For 3-days the leaders of “Social Investing” have gathered at Fort Mason to discuss ways to improve the World.
Much good may come as a result of the SOCAP10 discussions on food systems, water issues, sustainable housing and supply chain enhancements. Investment in the social good will help to solve many pressing World issues.
While they walked the grounds of Fort Mason and sat in the rooms of the old Army base they overlooked what was right under their feet. In all of the sessions they didn’t see what was surrounding them and keeping them safe from the winds and the sea. The success of the conference and the comfort of the attendees was supported and sustained by concrete, yet it was never on the agenda.
Hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of concrete support and surround Fort Mason. Concrete is the solid and sustainable building material that we mostly take for granite and yet in some of the poorest economies it crushes people to death.
We don’t blame SOCAP for missing concrete, it usually only becomes an issue when it fails, not when it succeeds like it has a Fort Mason all of these years. But it is sad that a conference focused on creating stronger connections between money and need did not mix in a discussion on concrete, particularly after Haiti. Haiti demonstrated what poor concrete can do in a few seconds. Fort Mason and Haiti are polar opposites and stand as witnesses of what we can do and what we should fix.
Fort Mason was the Army logistic center from 1915 to 1966 and the huge concrete piers that support the structure have sustained millions of visitors for decades. The construction of concrete buildings provided protection from the storms and the waves and even from severe earthquakes. During the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 Fort Mason stood strong, with little damage to pier or wall. In fact some of the facility settled a full 12 inches; bending yet not breaking.
In Haiti a quake killed over 200,000 and created over 20 million cubic feet of rubble, mostly filled with bad concrete.
The SOCAP attendees stood on a different concrete than what is being removed from the piles of a ruined country. In the poorest nations, concrete does not have the benefits of even the 1915 mixer technology that built Fort Mason. In Haiti, and many other under-developed nations, they mix concrete on the ground with shovels.
The fine structures and solid meeting rooms of Fort Mason would have crumbled into the sea decades ago if the Army had enlisted shovels on the ground to build the facility. Poor concrete is not sustainable, yet Haiti needs foundations for their homes and buildings and it is the only reasonable option.
We salute the social investors gathered at Fort Mason for their good work and suggest that they look down and around at the concrete that protects them. It stands as a reminder that good construction will always be good investment.