Friday, October 11, 2013

Quality vs Speed: Hitting the mark during rebuild

The joists are dry as are the studs, and the requisite inspections have been conducted which means that a once disaster affected house is one step closer to again becoming a home. This is where many families find themselves in the Mid-Atlantic region with organizations and contractors feeling the urgency to get the work done--quickly. While the ideal for every homeowner would be to hire a professional restoration / reconstruction contractor to bring their house back to pre-disaster conditions, many homeowner's face financial shortfalls that prevent this from happening. As a result, these individuals and families come to rely on donated materials and voluntary labor to help cover any gaps that exist during the repair/rebuild process. However, a unique confluence of factors: changing weather, a strain on human resources, and a lack of finances "to do it right," has created an environment where two schools of thought have emerged centering around the speed at which homes are completed vs the level of quality in the finished product.

Speed Demons
One side views quantity as its highest priority, rebuild as many homes as possible, as quickly as possible. In this scenario homeowners are framed more as victims needing saving than as equals in the process; having already dealt with so much: shady contractors, trying to unravel FEMA's grant programming, the permitting process, and insurance companies, the view is that any help given should be welcomed. After all, without the assistance of voluntary resources and donated material, the work done for homeowners in need may never take place. And because of that, the best efforts of those who came to help should be enough, regardless of the quality of the finished product.

Quality over Quantity
The opposing view asks what's the point of having "finished" 100 homes if the homes completed have problems, or because of the workmanship will need to be fixed in 3-5 years? Those who believe quality should not be sacrificed take a tougher stance, believing that homeowner's with need shouldn't be viewed as charity cases waiting for someone's best effort to come along to help them. They believe that the work done on behalf of an individual or family that has gone through the trauma of a natural disaster deserves the best possible and most professional result.

Who's Right?
This debate, like many that surround how best to approach holistic community recovery is one where there doesn't seem to be a "right" or "wrong" answer. Given that both have what they believe to be the best intentions of the homeowner in mind, it's difficult to declare one approach as wrong.

Another example of the quantity vs quality debate is in Moore, OK. After the EF-5 Tornado in May, a discussion around whether a change in building codes should be made so that all the homes rebuilt would be more resilient in the face of future events. While the approval of revised building codes remains unclear, the discussion spurred a push to rebuild back as quickly as possible and not for the obvious reason. If permits were pulled prior to any change in the building codes, homes could be brought back without having the added expense of being "Tornado-proofed". In Moore, speed was, and to a certain extent continues to drive recovery.

At a certain point though, especially in a place like Oklahoma where Tornados are a part of life, building back stronger to reduce the impacts of future events only makes sense. The quality of the structure and the steps taken to integrate better building practices may come with an upfront expense and take longer to institute, but the benefits of less property damage, cheaper and faster recovery, and a greater resilience in the face of future severe weather would be the benefits.

Having this debate is good because it advances the conversation on an important issue, but unfortunately it's happening in a vacuum, because when a family with no place to go has the option of having their home rebuilt to the way it was pre-event, and done so by a largely unskilled group of people as the quicker option, it's difficult to tell them that they should wait and potentially spend more money they don't have.

So what do you think? Is one approach more valid than the other? Is there a way we can find a middle ground that pushes build timelines while not sacrificing the quality of the finished product and do so without breaking the bank? And how would Long Term Recovery Committees/Groups work in this new hybrid model? Thoughts?

1 comment :

  1. HI there, I would like to direct you to this website- which is the story of the problems homeowners are facing in New Zealand post 2010-2012 earthquakes. Many of the themes you mention here we too are facing. Perhaps there would be merit in sharing experiences. Please see . Kindest Regards,
    sarah miles