Wednesday December 11, 2013
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I'm sure you were shocked about the collapse of an 8-story concrete building In Bangladesh. So was I--shocked and saddened, but not surprised.
The death toll from last week's collapse now stands at 377, and is expected to rise.
Be glad that you live in this country, where we have better traditions, and better laws. Here come some facts that will shock you out of your mind.
During my days in Pakistan and India I learned something about nations that do not have natural supply of wood, namely that every building you see is made of concrete--or mud bricks.
The Romans, you may be surprised to know built with concrete. Everyone thinks they built with brick, but that's because the outside of their buildings are brick. But Roman buildings are actually concrete. They just used brick to create forms. Inside the brick is concrete. What does that prove? It proves that properly built concrete buildings can stand for thousands of year.
Now let's talk about what they call "concrete" over in India and Pakistan (and somewhere else). Mostly sand, some cement, and a lot of luck. If you were to Google earthquake deaths in those places you'd be shocked to see how often buildings come down like a stack of pancakes, and take everyone in them as they go.
But here's the REAL shocker:
England. 1970. The Air Force on RAF Upper Heyford needs a new building for my outfit. the Brits come and build it.
Hey! Looks good. We work in it for a while. Then someone notices that the plans didn't include a ladies room. Uh-oh!
"No problem," say the Brits, "we'll put one in a jiffy mate."
Same contractor who built the building shows up, goes into men's room, builds two concrete block walls in one corner of the room, making a square box against outside wall and one side wall. We laugh. How dumb can you get? They just built a concrete box. How do you get in or out?
"No-o-o-o problem, mate!"
Brits go out in hallway, draw a rectangle on the solid block wall, take an ordinary wood saw, PUSH it straight through the concrete, and SAW a door through solid concrete blocks. That's right. A plain old wood saw. Not powered. Voopah! Voopah! Voopah! And through we go!
We could not believe our eyes. Then I had an idea. I picked up a dart in the break room and threw it at the wall. It stuck! Right into the concrete! The wall was so soft one of the guys took a butter knife and pushed it into the wall it all the way up to its hilt!
And so I found out where Indians and Pakistanis learned to make concrete.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but I presume London could have been.
Really. Can you imagine what you would do if you had a concrete block wall put up, bumped into it with a kitchen chair, and saw a dent in it?
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