpark’s impact through rigorous monitoring and evaluation
  • Supervision and Oversight:

    • The Executive Director will have a high level of responsibility and autonomy in daily tasks but will collaborate with senior staff on important matters
    • The Executive Director will answer to the Board of Directors
    • Evaluation of the Executive Director will be carried out by the Board and founders annually

    To Apply We ask that applicants submit their resume and cover letter to info {at] earthsparkinternational [dot} org by November 15, 2009.

    For more information: EarthSpark International

    Video: Viva Rio's public toilet biogas plant

    Duration: 2 minutes 34 seconds

    08 December 2009 – UN MINUSTAH: The “biodigestor” – a pilot project in a poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince is making methane gas for electricity, using human waste from public toilets. If successful, the project would provide an alternative, green fuel to wood charcoal, and could help the country overcome its massive environmental problems linked to deforestation.
    One poor neighborhood in Haitis capital, Port-au-Prince, is the scene of a new pilot project that will provide new sources of energy, and improve basic sanitation on the streets.

    The project starts with some public toilets. Here, for the price of about a penny (US$0.01) residents have the chance to clean up, and use the bathroom. In most Haitian cities, people dont have access to running water. So modern toilets are a real luxury. Particularly when they are open to the public.

    SOUNDBITE (Creole) Aline Saint-Fort, Public Bathroom Attendant:
    Other public toilets are no where near as clean. And they are expensive. In most places in the city you pay five or even ten cents to use the bathroom thats ten times what we charge.

    With the capacity to take one thousand users a day, the project hopes to improve sanitation. But the real benefit is a by-product produced in the yard outside. Engineers with Viva Rio, the Brazilian NGO that runs the project, built this large underground reaction tank called a biodigestor. Inside it are bacteria that are transforming human waste into methane gas a biofuel that can be used as a powerful, and virtually free, source of energy.

    SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) Valmir FACHINI, Project Coordinator, Viva Rio:
    The way it works is simple. The waste comes from the toilets, and gets dumped into the reaction tank. This starts the fermentation process, the produces bio-gas. The gas crosses a column of water, and comes to rest at the top of the tank. This bio-gas can be used for cooking and electricity.

    The fermentation inside the bio-digestor also enriches the roots of the surrounding foliage, which act as a filter for liquid waste.

    SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) Valmir FACHINI, Project Coordinator, Viva Rio:
    This reactor has a capacity to produce fifty cubic meters of biogas per day. This will generate 3000 watts of electricity per twenty four hours.

    Biogas is cheap and easy to produce. If the project is replicated, it could give Haitians green alternatives to charcoal fuel. This would combat deforestation the underlying cause of the countrys massive environmental problems.

    And thats not all. Filtered water coming out of the bio-digestor is rich in nutrients and can support many forms of plant and animal life. Ducks feed on insect larvae. And fish prosper here. With proper care this pond will become a fishery, creating food and jobs in the neighborhood.

    SOUNDBITE (Portuguese) Valmir FACHINI, Project Coordinator, Viva Rio:
    Here in these tanks, the water comes rich with nutrients. The sunlight permits the production of algae. And the algae are the primary food source for fish.
    So one pilot project in Port-au-Prince is helping an underserved neighborhood to produce green energy and improve sanitation at the same time.

    Musical Interlude: Haïti Get Back Up/Ayiti Leve Kanpe [Video]

    Duration: 8 min 10 sec

    An 8min time capsule of Haiti, Pre/Post Earthquake! Jean Jean-Pierre and the Dominican Republic Symphonic Orchestra

    Conductor: José Antonio Molina
    The Dominican Republic National Choir
    Conductor: José Enrique Espin
    Composer/Producer: Jean Jean-Pierre
    Director: Yvetot Gouin

    This is a very powerful piece. Note that there is some graphic imagery, specifically of several casualties of the quake. Viewer discretion advised.