Lab 03


Access to housing relates directly to job & education opportunities, our social networks, and our general wellbeing. After the passage of a major natural disaster housing becomes the center and face of the recovery, it triggers how fast residents can go back to their usual routine, how fast businesses can open and keep open their doors, and which areas are able to recover more efficiently than others. Puerto Rico isn’t the exception, Hurricane Maria damaged about 80% of homes and their reconstruction could be the driver for social and economic recovery. Hurricane Maria uncovered the fragile state of housing and infrastructure in the island. The informal nature of most of the construction in Puerto Rico, especially in rural areas, directly relates to the level of damage witnessed at present. Historically, low income families struggle to access adequate and high-quality homes. This has repercussion in their standard of living and on the built environment in general. Families living in vulnerable homes are the most affected and the ones that struggle the most to recover. The need for shelter is immediate but rebuilding hastily or investing our resources in temporary solutions is not the answer. A focus on permanent housing solutions that meet the long-term needs of residents, respect the character of the place and geographic context, and are built to withstand future disasters, should be prioritized for a more resilient and sustainable Puerto Rico.

A holistic approach to housing recovery should take into consideration:

  • community engagement at the neighborhood and household level.
  • an all hazards approach. Puerto Rico experiences hurricane and storms frequently but it is also at earthquake risk. Reconstructed homes should follow strong building codes, and risk mitigation strategies that may decrease the damage after an intense weather event.
  • a fair recovery. Some sectors will be able to take the recovery process on their hands, while more vulnerable ones won’t. These high risk, vulnerable areas should be prioritized. The philanthropic and private sectors can play a role in responding to the unmet needs of governmental agencies to ensure a fair recovery.
  • locally based solutions that build into our geographic and socio-cultural characteristics. We need to ensure local experts are prepared to present context appropriate solutions to decision makers, especially after a federally declared disaster in which top-down approaches could be implemented.
  • density and character: urban vs rural environments, and single-family vs multifamily.
  • use and supply of local materials and local labor. Housing reconstruction can play a big role in the economy and reducing the exodus after the disaster.
  • land use and site location. Avoiding high risk areas should be the main recommendation to reduce future costs and develop more resilient communities. However, social equity issues need to be examined in relocation processes. When the reconstruction in a high-risk area is unavoidable, risk mitigation strategies should be implemented to reduce potential damage.
  • include other sustainable strategies in the housing design, like renewable energy, water management and food supply.
  • planning for housing recovery. In the face of María’s passing, we could increase our response capacity and use the recovery process to develop planning and community design strategies that can be implemented at different scales and prepare us to respond to the next intense weather event.

Project Sites & Development: Intervention Areas: Playita, Housing Complex Luis Llorens Torres, Shangai, Laguna

TEAM LEADER: Albertus Wang (University of Florida)
TEAM CONSULTANTS: Omayra Rivera (POLI) | Luis Daza (UPR) | Dr. Lucio Barbera | Federico Del Monte | Elaine Morales
TEAM ONE: Farah Akiely (UF)
TEAM TWO: Maria E. Barrios (UF)



Luis Llorens Torres