Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Building Safety

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"Safety measures." You're probably tsk, tsking, thinking, "If only..."

If only those backwards Pakistanis had modern regulations, things like lighted exit signs and unlocked emergency exits, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and building code fire regulations.

Here's my "If only..." If only people would build their structures out of non-flammable materials, like concrete. I don't know of a single building code in God's America that forbids building with flammable sticks. I'm like, Hello! Anybody home?

Posted by Dave

14 comments:

  1. I know of people who have been maimed and injured in cave accidents. The simple and most effective solution to this style of injustice, is to have the managers office, the highest person ranking with the company, with authority to spend money, in the most hazardous location of a working structure. Deemed by international law. And like the capitan of the vessle, sinking, is the last one out.

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    1. Hi James,

      Caves are certainly dangerous places.

      I think it would be a bad idea to put the person with authority to write checks in a dangerous place. The widows of the workers will need their last paycheck.

      Dave

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  2. Your photography is really gorgeous! I commented on your comment at Bustedknuckles and suggested you were trolling. Perhaps that is unfair, or perhaps a great photog can still miss the mark in other areas of thought. Who knows. Your suggestion that we give up wood as a building material is absurd, however, and is not at all a reasonable comparison to a factory with grossly unsafe working conditions. In my home state a few years ago a similar fire happened in a turkey processing plant, and many people were killed because the exits were blocked. The combustible material was primarily grease, not wood. Pretty hard to process turkeys without producing grease, so a sensible governmental policy would be to have some regulations about safely dealing with it. And those regulations would have to be enforced. Anyways... great photos.

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    1. Hi Fiddlin,

      Thanks for your kind words. About half of the photos here were taken by my wife. I'll relay the compliments.

      As for the Busted comment, thanks for reconsidering my status as troll. I love Busted like a brother. He's one of the best writers on the Innertubes. I was just making comment in my own clumsy fashion.

      I stand by my comments about wood. And I also think that when government regulations or corporate safety rules supplant individual thought, workers follow orders instead of thinking for themselves. Not a good thing.

      Dave

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    2. As a stone mason (and general foundation builder) for 30 years, I grew to love concrete and rebar. Nonetheless, it is patently absurd to talk about eschewing wood as a building material. Wood is a wonderful building material, and it's flamability is not particularly a problem as long as people don't build chimneys out of wood. Why not ban electricity from buildings, since electricity causes many of the building fires in the US (trailers and otherwise). Workers in a factory learned (historically) to organize and strike when conditions became utterly intolerable. For strikes to be effective, the labor market must be significantly in the "seller's" favor. This is why Republicans, the party of owners, are not unhappy to have high unemployment, or to ship labor overseas (such as to the factory in Pakistan). If the situation is such that a complaining worker is simply fired and someone more desperate is hired in his place, bad industrial workplace conditions will exist. It's not about "individual thought." It's about power. Check out the great documentary film "Harlan County, USA." Everyone is not in an economic position to just go off to some other job.

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    3. Hi Fiddlin,

      I would never be so presumptuous as to tell you what you may or may not build your house with. However, I stand by my OPINION that wood is a lousy and unsafe building material, and its flammability and strength are most definitely a huge problem. As a union carpenter, I have experience with a lot of different materials. Wood blows.

      Ban electricity because wood is flammable? I think that's called a non-sequitur.

      If you are not able to exercise individual judgement, if you are not in an economic position to get another job, if you have no option but to work in a factory with blocked exits, then you are a slave by definition. May your shackles hang lightly.

      On a political note, I see no difference between the two political parties, and if you do, then by all means, keep voting for your favorite whip holder who promises a tailored enslavement. But think about that in the still watches of the night, when you wonder what the hell is wrong with this country.

      Dave

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    4. The facts, i.e., political reality, are that we have but two political parties, D and R, and that each nominate a candidate for President every four years. Our simple choice is thus to vote for the D or R. Any other so called, alleged alternative, is fantasy and illusion and nothing more. A non-vote tends to help one candidate or the other. Same with some "third party" vote. There are no real third parties in our system. So, I conclude that when you post pictures of Obama and Romney and suggest that there is no choice, you are consciously or not, dissembling, because people who think you're correct may decide not to vote, which will probably help one guy or the other, but not the guy they might otherwise have chosen. This is not to say that the two political parties are not both corrupt. But in politics corruption is not an absolute. The implications for, e.g., the next appointments to the Supreme Court, differ greatly depending on who wins in November. (Without Bush there would have been no John Roberts and thus no Citizens United decision.) There's a good chance the implications re a pending war with Iran also differ. I'm sure you could think of other important difference too, if you were to move slightly away from your conviction that they're all the same.

