7 March 2012

Theme 5: Steel and scale: quantity and density

Jim Kennedy: “On the one hand we need to support people who will be involved in reconstruction of their houses, but we need to do this to significant scale. We need responses that can respond to the sheer scale of the need while still taking the individual needs of families into account.”
After disasters, the humanitarian community is only able to assist a percentage of the affected population, and a large portion of people are left to build back on their own. This is not bound to improve, considering the increasing occurrence of disasters and an increasingly complex response context. Steel as a material allows for interventions on great scale more easily than many other materials.
There is a fundamental tension between the desire to produce standardized products and products that are context specific. The sheer scale of humanitarian response validates the need to produce large quantities. Caroline Henrotay, in her research and presentation, tries to reconcile this with the fact that the reality undeniably requires solutions fit to a specific context.
Except for quantity, it is also in terms of density that steel has an advantage in comparison to more debated materials and techniques for humanitarian sheltering. Growing urban and suburban areas, more prone to disaster, can harbour more industrial construction processes more easily. On the other hand, the preciseness and strength of steel allows building multiple stories. The humanitarian world hasn’t come far yet in developing how best to deal with disasters in dense areas, and the myriad of possible solutions is still to be unravelled.


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