Haiti will be paying too much for rubble removal

The Interim Haitian Recovery Commission is about to close its call for proposals for rubble removing contractors

They estimate that it will cost 44 million US dollars per millions cubic meters to remove the rubble and expect to remove 2 million cubic meters by the end of this year. At US $44 million, that is a lot of money when considering the low Haitian wages.

Demolition contractors are the logical choice for such a task but demolition experts are not experts in disaster recovery. In fact, Randal Perkins of Ashbritt, a company that has extensive experience in post disaster cleanup after having tackled the New Orleans flood damage says that the situation in Port-au-Prince is very different.

Given that the situation in Haiti is different and that traditional ways may not work, it now becomes important to try a new approach to rubble removal. This is when creative thinking comes in says Gilles Boulanger of Creatinc, a Canadian based company that coaches employees on how to be more creative. Mr. Boulanger is also an award winning inventor and he believes he has the solution to the rubble removal situation in Haiti. While looking at some photographs of the earthquake, he noticed that Haitians had their faces covered in white dust from the fallen buildings. That reminded him of similar photos from the 9/11 world trade center collapse. In fact, pictures of the World trade center collapse showed streets covered with white dust just like streets covered in snow in winter. Mr. Boulanger recounts this story in the video below.

Overview Rubble Project

Although he had seen the 9/11 pictures nearly a decade ago, the connection clicked when he saw the pictures of the devastation in Haiti in 2010, sparking the similarities between snow and rubble removal.

Growing up in Montreal, Gilles Boulanger is no stranger to the snow removal process The city of Montreal receives more snow than many other cities in the world, including Moscow. As such, over the years they have developed one of the most advanced techniques in the world for tackling the task.

Here are some interesting statistics:

It is estimated that there is between 8 to 10 million cubic meters of debris in Port-au-Prince left after the January 2010 earthquake.

On average, every winter 13.5 million cubic meters of snow is removed from 4,100 km of streets and 6,500 km of sidewalks in Montreal alone.

Last year was an above average year in regards to snowfall in Montreal and yet, it took a total of only 25 working days spread over the 4 months of winter to remove almost twice as much snow as there is debris in Port-au-Prince.

Here is a video that shows how snow removal is done in Montreal :

Snow removal in Montreal

It costs the city of Montreal about US $11 million to remove 1 million cubic meters of snow.

That is considering the high salaries paid in Canada to municipal employees.

Basing the rubble removal method on snow removal, the technicality lies in modifying a snow blower into what Mr. Boulanger calls a “rubble blower”. This proved easier to do than anticipated thanks to a device known has a bucket crusher which can crush rocks and concrete like one chews food.

Here are two videos of bucket crushers in action :

Bucket crushers in action

Econ Machinery Ltd Crushing Power Pole

A bucket crusher can chew 1 cubic meter of rock and concrete per minute.

Here is a photo rendition of what a rubble blower would look like. Notice that a wheel loader identical to the one in the snow removal video above is used but the snow blower portion is replaced by a bucket crusher.

Rubble blower

Here is an illustration of a rubble blower with a series of conveyor belts to move the crushed rubble onto a truck that can be located either at the side or behind the rubble blower.

Illustration of a rubble blower

Given that the city of Montreal with high employee wages can do it for only US $11 Million per million cubic meters, it is forecast that the cost of removal would be much lower for Haiti.

That takes care of the street removal, but what about the demolition itself ?

For that, a stronger emphasis should be put on manual labor. Paying employees $6 per day, which is one dollar more than their current wage would still be translate as extremely economical. Each employee would be fitted with about $US200.00 worth of safety equipment and hand tools and with that, could clear up to 1 cubic meter of rubble per hour working in small teams of 6 to 8, in shifts of 6 hours per day, 6 days per week. There would be two shifts working a total of 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, alternating crews so as to cover all 7 days.

Besides being vastly more efficient in clearing rubble, the “rubble blower” has a key advantage; it crushes the rubble into small aggregate that can be used immediately. Compare that to the proposed plan by the IHRC which requires rubble to be trucked all the way to the Truttier disposal site in order to be crushed and sorted and them trucked back into town to be used where it is needed for road repairs and construction flood control levees, among other uses.

That is where a lot of the cost comes in with all that unnecessary traveling by trucks on bad roads. The IHRC already acknowledges that this is a big problem.

Haitian manual laborUsing the rubble blower, method, Haitian manual labor is used extensively, creating temporary employment and also allowing people to recuperate some of their personal belongings from the collapsed buildings. Clearing demolished buildings was never the problem, in fact Haitians were eager to do so but they were specifically instructed not to throw the rubble in the street. This was done to prevent obstruction of traffic, especially emergency vehicles.

The great benefit of using the rubble blower is that Haitians can once again throw rubble in the street where it will be picked up by the rubble blower.

There are many other advantages to this rubble removal method :

Constantly mobile, the rubble blower does not block traffic, this is proven by the fact that the city of Montreal which has a population equivalent to Port-au-Prince and has far more vehicles per capita than Port-au-Prince can still function even when snow blowers are in operation.

Using mostly manual labor, with the occasional hand from heavy equipment (to knock down a standing wall for example), makes demolition less crowded and allows the separation of personal items, wood, metal, and safe retrieval of human remains.

Separating wood and metal on site allows for local scrap dealers to pick it up and resell it, thus promoting small entrepreneurship.

There are many other details that can be found on the website created specifically for this project. The website has many videos and photos illustrating the many aspects of Mr. Boulanger’s method.

After more than 20 months, Haiti remains politically unstable with a new President who has trouble forming his cabinet and many projects on standby. Even the IHRC has been postponing the closing of its call for proposals (currently pushed until September 6th). There is still no one in charge of rubble removal so it was no easy task for Mr. Boulanger to figure out which organization to present his innovative rubble removal method to. The fact that it is innovative may be the problem because politically based committees tend to be rather conservative in their approach. In the meantime, Haiti may end up paying too much for their rubble removal.

Contact : Mr. Gilles Boulanger - 819 345-7068 - -

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Haiti Live, 09-10-2011