An actual engineer explains why the wall is ‘a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.’
Immigration arguments aside, what about the physical logistics of building Trump’s wall along the border?
Many pundits, politicians, and ordinary people have offered their opinions on whether or not Trump’s proposed border wall should be built. Most of the time, these discussions revolve around the philosophical and economic issues it raises, but what of the actual, physical building of the wall itself?
Enter Amy Patrick, real-life wall expert. In a now viral Facebook post, Patrick explained to those of us who don’t design walls for a living why the planning and building of this wall is much more complicated and potentially much, much more expensive than most of us would ever guess.
Patrick first offered a list of her credentials:
“I’m a licensed structural and civil engineer with a MS in structural engineering from the top program in the nation,” she wrote, “and over a decade of experience on high-performance projects, and particularly of cleaning up design disasters where the factors weren’t properly accounted for, and I’m an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at UH-Downtown. I have previously been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper construction of walls and the various factors associated therein, and my testimony has passed Daubert. Am I a wall expert? I am. I am literally a court-accepted expert on walls.”
Well then. Here we go.
Wall expert Amy Patrick explains why the wall is “a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.”
“Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project,” Patrick began. “Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it’s not been designed by professionals. It’s a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.”
What disasters, you may ask? Patrick explained:
“Off the top of my head…
1) It will mess with our ability to drain land in flash flooding. Anything impeding the ability of water to get where it needs to go (doesn’t matter if there are holes in the wall or whatever) is going to dramatically increase the risk of flooding.
2) Messes with all kind of stuff ecologically. For all other projects, we have to do an Environmental Site Assessment, which is arduous. They’re either planning to circumvent all this, or they haven’t accounted for it yet, because that’s part of the design process, and this thing hasn’t been designed.
3) The prototypes they came up with are nearly impossible to build or don’t actually do the job. This article explains more:
Then she explained why the would be a logistical nightmare—and a lot more expensive than initial estimates.
“The estimates provided for the cost are arrived at unreasonably,” Patrick wrote. “You can look for yourself at the two-year-old estimate that you see everyone citing.
It does not account for rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign… It’s going to be higher than $50bn. The contractors will hit the government with near CONSTANT change orders. ‘Cost overrun’ will be the name of the game. It will not be completed in Trump’s lifetime.”
Well, that’s some smelling salts right there. I know I hadn’t taken any of those factors into consideration, and I’m not even a supporter of the wall.
“I’m a structural forensicist, which means I’m called in when things go wrong,” Patrick continued. “This is a project that WILL go wrong. When projects go wrong, the original estimates are just *obliterated*. And when that happens, good luck getting it fixed, because there aren’t that many forensicists out there to right the ship, particularly not that are willing to work on a border wall project—a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can’t afford to bid on jobs that are this political. We’re small firms, and we’re already busy, and we don’t gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you’d end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it’d generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me.”
(The GAO is the Governmental Accountability Office. Here’s an article from The Hill detailing their report that the Trump administration has not taken all of the economic factors into account.)
Finally, she shared why the wall, even if built successfully, wouldn’t be effective.
“I could, right now,” Patrick wrote, “purchase a 32 foot extension ladder and weld a cheap custom saddle for the top of the proposed wall so that I can get over it. I don’t know who they talked to about the wall design and its efficacy, but it sure as heck wasn’t anybody with any engineering imagination.”
“Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone,” she continued. “This will happen in the next ten years, and it’s folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won’t purchase or create them. They’re low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup.”
Seriously, though. Our technology is advancing so quickly, and in order to mitigate all of the possible breaches of the wall, we’d have to have border patrol agents set up along the entire border. And if we’re going to do that, let’s do that instead of the wall and save ourselves billions of extra dollars.
“Let’s have border security, by all means, but let’s be smart about it,” Patrick concluded. “This is not smart. It’s not effective. It’s NOT cheap. The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money. 🤷🏻♀️”
Thanks for providing even more reasons the government shutdown over funding the wall is ridiculous, Ms. Patrick.