Decades of unsupervised building construction in Haiti contributed to the devastation of its capital, Port-au-Prince, and roughly 10–15 per cent of injuries and deaths following the earthquake on 12 January 2010, says Roger Bilham.
Haiti's ruined buildings show clear signs of poor engineering such as brittle steel, weak cement and little structural support, he says.
Now, the region has an enhanced risk of further earthquakes.
As Haiti looks to rebuilding, it is vital that labourers are trained in sound construction practices and that a suitable building code is enforced uniformly throughout the region by dedicated teams of inspectors.
Bilham calls for a new UN mission "to ensure that people do not construct buildings designed to kill their occupants".
Sound engineering are required in other earthquake-prone cities too, including Istanbul, Kathmandu, Srinagar and Tehran, where building codes have been unevenly applied.
'Earthquake-proofing' civil buildings, such as schools, prisons and hospitals, would lower death tolls, minimise disruption and ease recovery after an earthquake, says Bilham.
But it is not cheap. Earthquake-proof reconstruction in Haiti is likely to cost an order of magnitude more than the US$2.5 billion of aid money pledged so far, he adds.