MCAA Special Report

Words: Dan Kamys MCAA Special Report

Construction of low-income housing in the Dominican Republic, and repair/rehab in Haiti

MCAA members have an opportunity to participate in a business opportunity in the Dominican Republic and be a part of constructing low-income housing on behalf of the Dominican government. MCAA member Roy Swindal of Masonry Arts summarizes below the details of several months of investigation work that has led to a formation meeting being planned of those members interested in participating in a group venture.
MCAA Member Business Opportunity in the Dominican Republic From Roy Swindal: “Over the course of the last two months, the board of the MCAA??has met several times with the Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations, Dr. Juan R. Avita Ceballos, herein referred to as the Ambassador, along with the Secretario de Estado de Interior y Policia, Mr. Franklin Almeyada Rancier, herein referred to as Mr. Secretario, who is considering the Presidency in 2012. The assistant to the Ambassador, Mr. Juan Jose Garcia, herein referred to as Mr. Garcia, was the initial contact made possible through Matt Keelen, our lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

A luncheon was set up through the Ambassador’s office on July 7, 2010, by Mr. Garcia.??Mackie Bounds, Paul Odom, Steve Borman, Matt Keelen and Jeff??Buczkiewicz attended on behalf of the MCAA. The purpose of the luncheon was to formally introduce the MCAA to the Ambassador and to the Secretario de Estado de Interior. The meeting went well. [The Ambassador would like to] show us his country and discuss working together to create an environment whereby the citizens of the Dominican Republic??could build their own communities through craft training and management provided by the MCAA consortium.

The Ambassador suggested a follow-up through Matt Keelen to confirm?? the MCAA’s travel ??dates ??to the Dominican Republic for meetings with the Secretario de Estado de Interior along with other members of the Dominican Republic’s Presidential ??Cabinet to discuss details and potential??opportunities. On Aug. 16,??representatives of the MCAA, Roy Swindal and Jeff Buczkiewicz, arrived??in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the capital city, to continue dialog with the Dominican Federal Government. On the evening of Aug. 16, the Ambassador held a briefing for representatives of the MCAA and two other parties interested in work in the Dominican Republic. The parties reviewed the agenda for the next two days to allow each side adequate time to prepare questions and comments for one another.

The first day, Aug. 17, we spent most of the day meeting with members of the Dominican Cabinet. In the late-afternoon, we met with the United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic and his special envoy to Haiti??and USAID. The final activity of the day was a meeting with the executive VP of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce, our United States Chamber of Commerce representative and the president of the Asociacion Dominicana De Constructores y Promotores De Viviendas Inc. (ACOPROVI), an organization similar to the AGC or ABC in the United States. They briefed us on working conditions, labor wages, skill levels, training, sub-contractors, general contractors, language and nationality of the majority of the Dominican workforce.

A Helping Hand: Dominican Republic, HaitiOn Aug. 18, we had breakfast with the Secretario de Estado de Interior. He was extremely pleased that the MCAA had accepted his invitation to visit the Dominican to see firsthand the opportunities available for the organization and its members in the Dominican Republic. After breakfast, he invited us to a televised news conference. At this news conference, he introduced the MCAA and explained the reason that we made the trip to the Dominican Republic.

In the afternoon, a bus chartered by the Secretario drove us to his first proto-type village, which was in progress and near completion. This was a relatively small village, but it gave us some idea of what will be expected. The Secretario made it clear that there is $2.2 billion in a pension fund that will be available for this housing initiative over the coming years. He further explained that this money would be used as guarantees of payment to the MCAA for any loans that are issued. Ultimately, the government of the Dominican Republic will be the guarantor of the loan.

In short, the Secretary was interested in the MCAA participating in the building of low-income housing for the less-fortunate citizens of the Dominican Republic. The housing will be built by local citizens who will actually live in these particular local communities. These citizens will be trained by an MCAA consortium, for lack of a better word at this time. These communities are intended to be self-supporting??with farms, community centers, etc. Our participation would not be limited solely to the actual construction of the exterior of the homes. The commitment is for the total infrastructure of the entire community.

The government will most likely select the land to be utilized, and then give us the go ahead to proceed with Program Management for the village, including budgeting, management/hiring of consultants, infrastructure development, structured training programs for all trades, construction infrastructure including engineering, design, architecture, building construction, civil, site work and any other activities that are required to create a self-sustained community.

During our various meetings, we discussed the possible magnitude in dollars of the first village as between $4 million and $7 million.??In essence, this represents between 150 and 250 homes with the appropriate infrastructure. MCAA member financing will be required for participation in the plan. It will also be our job to locate entities that will participate in the financing of this venture with the guarantees by the Dominican Republic government.

Ultimately, we committed to return to the United States to develop a plan to train their people, manage the building of their communities and locate entities that are willing to finance this venture across the globe. We told them we would return to the Dominican Republic within 30 to 60 days with a plan, albeit in its infancy, complete with possible participants and any other information we assemble between now and then.

This is an enormous undertaking if we choose to participate. This, eventually, could develop into a four-, six- or even 10-year commitment. Similar opportunities are also going to be available in Haiti in the efforts to rebuild that country.

We, as an industry and as global citizens, have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in a country where the majority of the people finally have real hope to live in a civil and safe home in a community where they can thrive, develop and sustain themselves. The MCAA and its members can be the catalyst in these efforts.”

For more information, contact Jeff Buczkiewicz, 800-536-2225 or

Opportunities to help in Haiti Michael J. King, SE, is a California-based project manager at Miyamoto International, Inc., a structural and earthquake engineer company, who is working in Haiti on a plan to repair and rehabilitate structures following the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. King says he and his company were tasked by Pan??American Development Foundation (PADFO), UNOPS and World Bank to develop a repair guide. “The buildings here are unreinforced concrete masonry with concrete decks and columns,” says King. “There are over 100,000 heavily damaged buildings that we are working to repair and do a more reinforced masonry design.”

The construction is of concrete columns with concrete decks (column about 4M on center), with hollow concrete masonry for infill (un-grouted and un-reinforced). The deficiencies that were identified were quality of blocks, concrete, mortar, and installation with regard to cover for reinforcement, tie details, hooks and just reinforcement – placement as well as mortar joints.

King also emphasizes the important of education and training in the repair and rehabilitation of Haitian structures.??“We are creating the building quality control process and also training masons,” he says. “Training will be quick discussion of structural systems so they understand what earthquakes and cyclones do, and then to properties of masonry and effects of good practices of mortar, curing, proper proportions and materials and also hands on making blocks, mixing mortar, setting blocks with reinforcing and grouting.

“Our idea is to hold the training at a home needing repair and at the end have fixed the house,” King continues, “and continue the training as we go. We train the trainers, so when we leave, the Haitians go forward down the right path teaching each other. The guide was to be finished in June with repairs beginning July 1, and repair of 3,000 homes completed by Sept. 1 – an ambitious timeline indeed.

King believed they did not have to reinvent the training that other people already do but, rather, adapt it for Haiti.??He asked for assistance from the CMACN in the way of any available training guides. Then he reached out to mason contractors and leaders in the masonry industry to collect existing Reinforced Masonry Design Guides to help teach local engineers.

A request went out to the masonry community for basic masons’ tools for 200 masons, and the industry was quick to respond. The project is under the development of PADF, so any assistance is tax deductable under a 501(C)3.??But, those helping have committed to being part of an ambitious project to change the design and construction of the buildings of Haiti.

For more information or to get involved, contact Michael King,

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