7 March 2012

Theme 4: The cost and value of steel

Another issue that perhaps is particular to the use of steel is its generally higher cost. The cost of steel thus does not only impact in terms of how to best spend a sheltering budget. The remaining cost, when the shelter becomes the home of a family, often impacts equally. This issue can have a positive as well as a negative impact; another issue to be ‘mediated’.

Milton Funes report on the CHF sheltering experience in Haiti revealed that people receiving a steel frame shelter were more inclined to invest own funds into the further fitting and upgrading of their shelter than people who had received a wooden frame structure. In that sense, using steel could increase a shelter’s ‘capacity to transition’. But, examples where steel elements are taken out of constructions for the monetary value of the material (or lack of understanding of the role of the steel pieces in the structure) are not rare.
Jim Kennedy: The choices that people make are often quite rational – even though we don’t think so they are right for them. They will take risks that perhaps we would never take, for example removing frames from their house to make money. We need to ask ourselves are we there imposing our very fixed ideas on them?” Cost and quality are often interrelated, finding a balance is crucial.
One of the discussions brought forth the idea that steel structure shelters could be used by the households as collateral for loans. None of the participants had seen examples in the field of this so far. It was however agreed that the worth of steel impacts on the household economy, when steel gets a certain sell-off value in an existing or emerging steel market.

Jean Lamesch: “’in the private sector, prices of steel are known, therefore there should not be any insecurity for humanitarian actors to understand whether the price they pay is acceptable or not.” Still, humanitarians struggle with the price of steel. There have been instances that the prices of steel artificially exploded because humanitarians had little power to object, due to the fact they really needed steel, but also due to lack of understanding of how price setting in the steel sector works.


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