      I can't believe you are serious in your tirade re wood. Banning wood is as absurd as banning electricity. That is why my suggestion is not beside the point. Wood is a terrific building material. It is renewable, it can be worked with simple tools such as even hand saws, hammer and nails, it can be shaped, it is strong enough to build huge houses and buildings with, not to mention musical instruments and furniture. Its resilience in some cases makes it much better than masonry (including concrete). I've lived in a log cabin for over 30 years, heating primarily with wood--no fires, no problems of any kind, and the cabin was over 100 years old when I moved it to its present location, stacked it back up, and moved in for a cost of less than $5 K. Compare that to concrete and steel if you care to. Wood is great.

      And, of course, I'm not at all suggesting that concrete or steel be banned. All these building materials are quite compatible. Foundations should not be made of wood (unless you're at the beach and are driving salt or copper napthanate pilings into sand). Exteriors of buildings are great when made of concrete (I've worked on several jobs with concrete siding; it was pretty neat stuff although it required special saws and produced harmful dust when sawn.) I'd be all for concrete shingles on roofs where there was not much likelihood of falling objects--I"ve seen wonderful roofs made of tile shingles in various places in Europe, and they would beat wood shingles to hell. And also, for that matter, metal roofing (which I have on my cabin)--my roof is rusting away after 30 years, and replacement sheets are tremendously higher than they were originally.

      So just sayin'--the idea of removing wood from the vocabulary of building materials is just plain absurd. Which of course doesn't at all speak to your "right" to assert such a thing.

      Your use of "slave" is rather, um, glib. Perhaps you are a Marxist? I can attest that being a small subcontractor is wonderful as long as there's work, but the small subcontractor is not in charge of creating that general economic situation, as I found out in the fall of '08. Good for you if you can keep finding work on your own, and at fair pay. If you're still working union jobs, you are living in a place that allows unions to thrive. Good on that front too. It ain't where I live.

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  3. Hi Bill,

    OK, well I'm glad you like wood as a structural material. I hope you keep several fire extinguishers handy, and spray poison on the foundation to keep the termites out, and watch the weather channel for tornadoes and hurricanes, and don't freak out if you see a little mold here and there, and if you feel an earthquake, or a forest fire approaches, run like hell AWAY from your "shelter." Every man must choose the better from the worse, in his own way. Good luck to you.

    My next house(a few years off) will have some Wrightian stone masonry, and I think you would be a splendid choice to do the work. I'll bet your ideological passion carries over into your trade.

    I remain,
    Dave, the absurd, Marxist troll

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  4. Actually, a wooden house will do better in an earthquake because it can move. Masonry structures are more rigid and thus tend to collapse. You live in a very special sort of structure it sounds like--a hole in the ground. I have no idea about its resistance to shakes. Probably depends on the engineering of the reinforcing you put into the concrete. I expect your structure is a great idea in a blazing hot desert, and will also use the earth's temperature to keep you either cool or warm. I grew up with a basement. Here in the east, water is sometimes an issue. Not in the Mojave I don't expect. As I said, I have no problem at all with concrete or other masonry products, or with steel, including rebar reinforcing. I am just saying that the various current building materials all have a place, not that any are required. Seems like your list of calamities is just stuff that might happen to any of us. Do you think hunkering down in your bunker would save you from a big forest fire--I thought forest fires sucked the oxygen out of the environment. Got a self-contained oxygen supply there in the bunker, Dave? Mold? Dampness encourages mold. Shower walls contract mold. Shower stalls are.... masonry.

    I was hoping you'd speak to the seeming contradiction between being a union man and a libertarian. You mentioned being a union carpenter. That means you benefit from a collective effort to make employers pay "living wages." Seems to me that the fundamental goal of owners is to reduce their costs, and if nothing counters that goal, we all end up working (if at all) in worse and worse conditions. Over the past half century unions in this country have been steadily weakened. In my state, the process is far advanced. (See my post on the Hamlet Chicken Plant fire of 1991, or read the Lawrence Naumoff book I cited, or just look up Hamlet Chicken Plant fire on the google.)

    I hold the view that some stuff is just pretty much reality--such as the D/R choice in politics. Who do you plan to vote for? (You don't need to tell me.) What are the consequences of not voting at all, or of voting for some 3rd no-chance choice. Is there any real difference of consequence between the latter two "choices."

