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A California construction project implementing Cast ConneX's earthquake-resistant connectors

In an effort to rebuild Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake, Cast ConneX Corporation, a start-up out of the Department of Civil Engineering, is taking part in an industry-wide coalition aimed at preparing the island nation in the event of another major tremor.

The Toronto-based company’s earthquake-resistant connectors are playing a leading role in the establishment of a seismic-resistant school in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Led by the Canadian Construction Association (CAA) and Builders without Borders, the project will reconstruct a vocational centre called École Lakay that will serve as a training facility for young Haitian tradespeople.

Project partner Fast + Epp of Vancouver sought out Cast ConneX’s cutting-edge connectors for the school’s structural ‘lateral-force resisting system’ because of their proven performance when subjected to earthquake-induced loading. Cast ConneX was then approached by the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) – another project partner– to donate their products for the construction of the school.

While recent distribution agreements with global industry leaders are taking Cast ConneX technology worldwide, this project is particularly meaningful for the innovative company.

“Having our technology implemented in a reconstruction project in Haiti has been our goal for some time,” explained President and CEO, Carlos de Oliveira (CivE MASc 0T6). “We have long realized its potential to enable the construction of state-of-the-art, seismic-resistant buildings in nations that are lacking a fully developed steel construction industry, such as structural-qualified field welders.”

That potential will be being realized in Haiti since Cast ConneX connectors are fabricated in Canada and their structural steel elements do not need to be welded together in the field. “École Lakay can be entirely constructed using field-bolting, the same way one would put together a meccano set,” said de Oliveira. “As a result, our connectors will enable the school’s structural frame to be erected predominately by locals.”

Thanks to Cast ConneX’s seismic-resistant system, the school will also have the capacity to serve as a safe zone, providing food, shelter and medical attention in the event of a natural disaster.

“We hope that more of these structures can be established in Haiti,” said de Oliveira. “This will be a lasting legacy for the people of Port-au-Prince.”

The technology behind Cast ConneX’s connectors was developed at U of T Engineering in 2006, based on de Oliveira’s graduate thesis work and the doctoral work of Michael Gray (CivE PhD 1T1). Both research projects were supervised by CivE professors Jeffrey Packer and Constantin Christopoulos. In 2007, the four founded Cast ConneX as a start-up company to commercialize life-saving connectors. The impact of its technology on the well-being of society has earned Cast ConneX the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering’s 2009 Award for Excellence in Innovation in Civil Engineering.

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