It’s happening: Donald Trump is standing by his pledge to build a US-Mexico border wall. Trump has now signed an executive order to start preparing for construction. Despite this, the specifics of how he is going to build the wall have been sketchy thus far. What we do know: it’s going to be very expensive, require a huge amount of man power and will likely face many speed bumps on the road to getting built. Here we look at the practicalities rather than the politics of Trump’s Wall.
As Trump sets his plans in motion to build the largest infrastructure project since the US highway system, the cost and who will pay for it has been a hot topic for debate. Senate leader Mitch McConnell estimated that the wall will cost between $12 billion to $15 billion, but Trumps plans involve extending the wall into mountainous regions which would increase the costs. Also, the wall would cross private land which would have to be purchased before construction could commence there. A study from Washington Post estimated that the wall would cost around $25 billion. This was calculated by a retired economist for one of the largest construction companies in the US. Trump has accepted that building the wall would cost tax payers a total of $21.6 billion of taxpayers’ money, potentially. However, he plans to recoup this somehow from Mexico.
With all the spending, it’d be a good idea to get the wall built as quickly as possible, but Trump hasn’t stated how long construction will take. To get the project completed within the next five years, the government would have to pour near-unlimited supplies and resources into building the wall. This estimate was made by Raul Maza, state director for the Structural Engineer’s Association of Texas. According to reports, the construction would take place in phases; the first will cover 26 miles near San Diego, California, and the second phase would cover 151 miles in the Rio Grande Valley. The final phase of construction would cover the rest of the border, roughly 1,080 miles.
For those sceptical about Trump carrying out his plans, the president has given a deadline for prototype proposals. This is an unwavering sign he has every intention of enacting his long-promised campaign. Architects have until March 10th to submit their design proposals for the wall structurers. At present, 200 vendors have already signed up and it’s expected that the winner will be named in April. Despite the number of designers ready to showcase their ideas, building the wall goes against some of the ethics of architecture. When you consider that Trump’s wall could potentially block wildlife migration routes and possibly increase emissions, you have to question the ethics of the project. Architects and engineers are obliged to always consider the environmental effects of their activities, and how their work could impact public health and welfare. Trump’s wall could fuel many of the problems architects work hard to avoid. So, the border wall may conflict the codes of ethics and professional conduct established by the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Also, Trump’s wall poses many construction challenges, including the fact it could require a monumental amount of concrete, three times what was used to build the Hoover Dam.
As with many large infrastructure projects designed to stimulate economic growth, the biggest winners from the construction of Donald Trump’s wall could well end up being the Mexican construction companies and construction workers. As construction wages are much lower in Mexico, building the wall will likely be done by Mexican workers as the border has many Mexican settlements nearby. Equally, the wall may create additional job opportunities for American workers. However, the challenging part is that the crews would have to work in remote locations. These remote locations are miles of rugged territory, so crews would have to find ways of transporting building materials over these rough areas. Roads may have to be built just to get access to mountain or desert terrain. Mexican company Cemex appears best positioned to provide the required materials, as they have facilities throughout the border region.
Right now, 652 miles of the border is protected by fencing and border patrol drones. So, until the US government decides to unleash billions of dollars, this type of structure may be as good as it gets for Trump. Building Trump’s ambitious wall is going to take an exceptional amount of manpower and time, and maybe even military assistance, if Trump is to pull off such a huge project.
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