    No doubt one reason you live in the Mojave is for the sky. You're fortunate to have such an environment.

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    1. Hi Bill,

      Good points, all. For some reason, Blogger doesn't alert me when you comment. I only noticed because I checked my comments just now.

      Imagine a concrete box pulling a blanket of earth over its shoulders. That's my house. Of course it's insulated and waterproofed. I have 73 tons of rebar in that concrete box. It should last quite a while. Whether or not it'll withstand an earthquake is something a far-in-the-future owner will find out. (Side note: Weren't the flattened Haiti earthquake structures wooden?) I have no experience with forests. I've always lived in the desert. Still, even without proof, I feel that a concrete box won't burn to the ground. Even if you had to flee because of smoke, your house would still be there when you returned. I like your idea of an oxygen supply. Preps! As for forest fires sucking the oxygen out, fire is impossible without oxygen, so there must still be plenty of O2 even in a forest fire.

      I'm not averse to risk. I do, however, think that people should shoulder their own burdens when they take on unnecessary risk. That goes for hikers caught in a storm as well as residents of a trailer park in the path of a tornado. Risking the lives of rescuers or expecting taxpayers to foot the bill is immoral.

      I'm union because every man needs an agent to negotiate the best price--look at movie stars and sports people. But you won't ever see me walking a picket line, and I don't hesitate to quit a job that doesn't fit me. And aren't we all "owners?"

      I don't vote. I see no difference between D & R. Both deserve ridicule. Voting only encourages them.

      Dave

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    2. If you read about earthquake damage around the world you will find that in most cases a great deal of the damage, including loss of life, is the result of collapsed masonry structures. This is true in Haiti as it is in Iran, China, Romania, Pakistan, San Francisco (remember those collapsed concrete roadways in '89), etc. Not to say that wooden structures can always withstand an earthquake, and of course they are vulnerable to fires after a quake ruptures a gas line. Frisco burned down after the big quake of the early 20th Century. But as noted earlier, fire is not excluded from the list of dangers when you avoid wood--there are usually combustibles in any inhabited structure, including probably yours, unless your furniture is also concrete. Ever been to Vancouver? That's another earthquake prone city, and there they have constructed a high-rise building that hangs in a sling and can sway in tremors. But high tech solutions are mostly for the rich I think. The reason why a lot of masonry structures collapse is lack of reinforcing, which of course makes them cheaper to build.

      I'm not knocking your structure at all, anyways. Sounds really neat, and literally cool. Re not voting, I understand that way of looking at the passing cavalcade. I'd only say that like it or not, we live in a governmental system that, in our case, is in some sense a democracy. It seems to me that there is always a choice of better or worse, or at least usually, and historically. In an election between Mitt Romney and, say, George Wallace, I'd likely take your view. In the coming election, simply the one consequence re the Supreme Court and the two candidates' likely nominees to future vacancies spurs me to the voting booth. I do not at all deny that money rigs the game greatly, and in ways we don't really know about or understand clearly.

      You should rent "Harlan County USA" sometime. It describes the stark realities of union/management which are mostly masked, in the US, these days. It also doesn't pull punches about the nature of victory. Unions "negotiate the best price" because behind the talk is the picket line and the strike. Otherwise it's a bluff. In a lot of places right now the bluff is being called. See, e.g., Scott Walker's efforts in Wisconsin. Or for that matter, Ronald Reagan's destruction of the Air Traffic Controllers Union. Look how fast doctrinaire anti-union Republicans have flipped over the NFL Referee's situation--why? Because it's a seller's market, and the scabs were not producing good product. This is an economic law: in a glutted labor market full of desperate people, unions have very little power. In my opinion, the Republican Party's goal is such a condition for working people in the United States, generally. It is what they work tirelessly for, year in, year out. Big money is working to make the same true of the Democratic Party. I don't believe the Democrats have quite fallen so far--and that's another reason to pull the D lever. Which I will certainly do this November.

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  5. Oh, re not voting, staying above the fray, etc... Here's a link on the subject, embedded in the piece by Tbogg herein linked, if you get my drift:

    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2012/09/28/sanctimonious-in-california/

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  6. I'll go away now for a while, but here's an interesting counter to the previous link, and it comes from a fantastic source I highly recommend to anyone who has doubts:
    http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/09/28/rebecca-solnits-mirror/

    Emptywheel is one of the best sources for independent analysis on the web, day in and day out.

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  7. OK Bill, good points again, and thanks for the links.

    Dave

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All comments are welcome.