Several months after the deadly January 12, 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, engineer Yves Bellevue set out to closely monitor a group of masons who were repairing a damaged home in Port-au-Prince’s Delmas 32 neighborhood. They had recently been trained to use techniques that met international standards for repairing earthquake-damaged homes, and Bellevue was pleased with their work.

Bellevue was one of 400 specially trained engineers who inspected more than 412,000 homes in the capital—the largest assessment ever conducted for a disaster of this size. A joint program funded by the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the World Bank, the inspections were managed by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) in partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works (MTPTC). This work was a key part of PADF’s three “Rs” strategy in Haiti to Return people to safe homes, Rebuild neighborhoods, and Restore livelihoods.

PADF contracted a seismic engineering company to train Haitian structural engineers to inspect buildings and tag them using international standards: A red tag indicates a heavily damaged building that is unsafe; a yellow tag indicates a damaged building that can be used with repairs; a green tag means a building is safe for occupancy.

Throughout the capital, inspectors found that 54 percent of buildings were safe, 26 percent needed repairs and 20 percent needed to be demolished. The inspection and tagging of the more than 412,000 structures made it a major Haitian achievement in moving forward on earthquake recovery.

The tagging program indicated that a major priority should be repairing the more than 90,000 yellow-tagged homes.  This would be an effective and cost-effective method to get thousands of people out of displacement camps. In addition, with new international building standards in place, the repairs would be 300 percent stronger than before, making the houses safer from future quakes and hurricanes. The massive project also helped build the capacity of masons, construction workers, and fellow engineers.