The World According To Bob

Bob Allen is a philosopher and cyber libertarian. He advocates for the basic human rights of men. Bob has learned to cut through the political nonsense, the propaganda hate, the surface discourse, and talk about the underlying metamessage that the front is hiding. Bob tells it like it is and lets the chips fall where they may. If you like what you read be sure to bookmark this blog and share it with your friends.

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Location: United States

You can't make wrong into right by doing wrong more effectively. It's time for real MEN to stand up and take back our families, our society, and our self respect. It is not a crime to be born a man. It is not a crime to act manly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Criminal Malfeasance by Design

Today's Breaking News on all the networks comes to us from Enterprise, Alabama where a tornado ripped up a school. When the school roof and walls collapsed several students were killed and many were injured. In the surrounding area many homes were utterly destroyed and electric power lines are a tangled mess. The storm in Enterprise, AL, was only one of three areas where storms overnight destroyed homes, utilities, and other buildings. Were these storms unusual? Hardly. Severe storms happen in the US every week. We even have a broad swath of the central part of our country called "Tornado Alley." Tornado Alley is several states wide and stretches from the gulf coast through the heartland of America to the Canadian border. And every week the "Breaking Story" counts the dead and adds up the destruction in terms of destroyed homes and property.

Tornadoes aren't the only storms that we expect to happen. The whole southern coast expects hurricanes, The river valleys expect floods. The northeast expects snowstorms. The northwest expects winter storms coming in off the Pacific. Every week we read of the toll of human suffering, death, injury, and massive property damage caused by the storms that we know are coming. We know they will happen even if we don't know just when.

We don't know a specific day or even a specific year when a severe storm will happen in any one particular spot, but we do know that the particular spot where we are building a school, home, or utility pole probably will be ground zero for a major storm sometime during its expected life. When we build homes, do we expect people to live there in comfort and security only until the next major storm? You would think so watching how they are totally destroyed. When we build schools, do we expect our children to die there in the next major storm? You would think so from the damage done today in Enterprise, AL.

After a life long career in building construction Bob has to ask why, oh why, oh WHY do we accept the kind of crap buildings designed to kill our children and our families in the storm we know is going to happen? Why aren't the designers and contractors who built these death traps rounded up and hanged when children died from their criminal malfeasance of design and construction?

In the 19th century, many of the homes built in Tornado Alley had storm cellars where families could hunker down as their homes and all their worldly belongings were blown away. At least the children in the storm cellars survived. It was so easy a "cave man" could do it. Dig a cave or cellar in the earth, go down into the cave or cellar, and survive. Cave men dug into the earth and survived for a million years. Not any more. Almost none of the homes, schools, shopping malls built in Tornado Alley have storm cellars. Children at schools are told by well meaning teachers to go to the central hallway in a severe storm, as if the hallway is going to save them. We have all been told by well meaning nominds that hiding in a closet, bathroom, or hallway in our homes will save us when the roof comes off and the walls are all blown away. In Enterprise, AL, the school children had a warning before dying in the tornado. They followed the common advice and hid in the hallway of the school. Many of them died when the walls failed and the heavy roof materials landed on their heads. Did the school have a storm cellar? Nope. Did the school hallway protect them? Nope. Did the School District officials ask for a school design that would protect their children? Nope! Does the building code require buildings to be safe for families and children in expected storms? Nope? Are architects, engineers, and construction contractors selected for providing safe buildings? Nope! Are architects, engineers, and construction officials punished in any way when their building fails and kills children? Nope!

Last December Bob wrote about the malfeasance of utility company managers who construct utility systems that are designed to fail in the first storm that happens. When that article was written there were 2 million people suffering through winter blizzards without electricity to run even their gas or oil heaters. Something like 50 people died or hypothermia, carbon monoxide and other immediate causes as a result of the failure of the electric system. Since that time there have been millions more Americans in other parts of the country who's part of the electric power system failed during other winter storms. Utility systems that come apart and fail when needed the most are unacceptable. Buildings which are designed to fail in the first severe storm are also unacceptable, and when children are killed they are criminal.

You may believe that buildings just can't stand up to expected severe storms. That is nonsense. Many people believe that all buildings fail in tornadoes, but that is only because the construction industry has such a long history of malfeasance and unacceptably shoddy construction. Thirty years ago Bob read an article in a construction industry magazine which reported on design research conducted at a midwestern university. According to the research, additional structural components amounting to only about 5% of the total cost of the home, would prevent the home from being blown away in a tornado. Structural engineering is not a black art or a mysterious science. All you really have to do is to tell the engineer, architect, and builder that you want your home, office, warehouse, or school to be designed to survive and protect people during a tornado. Roofs have to be securely fastened right through to the foundations anchors in the ground. Walls have to be joined together securely, and the joints between major components have to be made such that they develop the whole structural strength of the components. Most buildings that fail in tornadoes come apart at the connections, and the whole roof or wall then becomes a sail. A building held together is a strong structural box, but when its joints fail it becomes so many individual pieces. You can conduct an experiment at home to demonstrate this feature. Take a cardboard shipping box. If it's sealed up and taped closed the average adult can climb up and stand on it. Cut a couple of the corners with a box knife and it folds flat or crumples under much less weight. In the news video from Enterprise, AL, the steel trusses that once held up the school roof were still whole, but no longer held in place. The pieces had not failed, they had come apart from each other at the connections, and fallen on the children.

