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Extollo Bringing Tilt-Up Construction Technology to Haiti

Español | Translation Sponsored by TCA

The 7.2 earthquake that struck southern Haiti on Aug. 14, leveling homes and other structures with people still in them, made it brutally apparent that Haiti’s normative construction techniques and re-construction plans will not prevent another disaster of this nature from happening again and again. 

The January 2010 earthquake that hit a much more populous part of Haiti and killed an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people made the world aware of the dangers of shoddy construction techniques and almost non-existent building code enforcement. This latest earthquake brought to light that the core problem still remains. A recent article in National Geographic (“Here’s what makes earthquakes so devastating in Haiti”): makes this point very clear: 

Both quakes are part of Haiti’s long history of shakes, which results from the island nation’s position at the edge of the slowly shifting Caribbean plate. The movements build stresses in a network of fractures that crisscross the island, which occasionally release pent-up stress in ground-rattling earthquakes. While the region’s quakes are not the most powerful in the world, their deadliness is magnified by Haiti’s abundance of concrete and masonry buildings that were not built to withstand earthquakes.

It is exceedingly difficult to build structures resilient to natural disasters in a context like Haiti. Extreme poverty, and the inability to afford quality materials (or even afford the correct type of materials at all), is a significant contributor to the problem. When you simply need a roof over your family’s head, you use whatever you can find. On top of this, the know-how of basic construction practices and standards is oftentimes missing. Haiti has building codes that meet international building standards but with no real inspections or enforcement, corners are cut resulting in substandard buildings that cannot hold up to the strain of natural disasters. 

Founded by Sherm Balch (The Peter Coutois Memorial Award [2011], past President of TCA [2001], and board member for six years) in 2011, Extollo International is a social impact business that operates a trade school and construction company 25 miles north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Extollo’s mission is to help ambitious men and women in Haiti lift themselves out of extreme poverty through skill acquisition, character development, and economic opportunity. “I started Extollo because what Haiti needed the most after the 2010 earthquake are people of character and competency who can build structures that can stand up to natural disasters’” states Balch. “The next stage is to give Haitians not just skills but a whole new way of building that can ensure quality and resiliency.”

Extollo is embarking on an ambitious venture to be the “first-mover” of tilt-up construction in Haiti. Leveraging Balch’s expertise as an innovator of tilt-up construction technology (awarded the Murray Parker Memorial Award in 2006), Extollo is currently developing operations to produce a panelized, earthquake-resistant house. And as the first-mover of this construction technology in Haiti, Extollo will also create a specialized training program specific to tilt-up, to develop Haitian construction leaders and a capable tilt-up construction workforce. Extollo is looking to make virtually all of the tilt-up plans, trainings, and procedures “open source” – to allow other construction companies in Haiti to adopt tilt-up as a viable, and profitable, aspect of their business. By being a practical and thought-leader of tilt-up in Haiti, Extollo’s reach will be far larger than could be otherwise.

The panelized house, because of its design and use of tilt-up concrete walls, will meet or exceed California seismic requirements as well as being LEED Platinum certified, while using materials and other inputs easily accessible in Haiti. Extollo is developing its tilt-up operations to fabricate the wall and security fence panels on its campus in Bercy and also developing operations to be mobile: able to relocate the concrete mixing and pouring operations to different job sites depending on the scale of the job and number of houses. Because of the sheer size of the need in Haiti, Extollo is already receiving inquiries and requests from all sectors of the country.

To produce a quality, affordable tilt-up house in Haiti, built by Haitians for Haiti, Extollo has been hard at work on: 

  • Designing and engineering plans for a culturally compatible, functional tilt-up home (complete)
  • Developing a reliable source of affordable quality structural concrete. To this end, Extollo is building its own mini batch plant on its campus in Bercy (80% complete)
  • Developing a reliable source to deliver concrete where needed. Extollo is installing a 3-1/2 yard mixer on a Ford L-8000 6-wheel truck (80% complete)

  • Concrete casting bed and reusable steel forming system to produce wall panels at scale. The metal forms are fabricated on campus; the casting slab is poured and needs to be ground smooth (90% complete)
  • Developing a Haitian crew to form, pour, finish and erect concrete panels. This is Extollo’s biggest challenge, as Extollo first needs to teach Haitians how to pour and finish concrete before teaching them the rest of the tilt-up process. (10 to 20% complete)

As a member of the TCA community, Extollo would like to extend an invitation to join them in bringing tilt-up construction technology to Haiti and participating in a major effort to save more lives through bringing tilt-up to Haiti. Please visit Extollo’s website ( to dig deeper and learn more about their “teach a person to fish, not give a person a fish” approach. And consider how your company, its future leaders, and workforce recruitment can benefit from joining Extollo’s unique and impactful efforts in Haiti through tilt-up construction. Consider a fundraiser at your company that showcases the benefits of tilt-up and rally around a good cause! Sherm Balch and Keith Cobell (President of Extollo) will be at the TCA Convention, are hosting a roundtable discussion about how Extollo can help the tilt-up industry with recruitment and retention, and would love to meet with TCA members to see how Extollo can further expand the reach, impact, and profitability of TCA member companies. 

For more information, contact Keith Cobell, President, at or Sherm Balch at

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.