Rural roads constitute a significant proportion of the total road network in most developing countries. In so doing, they contribute significantly to poverty reduction, through the services they provide to the poor and to priority social and economic sectors, and through employment creation and the building of skills and capacities. Thus, the provision of adequate rural road infrastructure can be a powerful ally in a country’s attack on poverty and in many countries has become an integral part of public intervention targeted at meeting the basic needs of poor people. However, the contribution of the rural road sector to poverty reduction is not yet optimized and many improvements can still be made to transport policy and strategy.
One intervention that is strongly promoted is with regard to improving accessibility to rural areas in many developing countries where a substantial proportion of the road network, typically more than 75%, consists of gravel and earth roads. These relatively low-volume roads often fulfil a potentially vital socio-economic function, not only by providing access to rural areas where the majority of the population live, but also by connecting the productive agricultural areas to the primary road network.
From a World Bank sponsored paper on road surface treatments, October 2007.
A sustainable, appropriate technology-based microenterprise with the capability to maintain rural, farm to market roads and transform them into reliable, four season roads using unskilled labor and no heavy equipment is the subject of this concept paper.
In his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C. K Prahalad, former professor of business at the University of Michigan, postulates that wealth creation potential exists within the massive numbers (about half) of world’s people, the poorest. It is the position of this paper that this wealth creation can only occur if these people are engaged in producing some fundamental need of society. Improving the lives of the world’s poorest people would improve the lives of people everywhere by creating new markets and economic opportunities.
Wealth and livelihood are created by ideas, products/services, facilities and organizations which support the human beings’ ability to create, produce and deliver products, goods and services. Consider the wealth creation impacts of democracy, electricity, farming, automobiles, assembly line factories, mines and other natural resource industries, railroads and transportation infrastructure, banks, accounting and legal firms to name a few.
All these ideas, products/services, etc. presume the existence of reliable, all weather roads for personal access. Mechanical Concrete®, the simple but innovative technology in this paper offers the potential of building and maintaining roads through micro enterprises.
Prahalad describes 12 principles of innovation for bottom of the pyramid, BOP, markets that are essential for true transformational change. He called them the building blocks of innovation. Any idea or product would need to meet these criteria in order to begin developing the potential of BOP markets. These criteria deal with price-performance, scalability, transportability, resource economy, functionality, process innovation, de-skilling, ease of education, hostile environment usability, rural/urban functionality, reaching the poor consumer, and new platforms. These characteristics are particularly important in both urban and rural settings for employing the people at the BOP. So
What if………. there were a whole new way to build with the materials of the earth; a new building platform for gravel, stone and soil; and not to build just some things but almost everything? Roads first, but also house and building walls, bridge abutments and piers, sidewalks, dams, foundations, levees, railroad beds, erosion controls, water filtration systems and more. And
What if……….almost anyone, not just specially trained people, could quickly and easily be trained and learn to effectively build with this new method? Men, women, boys, girls, the physically handicapped, the crippled, the elderly, the illiterate and the mentally handicapped, prisoners, free people, and almost anyone can do it. And
What if……….the buildings and foundations, dams and levees, walls and other structures that resulted were inherently earthquake and hurricane resistant; easy to maintain; the roads and rail beds were resistant to erosion and water damage and virtually indestructible in normal use. And
What if………..this new building method was a model of sustainability and resource economy and re-used one of the most ubiquitous waste products of the industrialized world? And
What if……….this new building method were economical enough to allow it to cater to and support the economic development of the underdeveloped regions, reducing urban poverty, and could open rural undeveloped regions of the world, provide work for the rural poor and improve the lives of the many of the 4 billion people who make less than $2 per day? And
What if……….this new building method were fully scalable and blended with the most modern sophisticated technical urban markets as well as, the most simple rural village economy, across countries, cultures and languages? And
What if………the new building method did not require the support of sophisticated technological, academic and industrial infrastructure; and once a project was planned it could be executed effectively with the simplest of tools and equipment? And
What if………this new building method would work in any environment, anywhere on the earth even under water and still be sustainable, safe to use; all while maintaining all the other qualities described above? And
What if……..this new way of building allowed the people who use it to exercise their own capacity to create and innovate new products and services?
Mechanical Concrete® is such a product and has been proven in industrial applications. This product has the potential to not only teach people to fish, but, also through the microenterprise, to provide a stream to fish in.
