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Friday, January 29, 2010

‘[Haiti] not an earthquake disaster; but a lack of European Engineers disaster’





Aerial view of collapsed buildings and burned-out section at Beach and Divisadero Streets, Marina District. [C.E. Meyer, U.S. Geological Survey] [The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs]

The audience at last Tuesday’s UC Berkeley lecture given by Eduardo Fierro, one of the first U.S. earthquake engineers to visit post-quake Haiti, collectively cringed as Fierro showed slide after slide of haphazard columns, brittle frames, and slipshod rods and joints.

“This was not an earthquake disaster,” Fierro said. “[This] was caused by people that didn’t know how to use codes, that built things in bad shape. These were the people that caused the tragedy.”

Fierro concluded the seminar with photographs of local reconstructive efforts currently taking place. Things don’t look much better—new construction is proceeding the same way as before the quake. “Same little columns, same blocks, same lack of rebars,” Fierro said.

But what’s the solution? “Better code and better design isn’t the answer,” Fierro said. He stressed that the rebuilding process must be simple and supervised. One idea: distributing a “cartoonish” booklet depicting the right construction processes – a guide so easy to understand you “don’t have to be an engineer” to read it.



Boycott 2010 World Cup: Truth & Justice; or Secession?

Civil engineer documents poor Haiti infrastructure [7.1; 200,000 + dead]

ABC Local News
Monday, January 25, 2010


BERKELEY, CA (KGO) -- A Bay Area civil engineer who specializes in earthquake construction has just returned from inspecting many of the damaged buildings in Haiti. And what he saw in Haiti, he has never seen before -- not on this scale.

"I wanted to look at the broad spectrum of structures," said Eduardo Fierro.

Fierro toured homes, ports, and factories in Haiti. He had pictures he brought back with him. He says this earthquake tragedy is really an engineering tragedy.

"The reinforcement was completely inadequate, there was 1/2" rebar," Fierro described. "And those little rebar buckle and the building collapses. [I saw it] over and over and over."

Fierro did Skype interviews with ABC7 News while he was on the ground in Haiti. Now that he is back, he says the damage to the port was the most dramatic structurally, with whole piers swallowed by the earth.

- Heavy, unsupported block walls: One of the main principles of architecture, Fierro said, is to make structures as light as possible. “These people don’t know that,” Fierro said. He showed multiple slides of houses and buildings constructed with unwieldy slabs of concrete and cinder blocks.


"The ground liquefied and it broke. It was like Armageddon with big cracks opening up," said Fierro.

And though he has toured the world in the aftermaths of many of the largest quakes in recent years, Fierro says he has never seen the human disaster that is Haiti.

"The debris was picked up with humans and everything and taken to 30, 40 miles away and dumped next to the road and you could see people there with their arms and legs [sticking out.] That was the most striking thing for me," said Fierro.

Amidst all of the devastation, a few structures actually did defy the odds. Fierro noted fuel tanks that buckled but did not break, and shear walled buildings that were basically unscathed.

Fierro will be speaking to engineers at U.C. Berkeley on Tuesday. The goal now is to get easy to understand earthquake safe building instructions and stronger rebar into the hands of Haitians.

» » » » [ABC News]


Peruvian Engineer: “[Haiti] was was not an earthquake disaster”

Katie Baker, Wired
January 28, 2010 at 1:30pm






- Poor detailing: Fierro pointed out badly made plastic hinges, as well as joints going against “all the rules for earthquake engineering” with small, smooth bars and no hoops.

The audience at last Tuesday’s UC Berkeley lecture given by Eduardo Fierro, one of the first U.S. earthquake engineers to visit post-quake Haiti, collectively cringed as Fierro showed slide after slide of haphazard columns, brittle frames, and slipshod rods and joints.

“This was not an earthquake disaster,” Fierro said. “[This] was caused by people that didn’t know how to use codes, that built things in bad shape. These were the people that caused the tragedy.”

- Lack of rebars: One of Fierro’s most troubling observations. Steel reinforcement bars—rebars—are what hold up concrete and masonry structures. Most of the collapsed buildings’ rebar was either entirely too frail and thin to support the building—if the building had rebar at all.

Fierro, a Peruvian native who has worked around the Pacific rim, arrived in Haiti within two days of the earthquake to investigate the destruction caused to the country’s built environment.

From Port Au Prince to smaller cities like Leogane, from cathedrals to schools to power plants, Fierro found that the same architectural mistakes were made over and over again.

- Poorly constructed columns: Columns holding up higher floors were often unreinforced concrete, too brittle to provide sufficient support.

Fierro concluded the seminar with photographs of local reconstructive efforts currently taking place.

Things don’t look much better—new construction is proceeding the same way as before the quake. “Same little columns, same blocks, same lack of rebars,” Fierro said.

But what’s the solution? “Better code and better design isn’t the answer,” Fierro said.

