18 January 2010

Haitian Construction

Dispatches from TJICistan | TJIC | Haitian construction codes

There’s been much made of the fact that Haitian buildings collapsed willy nilly, because of some combination of inadequate building codes and inadequate enforcement of building codes. [...]

Haiti has a GDP of $1,300 per person. As it turns out, about 40% of this is basically welfare from the rest of the world, but that is neither here nor there for the current argument. So, anyway, each Haitian is producing somewhere between $700 and $1,300 of value each year … and likely eating 90% of that as food. The surplus that might possibly be generated in a given year is perhaps $100 or so per person.

This is the cold equation of building safety: there is no way that Haitians can possibly build earthquake proof buildings on 30 cents per day. I don’t care if the building code was five times stricter, or if there were roving gangs of armed building code enforcers – the buildings in Haiti are going to be made out of scrap metal, home-made cinder blocks, and substandard concrete.
This is a point that needs to be made more often.

It also underscores the idea that if you want to lessen the impact of future disasters, the thing to do is to get people in developing countries as rich as possible as fast as possible.

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