I have a hard time with my ‘elevator speech’ about the Cement Trust.  For me it is one of those things that defies the simple description/explanation.  Having said that, I’ll give it a go anyway…. well not exactly an elevator speech, but a brief outline of the Cement Trust.

The Cement Trust is the brainchild of Bruce Christensen, the General manager of Cart-Away Concrete Systems in McMinnville, Oregon.  On January 12, 2010, in the area surrounding Port Au Prince, Haiti, literally thousands of buildings collapsed after a relatively mild earthquake (6.9 on the Richter Scale), killing almost 300,000 and making well over a million homeless.  Very poor quality concrete and poor construction methods produced buildings with barely enough strength to hold up their own weight, but definitely too weak to withstand the forces of the earthquake.  The people of Haiti lost all faith in structures made of concrete.  They did not trust cement based construction.

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thanks to WTNH.com

thanks to WTNH.com

Bruce started up a WordPress blog, Cement Trust, which soon had hundreds reading and commenting on his many posts.  Bruce’s purpose was to shine a light on the worldwide problem of poor quality concrete, especially in the poorest countries of the world.  Outside of the developed economies, concrete is typically mixed with shovels on the ground with almost no consistency and usually more water and less cement that is needed to make a suitable structural material.

Within months, literally hundreds of charities had ‘invaded’ Haiti and were attempting to rebuild the nation.  Though most were well meaning, they were doing little more than setting up the next disaster.  Most are mixing concrete with shovels on the ground, using too much water and too little cement in the mix and are creating the same poor quality concrete that was at the heart of the 2010 disaster.  Though many people are working on the issue individually, there is little recognition of the significance of the problem.

In places like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, building collapse is such a common event, it is treated like we treat fender-bender auto accidents.   They don’t warrant mention in the press.  India has literally dozens of building collapses involving fatalities each year.  In poor areas of the world, human life is not as valued as in the developed nations and living with dangerous structures seems just natural, part of life (and death).

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from livedifferent.com

from livedifferent.com

It is interesting that Concrete is the second most used commodity on earth, after water, and yet almost no one gives it a second thought.  Some cities have raging debates about whether or not to flouridate water.  Drinking water quality is a major concern in much of Africa and literally dozens of major non-profits are addressing the issue.  However, do an internet search for non-profits working to rid the world of poor quality concrete and you will likely find none.

Bruce had talked with hundreds of concerned individuals and many concerned companies, and agencies over the past three years and determined that what was needed now was some action.  Early this year he began the planning for the Cement Trust Symposium, a meeting of thought leaders on the subject who would plot a course of action determined to cure the world’s poorest concrete.

My bet is that you knew little about this problem.  I hope to post the results of the symposium within a couple of weeks.  It was a two day gathering of some of the brightest and most committed people you could ever meet and I think a plan is evolving from it that will make it possible to: “Improve the Quality of Cement-based Products in Developing Countries” (the Cement Trust Mission as developed at the Symposium).

Follow this blog for more on this.

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