He stressed that the rebuilding process must be simple and supervised. One idea: distributing a “cartoonish” booklet depicting the right construction processes – a guide so easy to understand you “don’t have to be an engineer” to read it.

» » » » [Wired]


Earthquake engineer to present findings after week in Haiti

Speaker/Performer: Eduardo Fierro, President of Bertero, Fierro, Perry Engineers
Sponsors: Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER)



- Bad concrete: Even the Presidential Palace was built using poorly compacted concrete. Also, many buildings had corroded columns, which suggests that beach sands (which retain more moisture than river sands) were used to mix concrete.

Eduardo Fierro, president of BFP (Bertero, Fierro, Perry) Engineers, a consulting firm in Berkeley, will present his preliminary findings from a week of engineering reconnaissance work in Haiti at a two-hour seminar. His investigation was partially funded by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER), headquartered at UC Berkeley.

Fierro was among the first earthquake engineers from the United States to survey damage in Haiti, having arrived within two days of the country's devastating 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12. Fierro will present for the first time his personal account of the earthquake, including photos and video that have never been seen publicly. He will also share new information about the current situation in Haiti and highlight from an engineering perspective the damage caused to the built environment.

- Bad soil: Areas with the most damage were built on top of soft soil.

Fierro, a native of Peru, was a postgraduate student at UC Berkeley from 1978 to 1981, doing experimental and analytical research. He is an expert on post-earthquake fieldwork and has completed earthquake reconnaissance in such locations as Kobe, Japan in 1995; Armenia, Colombia in 1999; southern Peru in 2001; central Peru in 2007; and several sites in California.

Fierro is a frequent traveler to Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, and since 2003 he has regularly taught seismic design courses there to professional organizations and universities.

» » » » [Berkeley Engineering]




The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs [7.1; 63 dead]

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Charles G. Groat, Director; 1999



The Marina District was the part of San Francisco most heavily damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake because it was built on uncompacted, sandy ground in an area with a shallow water table. These conditions caused shaking to be amplified and some areas of ground to "liquefy." Along this street in the District, shaking collapsed the first story of an apartment house and liquefied the ground beneath the sidewalk, causing it to buckle.

On October 17, 1989, at 5:04:15 p.m. (P.d.t.), a magnitude 6.9 (moment magnitude; surface-wave magnitude, 7.1) earthquake severely shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions. The epicenter was located at 37.04° N. latitude, 121.88° W. longitude near Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, approximately 14 km (9 mi) northeast of Santa Cruz and 96 km (60 mi) south-southeast of San Francisco. The earthquake occurred when the crustal rocks comprising the Pacific and North American Plates abruptly slipped as much as 2 meters (7 ft) along their common boundary-the San Andreas fault system. The rupture initiated at a depth of 18 km (11 mi) and extended 35 km (22 mi) along the fault, but it did not break the surface of the Earth.

Bent reinforcement bars in failed support column, Cypress viaduct. [H.G. Wilshire, U.S. Geological Survey][The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs]

Centered near Loma Prieta peak in the mountains south of San Jose, the quake killed 63 people and caused an estimated $6 billion to $10 billion in property loss. It was the first large temblor to jolt the burgeoning urban region since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (magnitude 7.8).


Ground Shaking and Building Codes

Most loss of life and damage to property during an earthquake stems from strong ground shaking. Hence, accurate assessment of the shaking hazard is fundamental to the design and the building of structures that can resist earthquakes. In 1996, the USGS and the California Division of Mines and Geology (CDMG) produced a set of State-wide shaking-hazard maps based on current knowledge of more than 200 active faults and of the historical earthquake record. These maps depict geographic variations in the likely maximum severity of shaking to be experienced within a 50-year period. Maps for various frequencies of ground vibration are included because various frequencies of shaking affect buildings of different heights differently. These maps are a principal foundation element for the seismic provisions of a new national building code to become available in 2000. In parts of the San Francisco Bay region, requirements under the new code will differ significantly from those under earlier codes.

Entrance and garage level of a Beach Street apartment complex in danger of collapse, Marina District. [C.E. Meyer, U.S. Geological Survey] [The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs]

During the Loma Prieta earthquake, the USGS and CDMG obtained the first set of recordings of damaging levels of shaking on a wide variety of geologic materials, including soft, unconsolidated sand and clay. These records clearly document that ground shaking is much more violent on the soft sediments around the Bay margins than on bedrock, confirming previous USGS projections. Most importantly, these records provided a firm basis for revising building codes to more fully reflect the need for extra strength in structures built on soft ground. This improved understanding of the shaking hazard on soft ground has led to significant changes in provisions of the forthcoming national building code and to recommended changes to the national highway-bridge code. Because earthquake-resistant design and construction are essential to reducing earthquake losses, these code revisions are a major step toward greater earthquake safety.



