Engineer pushes for steel standards 

A structural engineer pointed out the importance of the quality and integrity of the steel bars used in high-rise buildings in the Philippines.

Emilio Morales, former chair of the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines, in a recent Senate hearing of the committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, warned that in the absence of standards, high-rise buildings would be vulnerable to quakes.

“I’d like to call attention because as a professional, it is my bounden duty to call attention to a dangerous thing," he said.

"There were two statements, almost identical, made by Mr. [Roberto] Cola and Mr. Catajay.  What they said was 'we do not need to emboss the grade on the steel because during production, if the rebar fails marginally [the higher grade], we can downgrade it to grade 40'." Morales said.

“That is a criminal offense, because there will be a catastrophic failure of strength in multi-story and high-rise buildings when a major earthquake occurs," Morales warned.

Morales said he was referring to an earlier statement made by Cola, president of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute, also at a Senate committee hearing, where he discussed the thermo mechanical treatment, which according to him, “upgrades the steel". 

"So if you use a grade 40, it will become grade 60,” Morales quoted Cola as saying.  He said Cola went on and discussed situations where the steel bar wouldn’t meet the intended grade, and  the steel is downgraded to a lower grade.  “But there are cases it won't pass…it will not reach grade 60, so it will be grade 40. It will remain as grade 40," Cola was quoted as saying in the hearing.

Morales has been lobbying for transparency in terms of the production of steel bars and discussed the dangers of using QT bars in a paper titled ‘The Clear and Present Danger - The Use of QT or TMT Rebars in Seismic Zone 4.”

Morales said that studies in Italy, Australia and New Zealand concluded that quench tempered steel bars are not for high rise buildings, and that these have been banned in other countries, such as Canada, Taiwan and Japan.

The Senate held public hearings on the proposed Senate Resolution 802 filed by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito and Resolution 412 by Senator Panfilo Lacson which aim to implement measures to stop the proliferation of substandard steel bars.

Topics: Panfilo Lacson , Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines , Emilio Morales , Aquilino Pimentel III
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