Friday, July 31, 2015

Building in Belize

Imagine what it’s like for a structural engineer to go to a Central American country to help construct a classroom where there’s no real enforcement of building codes or standards. That’s what I just did!

I have been to Holy Cross Anglican School many times in the past, but this was the first time I have actually been involved in the erection of structural components. Our team set a 2 x 4 rafter that was 26 feet long with a splice point at 16 feet from the ridge. It was a hardwood 2 x 4, but it’s remarkable to me that it could span that far and still support the roof and a couple of people. This is standard practice for the area and does not affect life safety, so I jumped in to help build and erect it. The density of the hardwood makes nailing and cutting the wood interesting since most pieces required pre-drilling before nails could be set.

It was definitely a hard week of work, but it keeps me grounded and reminds me of how rough the workers in the field have it (especially those who do not use nail guns!). It is good practice for all engineers to swing a hammer and cut some wood from time to time; it gives us an appreciation that putting things down on paper (or on the computer) is much easier than putting it together in the field.