Why Roadway Access is Essential
One ingredient fundamental to economic wellbeing and livelihood is physical access; access to resources, markets, education, healthcare, etc. While the resource being accessed may itself be important, without the physical ability to access it, its value can only be partially realized. Relatively inexpensive access to society’s resources is available to nearly everyone in the modern, industrialized world. Streets, roads highways for autos and buses; and rail and air travel are taken for granted by the modern citizen. They function as an essential public utility. Yet most of these transport access resources have been under development for hundreds of years and often millennia. Through this transport access network we get our food, shelter, safety/security, education, recreation, energy, water/sewer and the myriad of other daily needs we have as human beings.
Without these transport access resources people’s lives are extremely limited. Since 75% of the roads in the developing world are unpaved, this is the case for the people who have little if any reliable physical access, an essential ingredient for sustained economic wellbeing and livelihood.
A technology that could create reliable, all weather, unpaved road transport access would offer a unique opportunity for the employment of urban and rural poor in all the developing regions of the world. For over 3 billion people the global challenge is “How can uneducated, unskilled people find a way to earn and produce and at the same time help create a system that supports and sustains trade and economic development?” This is a major long-term concern to every person dealing with the challenge of reducing urban and rural poverty. “Can a micro enterprise be created that offers the opportunity to produce something which other people in the economy need? How can untrained people become involved in the creation of general economic wellbeing and livelihood?” One answer is “The means whereby they can maintain and construct a farm to market road infrastructure exists. Through micro enterprises they can construct and maintain either unpaved roads anywhere with Mechanical Concrete®, a simple, appropriate, sustainable technology.”
The Sustainable Technology
Mechanical Concrete® technology in practice uses a remanufactured, rugged, tire-derived-geo-cylinder (TDGC) made by removing both sidewalls from a used, waste, auto tire. Globally over 1.4 billion waste tires are generated annually; a practically inexhaustible supply. The tire is considered waste when the tread portion of the tire is completely worn out. However, the interior structure of the tire is still more than capable of supporting significant construction and highway loads and can be engineered to perform in a variety of applications.
Tire-Derived-Geo-Cylinder Mechanical Concrete® Cylindrical Building Unit
When this tire-derived-geo-cylinder is filled with crushed stone aggregates the stones instantly behave as a solid; creating a dry, porous concrete like material, made and placed on-site in one operation with unskilled labor and limited equipment. It can be made by any able bodied person with simple skills. It is instantly capable of supporting loads from heavy trucks and other roadway vehicles, as well as loads on foundations, retaining walls, bridge abutments, dams and other engineered structures. It is also capable of resisting erosion and can be used in slope and channel erosion protection.
The Challenge of the Modern Technological World
A primary economic and technical conundrum in developing regions around the world is the inability to construct basic, reliable, all weather farm to market access roads and civil infrastructure without the modern construction equipment, trained personnel, materials, and techniques. Addressing this concern involves finding a simple, sustainable, construction technique to build infrastructure with inexperienced, unskilled people. In the modern world this creates a chicken/egg loop problem. The modern world is all about industrial and computer technology. Without basic industrial infrastructure, i.e. heavy equipment, computers, modern materials like asphalt and concrete, skilled, trained, experienced engineers, mechanics and workers, electricity, fuel, etc., we cannot build essential societal infrastructure, i.e. reliable roads, water and sewer systems, electricity grids, pipelines, communications, etc.; without which we cannot build basic civil infrastructure. Functioning within this 21st century technology paradigm is a daunting, expensive challenge. But using this modern industrial paradigm approach is not how the modern industrial world developed.
Addressing this dilemma for both the urban and rural poor and in developing regions of the world requires a new, more appropriate and sustainable technology—a new paradigm—a new building platform. It requires a simpler technology which can employ unskilled people in micro-enterprises to maintain and construct roads and other basic civil infrastructure. Such a technology must also allow for the payment of people on an output and productivity basis that will stimulate their interest, learning, and initiative. To address these global challenges Mechanical Concrete® cylindrical confinement systems offers a basic construction technology with something that is both genuinely new and proven, and uniquely simple.
