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Damage To The US Embassy Buildings In Haiti

I heard a reporter this morning tell the story of entering the capitol city and witness the damage of all the buildings they passed.  Then, almost off hand, he said they passed the largest American Embassy building and saw that it was intact, "without any visible damage."  That's all he said about it.

That was very interesting to me!

I have done some research during the day.  Most buildings in the capitol have collapsed, including various embassies from around the world, a cathedral, the dictator's palace, etc.  Most residential housing is rubble.  The building techniques there involve concrete blocks (which some call cinder blocks) and corrugated tin roofs.  In residential areas they have the tendency to stack these "houses" on top of each other.  They are not strengthened with metal rods or concrete inside the walls.  So when they collapse, not only do these houses crumble, but badly and concrete blocks are very deadly.  Apparently there are few building codes or standards.

The very new US embassy compound is a 10-acre campus with various buildings. They moved into the buildings in 2009.

During the day the only indication I have been able to find of damage to any building is described as "slight."  The surrounding wall also sustained "minor damage."

It is being used now to treat injured American citizens who have made their way there for safety in the now very dangerous city.

So, how come all the other buildings around have serious damage or have collapsed and our compound not?

We home inspectors often tell people that building codes are "minimum standards."  And they are.

But they are STANDARDS!  And a floor from which construction can be made better.

Now obviously our buildings there are made to handle a possible terrorist blast, and probably have bullet-proof windows, as well as other things.  They are probably stronger than average buildings.  But our commercial building codes are even more stringent than our residential codes and for sure our architecture, building techniques and materials worked to make our buildings there safe, even in the face of a 7.3 earthquake.  For sure, the "code" was employed as the floor of the standards used to construct our buildings.

I find this to be significant and indicative of who we are as a society and a nation.

While we hope for the best for this beleaguered nation and people, this circumstance is obviously very, very bad.  And again, because we are who we are as a society and a nation, we will certainly be the biggest fountain of aid.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 19 commentsJay Markanich • January 15 2010 02:40PM

Comments

Iam glad our emabssy stood the quake well and I agree with you about what it says about our buidling standards. My heart goes out tho those folks who are not as fortunate as us

Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros (AllMountainRealty.com) over 9 years ago

As does mine Charlie.  Thank you.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I to have been watching the news about Haiti and have seen the destruction.  On one news cast that I watched they talked about this very thing with a structural engineer who said pretty much the same thing that you did, that the poor building practices in Haiti attributed to the destruction in that country.

Posted by Kirk Dirksen (Assist-2-Sell S.D.R.E) over 9 years ago

I have heard and read the same thing Kirk.  It is ashame and speaks for employing solid principles when doing things, actually everything!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

The devastation is beyond belief.  It's a very good thing US citizens have a safe place to go.

Posted by Jeff Craig, Greensboro Area Real Estate Photography (Hang Me Up Photos) over 9 years ago

Thanks for the info Jay and the point of view.  I was in Port au Prince a long time ago (USN) and I can't imagine the after effects of an earthquake on a city like that. My prayers go out to the inhabitants.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 9 years ago

Jay, like you say, minimum standards are better than no standards at all.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Jeff - and with apparently very little harm...  I have heard of one American death.  The devastation is amazing however.

Jack - as do mine.  The Navy is there now too.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Charlie - a starting point is just that.  And a good start to say the least.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay, very insightful.  Just look as a comparison to the much smaller amounts of destruction done to buildings and infrastructure components in a city like San Francisco during some of the big earthquakes that it has experienced.

Posted by Brian Block, Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate (RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President) over 9 years ago

Yes, Brian, those buildings have less destruction because we take the time and effort to make buildings safer.  We are always studying, and improving and trying to take care of our people.  We try to treat our citizens as best we can.  Hence codes.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay,

Excellent observations and description. Tragic that so many other buildings were not built to withstand something like this. :)

Steve

Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) over 9 years ago

Well, it is Steve.  It speaks well for our economic system and interest in doing things well.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay,

Having our buildings survive is also a metaphor for our strength as a country. Featured in "Celebrating Free Enterprise." Congratulations. :)

Steve

Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) over 9 years ago

Thank you Steve.  I am glad you caught that.  That was my intention.  I think it metaphorical in many ways...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I don't believe that the people in Haiti want poor buildings, to over simply it's a matter of their economy. We are fortunate to live in a country where the economy allows for the building of well built structures. We have a system in place that enforces the standards a large majority of the time. These tragedies happen all over the world time and again for the same reasons. It's very unfortunate.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

Agreed James.  The American Embassy there processes 100,000 visitors a day wanting visas to the US.  There are many reasons for that!

On the other hand, these are people intentionally kept in poverty by a string of dictators angling for control.  They share the same island with the Dominican Republic, virtually the same colonial past, and the same historical culture and background.  Yet Haiti and The Dominican Republic are very, very different places.

Unfortunate may not be a strong enough word.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I am glad our embassy is there and there was a caveat on our $$$ being sent there that they would use our workers and expertise to re-build the area * it could get $ to our construction workers AND be an on-the-job training opportunity for the local men for them to learn skills for employment!!!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 9 years ago

Interestingly too, Wallace, there are two Mormon Church buildings there as well which were constructed by American standards (or church standards).  That church sent teams of doctors there and one of their buildings was used as a hospital/surgical center and the other as a recovery center for those treated by them. 

The people will all certainly learn skills for employment in various ways now.  The place is still devastated, of course, but notice how it has been disregarded by the press.  Not an interesting topic anymore.  Or, they don't need it to divert attention from what is going on here...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

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