7 March 2012

Theme 2: 'Malleability' of steel

Steel can also be used in a very 'malleable' way (literally as figuratively). The two sessions on retro-fitting (Bill Flinn and Michal Sladek) proved the fact that steel can be part of an integrated locally driven preparedness, response and recovery process, avoiding introduction of pre-fabrication or import all together. The scoping study made in preparation to the conference shows examples of metal pieces used to reinforce existing structures, ranging from scrap metal to measure fit thick steel plates.
Rather than offering complete sheltering solutions, retro-fitting addresses the structural improvement of the already built, or, by extension, what has only been damaged by the disaster. Bill Flinn made a case about the importance of repair after disaster, and prevention before.

Issues of liability in that respect were highlighted during the discussion. Milton Funes: “Retrofitting is not the priority when it comes to disaster response, and on the ground we think twice about this because of the liability that is associated with this.” One possible other way of looking at it, is to measure comparative structural improvement due to retro-fitting rather than focusing on a specific structural standard to be achieved by retro-fitting.
Perhaps something else to highlight under this theme, were some of the producer displays that brought steel closer to local production and combination with local materials. One producer for example presented a mobile steel producing factory that could be used temporarily in a disaster context, producing exactly what is suitable in that context. Other producers spoke of their own decentralised production, and local (by-) products, that from a humanitarian perspective becomes ‘local’ production.
This theme perhaps also ties in to the difference between a ‘technique’ and a ‘product’. Many producers work towards developing an all-encompassing solution to the sheltering problem, and that is often a complete housing solution, a ‘house’. It is not only in respect to the process of sheltering that this is often not preferable, it is also when one considers retro-fitting and repair options that new techniques gain relevance for humanitarian sheltering.

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