Structural engineers who design 50 or 100 story buildings, stadiums, bridges, and other large structures do extensive analysis to ensure that they survive severe windstorms. Engineers and builders who design and construct homes and schools do not design for storm survival. They use common construction techniques as specified in the Building Code, and which do not protect the building in the coming storm. Apparently our homes, schools, and children are throwaways. They are only expected to live until the next severe storm. Bob calls it criminal malfeasance of their duty.

Building codes for residential and commercial construction, including schools, is specified by a committee of "building officials" who turn out to be industry moguls who profit by producing cheaply made gingerbread buildings where appearance counts more than strength or the safety of our children. The average citizen really doesn't know if his house will survive a tornado and doesn't know what to ask for, nor whom to ask. The average citizen could demand storm survival engineering, but doesn't know he needs it. The building officials, architects, structural engineers, and construction contractors do know, or should know. Their failure to specify, design, and construct buildings that survive and protect the occupants is criminal malfeasance of their professional duty. If a building fails in a storm the cost of replacement should be billed to the architect, engineer, or builder who designed it. The good ones have insurance for mistakes and omissions, but the cost of their failure is rarely billed back to them. They build shoddy, designed to fail, homes, offices, stores, and schools because they save a buck today and someone else, an unsuspecting owner (sucker) 5 years later, will pay the cost of failure.

Mobile homes are even worse than site built homes. They are constructed according to standards set by a committee of mobile home manufacturers, and the driving standard design criteria is "cheaper is better." It doesn't even take a big tornado to rip apart a mobile home, just a strong wind will do it. We see news stories showing acres of destruction where mobile home parks once stood. Once again the cost of the expected destruction is paid by the suckers. The designers and manufacturers are protected from the failures of their known inadequate designs. They design for cheap. They know it will fail in the first storm, and that someone else will have to pay for their malfeasance of duty. Minimal product quality standards ought to require adequate design, and adequate strength for expected weather conditions. The cost of a wind destroyed mobile home should be summarily billed to its manufacturer. When a child is killed by the failure of a mobile home's design and construction, such as the girl who died last night, the CEO of the manufacturer and his chief designer ought to be summarily hanged without waiting for further investigation or trial. Manufacturing quality in the mobile home industry would improve rapidly.

When a building, utility, or other structure fails during a storm the immediate cause might be the storm, but the underlying cause is a failure to design and construct adequately to meet expected storms. The cost of failure needs to be billed back to the criminals who specify and design unacceptable buildings, not paid by an unsuspecting owner who was sold inadequate products by designers who ought to know better. If the home that was blown away generally met the legally required Building Code, then half the cost should be divided between the International Code Council, Inc., who is responsible for writing inadequate building codes, and the local building officials who adopted and required by law the inadequate code. The other half should be paid by the builder who relied on inadequate codes without ensuring that his building was sufficiently strong to withstand expected storms. For public buildings such as schools, the public officials have a duty to ensure that the buildings are specified and designed to survive expected storms. By insulating those responsible for inadequate building construction from the cost of their failures and shoddy work we encourage them to continue providing us with inadequate buildings. We have set up a system that virtually guarantees dead children every time there is a storm. If the cost and punishment for shoddy buildings was billed back to the designers and others responsible they would rapidly start specifying, designing and constructing buildings and utilities which would survive and protect us from the weather.

When children are killed by the collapse of a building the architect, engineer, and builder should be summarily hanged along with the School Board. All of them failed in their professional duty to ensure that the building they designed, constructed or purchased was adequate for the safety of the students. Their malfeasance and/or dereliction of duty caused the deaths of many children, and should be severely punished.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those contractors must be impaled.

March 02, 2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Good suggestion. I'm sure that there will be plenty of splintery boards in the wrekage.

March 02, 2007 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Mexico, the houses are made of concrete. The roofs have so much re-bar in them one can't walk on it before they pour the cement. In the hurricane a few years ago, in Playa Del Carmen (or Cancun) the buildings suffered window and contents damage. (That is, they replaced broken windows and doors, and put in new furniture and opened the hotels for business in a few weeks.

Yet, in New Orleans, billions of dollars worth of buildings were totally disintegrated. They still haven't got lots of houses livable again, and probably never will.

I have thought a lot about what you have said. Here is the US, one of the richest countries in the world, and a storm wipes it all out. In Mexico, allegedly the Third World, a major storm is a minor setback.

Along the ocean there in Louisiana, or in Mississippi, they know they will eventually have hurricane, but people put their entire life savings into a cracker box. If they build houses of reinforced concrete like here in Mexico, then designed in insulation, which is a minor technical problem, there would be few homeless after a hurricane.

My house here in rural Mexico could ALMOST survive an atomic bomb, as long as it's not at ground zero.

By the way, my house is also designed to survive earthquakes.

Anonymous age 64

March 02, 2007 8:04 PM  
Anonymous C said...

No Mercy.

No pity for the stupid.

March 11, 2007 11:12 AM  

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