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Articulos escogidos en Español
 February 2005 From the Editor’s Desk
E-mail Maryann Gorman
Technical Assistance in Latin America

When safety improvements are made to consumer products such as toys, or when new protective gear such as sports helmets are put on the market, the benefits can largely be realized by most of the public within a few years. With shorter life cycles, consumer products are frequently replaced or bought for the first time due to consumer consciousness about safety issues.

Not so with infrastructure. As building materials improve through research and development and standards keep pace, it is only new construction projects or significant repairs that benefit from the advances. One doesn’t rebuild a bridge or tear down a house when newer codes supercede the ones to which they were built. What concerns Manuel Antonio Lascarro, who writes for SN this month from Colombia, is that, with more basic concerns in developing countries about education, healthcare and nutrition issues, and without an understanding of the raison d’être behind the latest standards being created in developed countries, even newer construction projects in Latin America’s developing countries may not benefit from updated standards and technology.

In his feature, Lascarro, who is director of special projects with Colombia’s Ready Mixed Concrete Association (ASOCRETO), notes that Latin American countries have a shortage of some 15 million housing units, and therefore a tremendous responsibility to the population that needs that shelter. Lascarro emphasizes that ensuring their safety involves all of the following: sound building codes and standards, appropriate design, properly specified materials, qualified builders, and standardized quality control. And standards, Lascarro states, “mark the start of the road toward safe buildings.”

This is where technical assistance comes in. Since 2001, ASTM has been providing technical assistance to developing countries around the world through access to its standards, the process behind their development, and training in their use. Lascarro describes in his article some of the specific ways Latin American construction professionals have benefited from this assistance, which includes Internet-based access to standards development meetings and balloting. Now, with an understanding of a standard’s origins and awareness of pending revisions, Lascarro says, Latin American industry and government will have greater ease in adapting that standard to their own nations’ needs. That should go a long way toward ensuring the safety and quality of those housing units so needed in Latin America.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

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