In a featured article at the Star.com titled, Haiti’s housing doomed in the construction, the author, Kenneth Kidd describes many of the issues that contributed to the falling buildings in the quake of 2010.
He mentions that making concrete is like producing a fruitcake and says “Portland cement stands in for the flour. Mixed with water, it’s like a paste that surrounds and binds the chunky bits, in this case sand and larger pieces of stone aggregate”.
I like the fruitcake analogy; each of us has had an experience with both good and bad fruitcake, particularly around the holidays. But unlike our immediate reaction to a bad fruitcake, the Haitian’s don’t get the “bad-taste” of a poor concrete mix until it comes crashing down upon them in a storm or an earthquake.
Once the concrete is molded into their homes they can’t just toss the bad work into the trash like a small piece of cake. They ether physically tear it down and start over, or they live with the risks for years to come.
In October I attended a fine meal served by Chef Ron Duprat, a star in Bravo TV’s Top Chef series. He is Haitian and cares deeply for his country. Chef Ron knows the value of following a good recipe and I have tasted the great results of his mixtures. Both Mr. Duprat and CementTrust hope that Haiti uses a good concrete recipe this time around.
Unfortunately the construction workers of Haiti have not learned that making good concrete requires sticking to the right recipe and correctly mixing the materials. They skimp on the cement and put in too much water. Then they use shovels on the ground to stir around the material. It is a recipe that will fail nearly every time, yet is very easy to change.
I hope that we can train the cement workers that the results of better concrete will be safer homes and sustainable buildings that will not fall down and crush them. They need to know that like fruitcake, there is a right way and a wrong way to produce a good outcome. The wrong way will always be a recipe for disaster.