Sunday, May 25, 2008

China’s Temporary Housing: A Thousand Times Better Than FEMA Trailers

Mere ten days after the terrible earthquake in Sichuan Province, China is well on its way of building 1 million temporary housing. One million temporary homes in three months!

According to China Daily, China plans on building 1-million temporary housing built from modular material by August 10. In their May 22 photo, below, one can see the quality of the housing that China is building, which puts FEMA and the U.S. efforts after Hurricane Katrina to shame.

“China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said Thursday that it had requested local authorities in earthquake-hit areas to build 1 million temporary homes by August 10 to accommodate quake victims of the May 12 earthquake. A circular issued by the ministry said the transitional homes should be either assembled with steel sandwich panels or made of light-weight steel and plywood kit sets. The size of the houses should be about 20 square meters and provide minimum living space for quake victims, it said. They should be capable of withstanding earthquakes and be recyclable after three to five years of use, said the circular.

It also stipulated that local authorities should construct one primary school, one clinic and one retail store for every 1,000 temporary homes. For every 2,000 houses, a middle school should be built, it added.” – China Daily

The picture, below, shows approximately 240 attached modular homes, each containing 20 square meters (approximately 212 SF). When compared to the FEMA trailers, these temporary modular homes look much more like a home.
China has a robust prefab housing industry[i] so the goal of 1-million homes by August 10 is achievable. Moreover, the central government will ensure that there will be none of the blatant corruption and incompetence shown by FEMA with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

According to a NBC Investigative Unit report, FEMA paid approximately $229,000 per trailer and support infrastructure. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators found “the trailers themselves cost only $14,000, but FEMA wasted big money by placing them at a small temporary site built from scratch with huge maintenance costs.” Additionally, “the GAO found that over a seven month period, FEMA made a total of $30 million in improper or fraudulent payments for trailer maintenance alone. The investigators also found examples of phony inspections, rigged bids, and excessive payments.”

We pride ourselves as being the world’s super-power. However, when it comes to providing even the most basic infrastructure support and aid to our own citizens, the U.S. has clearly demonstrated that it is no better than some third-world banana republic.

This will be clearly evident at the Beijing Olympics as the Chinese Government showcases the relief efforts’ successes, including building 1-million temporary homes, schools, hospitals, and other support structures made from recyclable materials. Once that happens, there will be a lot of compare and contrast made in the media between the Chinese’s success and U.S.’ dismal failure, which is still continuing in the Gulf region.

Ed Kim
Practical Risk Manager
[i] Some of the companies that manufacture prefab housing in China are:
Beijing Baofengyuan Steel Structure Engineering Co., Ltd.
Shangyu Silverwood Lightsteel Technology Co., Ltd.
Nantong Huasha Movable House Co., Ltd.
Beijing Chengdong Prefabricated House Co., Ltd.
Conceiving Board-Manufacturing Co., Ltd.

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