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NEED FOR A NEW APPROACH TO BUILDING STORM SHELTERS FOR BANGLADESH

An article by Mr. Javed Sultan, the Executive Director and co-founder of SARID. Mr. Sultan is an Architect and Civil Engineer, has a B.Arch from Turkey, and Masters in Architecture and Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. He is a registered Architect in USA. He has developed the technology called MASS. He is also the president of Kinoo, Inc. a for-profit corporation, with offices in Boston and Washington, DC in USA. His firm Kinoo, Inc. in 1999 made the Inc. 500 list, five hundred fastest growing privately held corporations in USA, and also received the Small Minority Massachusetts Business of the Year award. Mr. Sultan has also been recognized as the Small Minority Business Person of the Year for Massachusetts. The later two awards were by Small Business Administration, USA.

Bangladesh blessed by nature with its fertile alluvial plains, rich and prolific rivers, is also the reluctant host to violent cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis and untold nature's wrath and vagaries. The annual passage of nature's whims kills humans and livestock indiscriminately, destroys shelter randomly, thereby condemning its destitute and poor population to a never-ending cycle of misery and hardship.

Those who live in permanent shelters, such as the well to do in Urban areas, with structures made of masonry, brick, reinforced concrete or a combination of the preceding are able to weather the storm without significant damage. But the majority of the structures in the rural areas, by some estimate 70%, get damaged or destroyed by storms. These poorly constructed ramshackle rural homes made of materials such a bamboo or sun-baked brick, or adobe structures, do not fare well and have to be re-built or repaired practically every year. The cost of reconstruction for the poor is economically devastating and prevents the households from increasing their capital assets, cripples economic growth, and the associated improvement in quality of life. The first cost of these poorly constructed structures may be low but the life cycle cost of these structures, over a period of as little as 15 years, sometimes exceeds masonry and other types of permanent construction. So the poor end up paying a lot more than the rich for their shelter.

The need for a technology that can weather the storm, and not rob the emerging economy of accumulating capital, cannot be overemphasized.

One such attempt at finding a solution for the emerging economies, and for the poor of the world, is in the potential of a new proprietary construction technology, patent pending, called Membrane Assisted Seismic-Resistant Structures (MASS) Technology. Although developed initially to be used as a self-help construction technology for earthquake prone areas of the world they can be widely used for less stringent conditions such as storms and cyclones.

MASS is essentially a wall technology that reduces the cost of everything excepting the roof. It creates a lighter, and stronger, wall and foundation system and allows for greater amount of insulation thereby creating a robust, and energy efficient, structural building envelope. Several building prot-types have been field tested, in Kashmir, and have already stood seismic events of Richter 6.5+ without exhibiting any structural distress.

MASS is being currently utilized for earthquake construction of homes, schools etc. in Kashmir, Pakistan. A world renowned international philanthropic organization The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has added the technology to its menu of construction strategies for the earthquake ravaged areas of Kashmir. See www.sarid.net the design has been engineered, and stamped, by foreign as well as US based structural engineers. The design allows for construction of all types of shelters, homes, schools, hospitals to be built at significantly lower cost then known technologies but also has numerous other advantages. The use of the technology in Bangladesh will result in homes and storm shelters that will, it is anticipated, make the structures more affordable. Some of the key benefits of the technology are as follows:

o Tsunami Shelters: The wall technology provides a comparatively inexpensive way to erect structures to face tsunami and tidal surges. Current approaches to building mounds, or walls of Masonry etc., are cost prohibitive.

o Permanent Structure: The design looks and feels like Masonry or/ and Reinforced Concrete structure. The structure is permanent, comparable to Masonry, and has a life of 75 plus years.

o Cost: The cost is 25% to 30% less, and sometimes more based on the design parameters, then know technologies such as Masonry, Brick, Pre-cast.

o Strength: Buildings using this material have been designed for Seismic Zone -4, highest seismic resistance California Building Code, with design for ground acceleration exceeding .8g. The structures have been designed for wind speeds of 250 mph and more. Design for storm shelters is less stringent.

o Employment Generator: It allows for participation by unskilled labor, homes can be built using hand tools, so would give jobs to people after a cyclone helping create a capital asset. This does not preclude more industrialized process for erecting quickly large batches of storm shelter and homes. Most permanent structures, using known technology, require skilled labor, as margins of error in technology execution are small.

o Green and Environment Friendly: It is green architecture, so reduces environmental pollution, as 90% of the materials are recyclables, soils, and biodegradable, and the material used do not use fossil fuels for its creation. Among known comparative technologies, typically production of bricks and or steel structures, use fossil fuel for production.

o Lower transportation Cost: The design relies on lighter material, and use of local soil, hence reducing transportation cost. This result is faster construction. Less taxing to a country's fuel supplies.

o Post Construction Stabilization of existing Bamboo or Adobe Structures: The technology allows for new construction as well as post construction stabilization of existing single story adobe, or bamboo, structures, by a process, which requires a very minimal investment. The post stabilization will create a permanent structure that will become maintenance free, and will help in growth of individual's income and assets.

o Low Startup Cost: No large start up or capital expenditure for infrastructure development. Monies are basically needed for purchase of hand tools and the actual construction material, 50% of which is free as it is the local soil.

o Micro-Enterprise: Since the construction process consists of simple repetitive tasks, it allows for a larger margin of error without compromising the structure. It will stimulate micro-enterprise ventures, for making building components, and will open job opportunities for the unskilled, women and disabled.

o Comfort and Insulation: Because of the high insulation values for the walls, so thermal insulation values of R-25 to R-30, resulting in temperature differences between outside skin and inside of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, actual for homes built in Kashmir, obviates need for fans and air conditioning. Most Masonry structures absorb heat during the day and re-radiate at night, and with Bangladesh temperatures, the norm is use of Air conditioning (A/C)or/and fans among those who can afford. A/C is rapidly becoming the major global warming ozone depleting agent, especially in countries of South and South East Asia. This technology obviates the need for A/C in homes and Institutional buildings in both developing and developed economies. Hence significant operational cost savings.

 


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