Friday, September 16, 2005

Infrastructure anecdotes

Yesterday evening I shot some pool and had a few beers with a friend who owns an industrial construction firm, specifically hi-tech plumbing and electrical. He was late to the bar because he'd come across what he cites as an ever more common occurrence, blue prints which don't match the actual construction. While drilling to pour a footing for a protective post his team hit a coolant line which, according to the blue prints was supposed to be buried 7 feet, instead of the 3.5 feet where he found it. Further exploration showed a host of other inconsistencies all of which suggested that the original contractor had skimped on burying the underground pipes. I Having dug my share of fence posts around here I have a good idea why they tried to skimp. The area is more rock than dirt and getting down the required 7 feet would be much more labor. Besides, out of sight, out of mind-who would know they didn't go deep enough, nobody can see it. According to my friend, he'd much rather work on a site which was built 30 years ago than one built in 1995, the chances of error are much smaller. This isn't to universalize this particular observation but in the aftermath of Katrina it seems to me that the lack of emphasis on the importance of well functioning infrastructure over the past 10-15 years is coming home to roost.