Oct '11 - Dec '11
The science magazine Nature recently published a series of articles on post-reconstruction Haiti that turned up this article, Lessons from the Haiti Earthquake advocating safe construction as a way to mitigate earthquake death and destruction. What I found interesting was its points on economic opportunities for local industries, or lack thereof, generated by retrofitting existing buildings.
The author, seismologist Roger Bilham, begins by comparing Haiti's earthquake death toll to earthquakes of comparable magnitude, (see chart), and argues that the country's unusually high death toll is a consequence of decades of unregulated construction practices. He cites widespread use of, "brittle steel, coarse non-angular aggregate, weak cement mixed with dirty or salty sand, and the widespread termination of steel reinforcement rods at the joints between columns and floors of buildings where earthquake stresses are highest."
But having made the case for resilient construction and retrofitting of existing buildings, Mr. Bilham then bemoans the difficulty of advocating for retrofit in the face of Haiti's more urgent economic needs.
Maybe...but as I was reading the article, I couldn't help but wonder if one could make an economic case for retro-fitting unsound buildings by integrating them with deep-energy retrofits. I think they are quite compatible. Both are necessary but the latter yields a return on investment more directly through utility savings. And all this folds into another benefit: Keynesian stimulus! A retrofit program would directly use wasted capital, cheaply, while the economy restores itself.
If a retrofit program can be seen to directly impact both national economic performance, with costs offset through utility savings - I think it would go a long way towards incentivizing large scale, life-saving and sustainable retrofits.
This blog is a way for me to think through an idea of architecture as a vehicle for advocacy. I want to be rigorous about this; to understand our everyday spaces as a product of dominant political orders, and then unpack notions of space and politics as a way to critique them. I adopt this method in order to establish a logical foundation from which to construct a model of critical architecture. This can play out in many ways, I'd like to use the blog as a way of structuring these ideas.