The part of the Cypress freeway structure in Oakland, California, that stood on soft mud (dashed red line) collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, killing 42 people. Adjacent parts of the structure (solid red) that were built on firmer ground remained standing. Seismograms (upper right) show that the shaking was especially severe in the soft mud. (Photograph by Lloyd S. Cluff)

» » » » [US Geological Survey]




A divided island: the forces working against Haiti

Why does Haiti have it so tough compared with its neighbour, the Dominican Republic? Jared Diamond explains

Jared Diamond
The Guardian, Friday 15 January 2010



The trees have long been stripped from the hills on the Haitian side of the border with the still-forested Dominican Republic. Photograph: James P. Blair/National Geographic/Getty Images

Why did the political, economic and ecological histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti – two countries that share the same island – unfold so ­differently? Part of the answer ­involves environmental differences.

Hispaniola's rains come mainly from the east. Hence the Dominican (eastern) part of the island receives more rain and thus supports higher rates of plant growth. Hispaniola's highest mountains (more than 10,000ft) are on the Dominican side and the rivers from those mountains mainly flow eastwards into the Dominican side. This has broad valleys, plains and plateaus and much thicker soils. In particular, the Cibao valley in the north is one of the richest agricultural areas in the world.

Closeup of damaged reinforcement bars from a Cypruss viaduct support column. [H.G. Wilshire, U.S. Geological Survey] [The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs]

In contrast, the Haitian side is drier because of that barrier of high mountains blocking rains from the east. Compared to the Dominican Republic, the area of flat land good for intensive agriculture is much smaller. There is more limestone terrain and the soils are thinner and less fertile and have a lower capacity for recovery.

Note the paradox. The Haitian side of the island was less well-endowed environmentally but developed a rich agricultural economy before the ­Dominican side. Haiti's wealth came at the expense of its ­environmental capital of forests and soils. Haiti's elite identified strongly with France rather than with their own landscape and sought to extract wealth from the ­peasants. The lesson, in effect, is that an impressive-looking bank ­account may conceal a negative cash flow.

While those environmental differences did contribute to the different economic trajectories of the two countries, a larger part of the explanation involves social and political differences. One of these involves the accident that Haiti was a colony of rich France and became the most valuable colony in its overseas empire. The Dominican Republic was a colony of Spain, which by the late 1500s was neglecting ­Hispaniola and was itself in economic and political to decline.

Hence France could and did invest in developing intensive slave-based plantation agriculture in Haiti, which the Spanish could not or chose not to develop in their side of the island.

France also imported far more slaves into its colony than did Spain. As a result, Haiti had a population seven times higher than its neighbour during colonial times – and it still has a somewhat larger population today. But Haiti's area is only slightly more than half of that of the Dominican ­Republic so that Haiti, with a larger population and smaller area, has double its neighbour's population density.

The combination of that higher population density and lower rainfall was the main factor behind the more rapid deforestation and loss of soil fertility on the Haitian side. In addition, all of those French ships that brought slaves to Haiti returned to Europe with cargos of Haitian timber, so that Haiti's lowlands and mid-mountain slopes had been largely stripped of timber by the mid-19th century.

Aerial view of collapsed sections of the Cypress viaduct of Interstate Highway 880. [H.G. Wilshire, U.S. Geological Survey]
[The October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake—Selected Photographs]

A second social and political factor is that the Dominican Republic – with its Spanish-speaking population of predominantly European ancestry – was both more receptive and more ­attractive to European immigrants and investors than was Haiti with its Creole-speaking population composed overwhelmingly of black former slaves.

Hence European immigration and ­investment were negligible and ­restricted by the constitution in Haiti after 1804 but eventually became ­important in the Dominican Republic. Those Dominican immigrants included many middle-class businesspeople and skilled professionals who contri­buted to the country's development. The people of the Dominican Republic even chose to resume their status as a Spanish colony from 1812 to 1821 and its president chose to make his country a protectorate of Spain from 1861 to 1865.


Still another social difference contributing to the different economies is that – as a legacy of their country's slave history and slave revolt – most Haitians owned their own land, used it to feed themselves and received no help from their government in developing cash crops for trade with over seas European countries. The Dominican Republic, however, eventually did develop an export economy and overseas trade.

Finally, Haiti's problems of de­forestation and poverty have ­become compounded within the last 40 years. The Dominican Republic retained much forest cover and began to ­industrialise. It launched a crash programme to spare forest use for fuel by instead importing propane and liquefied natural gas. But Haiti's poverty forced its people to remain ­dependent on forest-derived charcoal from fuel, thereby accelerating the destruction of its last remaining forests.

Extracted from Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

» » » » [Guardian]


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1 comment:

brenda said...

I don't think it's a lack in European Civil Engineering when Hait does not have enough money to get the proper seismic designs for its structures. You do what you can with what you have. It's sad. We were very impacted here in Oakland and San Francisco by the disaster's impact. http://www.UrbanDesignCE.com

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2006: US Army Strategy for Environment
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Peak NNR: Scarcity: Humanity’s Last Chapter: A Comprehensive Analysis of Nonrenewable Natural Resource (NNR) Scarcity’s Consequences, by Chris Clugston
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