Mechanical Concrete® Technology
The physics used by geotechnical civil engineers to design basic infrastructure deals with the fact that the earth holds itself together by gravity, friction, adhesion and confinement. Duplicating or improving friction, adhesion and confinement is the science of geosynthetics. Mechanical Concrete® is a proven geo-synthetic confinement technology for building new and improving existing roads, building walls, bridge abutments, retaining walls, dams and other civil infrastructure. It builds on the achievements of the honeycomb geocell by using a free standing, self-supporting geo-cylinder made by removing both sidewalls from a waste auto tire. It is made simply by confining crushed stone or other indigenous, or recycled aggregate particles within collections of these thin-walled structural, geo-cylinders. When cylindrically confined these stone aggregates or soil particles virtually solidify and become a geo-cylinder building unit. And 8 inch (200mm) thickness of confined crushed stone Mechanical Concrete® does the work of 16-24 inches (400 to 600mm) of unreinforced gravel. Cylindrically confined particles behave like a solid and provide more than triples the load supporting capacity of most sands, soils and unreinforced crushed stone. Confinement literally turns sand into the equivalent of solid stone so it resists erosion. Tire-derived-geo-cylinders can function in collections somewhat like cut stone blocks, cobblestones, bricks or concrete blocks; to build a wide variety of infrastructure systems, from road bases to retaining and bearing walls and bridge abutments, slope and channel erosion protection and even water filtration systems. In most developing regions globally Mechanical Concrete® can use a combination of stone and sand aggregates from stream and river beds and beaches to construct permanent, reliable, all weather roads, bridge abutments, dams and walls. It can also stabilize and improve the capacity of indigenous granular soils. Crushed earthquake and hurricane rubble and quarried stone may also be used.
Geocellular confinement systems were pioneered by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers beginning in 1975. Geocellular technology was commercialized into a variety high density polyethylene honeycomb cellular confinement products generically known as geocells. Today geocells are used worldwide to improve load and foundation support in subgrade soils, for slope and channel erosion protection, in earth retention walls, in storm water management and a wide variety of other construction applications. However, compared to manufactured geocells waste tire-derived-geo-cylinders are much stronger and less than half the cost.
History of Mechanical Concrete®
Mechanical Concrete® was discovered in 2004 by professional civil engineer Samuel G. Bonasso, P.E., Fellow ASCE, and former West Virginia Secretary of Transportation. He was granted a US patent in 2008 and a Canadian patent in 2013. It has been in R & D since 2005 and has been lab and field tested.
A variety of demonstration projects are now in place in 5 US states which validate the permanence, engineering properties, economy, longevity, and predictability of the technology. These projects, all of which were constructed on relatively poor subgrade soils, include 1. In 2006 a 15 foot high mechanically-stabilized-earth retaining wall, 2. In 2006 a segment of remote rural road which frequently floods, for the West Virginia Division of Highways, and 3. In 2006 service pad for an operating oil/gas well. 4. In 2010 one mile of US-Mexican Border Roads on the Imperial Dunes in SE CA, and 5. Approximately one mile of US-Mexican Border Roads in the mountains of E. San Diego County CA, 6. In 2010-11 several sections of coal hauling roads in the WV coal mining industry, which have successfully carried over 1,500,000 trucks in two and one half years, and 7. Portions of access Roads in the WV Marcellus Shale Gas play in the Eastern US. 8. An industrial road in Ohio and 9. A segment of public road in Guadalupe County near San Antonio, Texas.
These Mechanical Concrete® based roads have wearing surfaces of plain stone, asphalt, concrete, chip-seal and resin impregnated stone. Their performance has exceeded expectations in predictability, durability and reduction in maintenance. Mechanical Concrete® has been approved for use by the WV Division of Highways and is being evaluated by other state highway agencies. For more detailed technical and media information please visit www.mechanicalconcrete.com.
The Business of REAGCO
In the US and Canada, Mechanical Concrete® is sold as a patented technology through The Reinforced Aggregates Company (REAGCO) licensee distributors, manufacturers and contractors. It offers a proven alternative to unreinforced crushed stone methods for building road bases, concrete foundations, and precast concrete walls, etc. Because, it is functionally equivalent to the geocell, much simpler to use and costs 25% to 50% less than traditional concrete and stone construction methods, it also offers a significant economic advantage in the US and other developed countries. And because Mechanical Concrete® can be made by any able bodied person with a shovel and a wheel borrow it offers an even greater economic advantage to underdeveloped regions globally.
