CIAPR: Repairs slated for schools won’t solve infrastructure problem

By John McPhaul

Engineers and Land Surveyors Association of Puerto Rico (CIAPR by its Spanish initials) President Juan Alicea Flores warned on Monday that the repair work for public schools described in the bidding announcements of the government Infrastructure Financing Authority will not solve the problem of seismic vulnerability of the schools and will only work as a palliative in many cases.

“It is a historic loss of opportunity to invest significant amounts of money and not obtain the maximum possible structural security,” Alicea said. “In 1987 a code was passed with the appropriate seismic requirements for the modern era. Therefore, focusing on schools built prior to 1987 allows us to optimize the budget and achieve a true seismic strengthening project.”

“The process of achieving effective improvements must consider at least an advanced understanding of how to provide new structural qualities to a seismically obsolete building,” noted engineer Féliz Rivera, who chairs the CIAPR’s Earthquake Commission.

“Identifying the structural vulnerability of schools solely based on the presence of the short column condition is oversimplifying a problem that is much more complex,” Rivera added. “With these auctions, citizens are lulled into a false sense of security.”

The engineers warned that if the overall condition of the structure of each school is not fully understood, the actions to be taken to reinforce them and their costs cannot be determined.

“It is a mistake that [the projects at] all schools are being put up for auction at the same time since we do not have enough contractors, labor and materials in Puerto Rico to do so,” Alicea said. “This will cause a logjam of projects, and increase the cost of the auctions and the non-fulfillment of the objectives.”

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