Cuban Builders Are Using an Ancestral Mexican Technique on Houses Damaged by Hurricane Matthew

The outskirts of Baracoa after the passage of Hurricane Matthew. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 8 August 2017 – Guantanamo builders are being trained in constructing ceramic brick vaults, a technique typical of Mexico, within a project to accelerate the completion of hundreds of houses affected by Hurricane Matthew, as was published this Tuesday in the island’s official media.

The construction solution, which is a part of an initiative brought to Cuba by the United Nations Development Program, does not require formwork, nor does it need steel or concrete, so it is cheaper than sheet roofing, the most common in Cuba.

The extension of this technique, applied for more than 200 years in Mexican states such as Jalisco, Michoacán, Querétaro and Oaxaca, could solve the “omnipresent problem” of the shortage of materials to build plate roofs “with the use of local resources, according to the state newspaper Granma.

In the eastern province — the most affected by the passage of the intense hurricane Matthew on 4 October 2016 — “the producers of ceramic bricks abound and there is a state industry, which together with the abundant availability of the main raw material (clay) should facilitate the extension of this practice,” the newspaper says.

Cuban masons, architects and engineers are being trained by Ramón Aguirre Morales, director of the Institute of Mexican Vaults and Regional Technologies.

Aguirre Morales explained that the ceramic brick domes are built in Mexican territories where “seismic activity is frequent and the vaults have not collapsed, because they are strong and safe constructions”

The bricks used are five centimeters wide, ten high and twenty long, weighing approximately 1.5 kilograms, smaller than those usually produced in the Cuban province.

Their smaller size and weight favors the building of arches and the support of one brick with another, said the Mexican expert.

Guantánamo was the province most affected by Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 on the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale, and the third most devastating in the history of the Island, where it caused material damages for 97.2 million dollars of damage, without loss of human lives.

The storm affected 46,706 homes, of which 8,312 were collapsed completely (17.8% of the total homes), according to official data.

Baracoa, the first Cuban town founded by the Spanish, was the place that received the direct attacks of Matthew and 90% of the 900 buildings of its historical center were partially or totally damaged.