The REAGCO Micro-Enterprise Initiative
Because of its simplicity Mechanical Concrete® is easy to understand and make by people with very limited construction experience and training. It requires very little supporting industrial, construction, or commercial infrastructure, i.e. experienced construction personnel, heavy equipment or modern industrial operations. This simplicity makes Mechanical Concrete® ideal as a micro enterprise product/service. To successfully install, it requires a basic maintenance objective or a project plan, general supervision, tire-derived-geo-cylinders, stone or recycled aggregates, or granular soils, limited tools and equipment and unskilled labor.
This road maintenance and construction micro-enterprise has two components, 1. Creating the tire-derived-geo-cylinders and 2. Filling the tire-derived-geo-cylinders with stone aggregates to produce Mechanical Concrete® applications. In the first step, the only tool needed to produce a tire-derived-geo-cylinder is a sturdy, serrated knife similar to the knife pictured below. With this knife a laborer can pierce the tire sidewall and using the serrated portion cut both the sidewalls off of the tire in approximately 2 minutes. This can be accomplished from any stock pile of waste automobile tires. Large truck tires do not work for this process and require heavier equipment. In the second step the laborer lays the tire-derived-geo-cylinder on the road grade so it is ‘circular-to-the-eye’ and fills it with the road base aggregate material that is available.
Serrated Knife for Removing Auto Tire Sidewalls
Because of these characteristics Mechanical Concrete® has unique potential to speedily advance the maintenance of unpaved roads in both rural and urban poverty areas and create a more reliable farm-to-market road system in underdeveloped rural regions of the world. Building and maintaining these roads can provide long term employment through micro-enterprises to the local rural and urban people and lay the essential access foundation for an alternative economy.
This micro-enterprise employment can be based on piece-work-productivity. As indicated it is available in two stages; First, preparing the tire-derived-geo-cylinders from scrap tires by removing both sidewalls and Second, placing and filling the resulting cylinders with stone and granular aggregate materials to create road bases or other infrastructure. In both work stages people can be paid on a per cylinder production basis. Consequently, these people can earn money, generate trade and grow their local economy.
Developing regions need safe, all-season, walkable, drivable roadways to access society’s resources and its opportunity. The need is for more efficient way to safely and reliably maintain existing roads in rural areas to connect people to more developed urban areas and the societal resources they provide. Initially Mechanical Concrete® would allow the upgrading of existing local paths, trails and roads into all-weather, year round access-ways for use by bicycles, mopeds/ATVs and cars/light trucks. This would provide rural peoples access to markets for goods and services, education, and other societal and cultural resources.
Global traffic safety data also shows a need to separate cycle and pedestrian traffic from motorized traffic. The suggested Mechanical Concrete® roadway design below is proposed as an improved standard unpaved all-weather roadway for a developing region. The simple, easily maintainable Mechanical Concrete® tire-derived-geo-cylinder crushable, median/curb separating pedestrians and cycles from motorized traffic is a key, lifesaving, safety feature which can dramatically reduce roadway fatalities in developing regions. In the future Mechanical Concrete® roads can also easily be resurfaced and upgraded with more advanced wearing surfaces such as chip/seal, Otta seal, resins, asphalt or concrete.
Mechanical Concrete® Roadway Section for Developing Regions
In addition to Mechanical Concrete®’s ruggedness and economic viability, the bright green, sustainable and appropriate nature of this technology is a model for how to effectively reuse a major societal waste. Buried in civil engineering applications are the preferred tire reuse. A scrap tire is an inert, solid hydrocarbon, similar to coal. About 50% of the scrap tires are burned as fuel, which to date is the most effective method of recycling waste tires.
REAGCO Seeks Partnerships
REAGCO seeks significant, aid-experienced, general project partners and funding organization, to assist in this initiative. REAGCO is prepared to support the implementation of this strategy to deliver Mechanical Concrete® to developing regions. It will partner with private companies, NGO’s and government organizations to identify and implement projects. Leading and organizing REAGCO’s effort is the inventor of Mechanical Concrete® civil engineer Samuel G. Bonasso. Bonasso has successfully established, led and operated private business and non-profit organizations. He also has been active in public service as a senior level leader and administrator at the state and federal level. At http://www.mechanicalconcrete.com/about-us/ is more about his background, also please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_G._Bonasso. Additional informational material about Mechanical Concrete® can also viewed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanical_Concrete.
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