Start from Scratch — Use Steel

The immense destruction in 2017 caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean continues to be in the news. It is impossible to comprehend the scale of the losses. Several of these island were scoured, stripped of most buildings and even vegetation. Irma is considered the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history; worse still, climatologists predict more of these Cat. 4 & Cat. 5 (185 mph) storms in the future. More lives lost, and more billions of dollars in damage.

It is certainly high time to re-think how buildings, especially houses, are constructed. If not now, when? The New York Times ran a story earlier this month on the destruction on St. Martin: “Battling Over Where, of Whether, to Rebuild After Storms.” Evaluating WHERE to rebuild is certainly an important question, but WHETHER to rebuild is not an option in most instances. Folks in the Caribbean, for the most part, do not have a choice on whether to rebuild. These islands are their home.

Thus, the key question becomes, WHAT MATERIAL TO USE? Re-building much of the Caribbean should be approached as a special opportunity to do it right. Indeed, several of the most devastated islands have to start from scratch. The only answer is to use STEEL, with all the benefits it offers, as I’ve discussed previously.

I will repeat that there is nothing threatening to local trades or customs about HabiTek’s approach to building with steel. Assembling pre-engineered, prefabricated, and pre-punched steel framework is (in most instances) a DIY proposition. I appreciate that steel is considered “exotic” to many, and expensive. But steel is ubiquitous over most of the planet and, if an economy-of-scale is reached, affordable.

Yes, HabiTek’s steel components would initially need to be imported to the islands. No big issue here: most, if not all, of the building materials used in the Caribbean are imported, primarily in the form of dimensional wood framing. By now, it should be apparent that wood framing simply won’t stand up to major hurricanes.

Puerto Rico is the leading candidate to set-up a steel facility to fabricate HabiTek’s kit of parts. Puerto Rico is centrally located in the region, and already has some steel fabrication operations in place. Producing HabiTek’s components would launch a new industry and aid in recovery from Hurricane Maria. Eventually, the island could become a distribution center for shipping parts to nearby islands desperate to rebuild.

This is a brief outline of an ambitious and transformative plan, worthy of the challenges being faced. HabiTek welcomes inquiries from folks in Puerto Rico interested in discussing next steps, and we are open to licensing our strong building technology and know-how to entities established to benefit the islands.

Consider R. Buckminster Fuller’s admonition (included on our home page): “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” Let’s learn from the past, and together create a new model.