Bangkok Post-Flood Recovery: Inspection of AIT Campus Buildings and Other Infrastructure Assets for Post-Flood Restoration

Bangkok Post-Flood Recovery: Inspection of AIT Campus Buildings and Other Infrastructure Assets for Post-Flood Restoration and Re-Building for Future Flood Protection:

This is my second report on my visit to Bangkok, Thailand. This report continues my independent assessment of flood inundation impacts on the AIT campus in Rangsit which includes a detailed inspection of several buildings with the assistance of AIT staff. This post also provides guidelines to interested Thailand audiences and other readers elsewhere, as well as the underlying methodology of rapid flood damage assessment used in the United States. This flood impact assessment methodology is based on visual inspection of critical building infrastructure.

Following my visit to AIT temporary campuses in Cha-am and Hua Hin and my conversation with AIT faculty, staff and students (the topic of my previous post), I requested AIT President and VP Worsak to facilitate my inspection visit to the AIT campus in Rangsit, which is located in Pathum Thani, north of Bangkok. Through their facilitation I visited the AIT Consulting office in Bangkok where AIT engineering staff (Justin, Keerati, and Ridwan) gave me an overview of the Rangsit campus area and provided GIS maps. We used the GIS map to mark candidate infrastructure sites and buildings for our inspection and visual assessment.

Road to Thammasat University, 23 Oct (left); AIT Gate Access Road, 19 Dec 2011 (right)

As shown in the photos, on October 23, 2011 the inundated AIT campus had floodwater depth much higher than the road adjacent to Thammasat University (TU). The site inspection on December 19, 2011 clearly showed that the multistoried buildings of TU were constructed on higher fill on the south side of the road separating both campus sites. The floodwater line stain mark on outside wall of the first TU building across the road was 1.5 m high and the floodwater line stain mark entering the ground floor was only 0.58 m. This 58 cm floodwater height on the ground floor of the TU building is significantly lower (one-third) than the floodwater line mark height of mostly 1.5 m on the inside ground floor of inspected AIT buildings. This indicated the severity of flood water damage to AIT buildings. The AIT buildings showed floodwater line mark mostly 1.7-2.4 m on the outside walls. Moreover, the flood water drained from a higher elevation on TU campus to the AIT campus on the north side. Additionally, a more elevated primary highway (K. Luang) along the east side of AIT campus acted as a dam and intensified flooding of the low-lying AIT campus. This highway was not overtopped by floodwater, as stated by AIT staff. These drastic topographic changes due to increased impervious area with new construction as well as high fills around the AIT campus make the 40 years old flood models of the AIT campus obsolete. During the last two or three decades extensive construction of newly buildings and infrastructure took place in Rangsit area mostly on higher fills. Consequently, the AIT dikes (flood walls) designed and erected on the basis of the 1970’s topographic mapping could not hold floodwater flowing at 10 kmph during the devastating flood of October 2011. Collection of new topographic mapping data in and around AIT campus will be important to consider for long-term planning and flood mitigation for the AIT campus to protect the campus infrastructure from future floods.

AIT West Dike, 19 Oct 2011 (Photo credit: www.facebook.com/pages/Flood-Situation-at-AIT)

[Note added on December 29, 2011: The high floodwater level was observed even across the west side dike of AIT campus. This photo taken on October 19 about noon time (from facebook page) shows that the surface of water was about 2m higher than the AIT’s ground. As described on the facebook page, the thickness of the AIT dike was about 2 m at base and 1 m at top. At the time of this photo prior to inundation the gap between top of the dike and surface of water outside AIT campus was about 1 meter. This explains that floodwater from the west side (in addition to the south side of AIT) overtopped all AIT dikes, inundated the entire AIT campus, and could not drain due to the high elevation of the highway on the eastside, which acted as a high levee/dam. This photo further supports Dr. Uddin’s analysis of 2-3 m inundation of the AIT campus for weeks unlike the less damaging flooding of its neighbor TU.]

AIT Globe Landmark, Measuring Flood Stain Depth, 19 December 2011

The next photo group shows the measurement of flood stain marks (top photo) to determine floodwater height at the AIT globe landmark site during our field visit on December 19, 2011 when the campus was dry. This landmark has been included in all Bangkok flood related posts. The AIT administration had continued its non-stop effort to restore the AIT primary campus by: pumping out standing floodwater in the first week of December; community recovery and cleaning efforts beginning December 10 by faculty and staff, students, alumni, friends, and contract staff; salvaging student belongings, library books, office and lab equipment; and continuing cleaning, drying, and restoration efforts in several buildings by contract staff (as observed during my inspection visit on December 19, 2011).

The following photos compare the post-flood inundation at AIT campus, October 22, 2011 (photo credit: Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai) with the post-flood recovery and restoration status, December 19, 2011 (photo credit: Professor Waheed Uddin and AIT Consulting’s Keerati).

Inundated AIT Administration Building, 22 Oct (left) and Restoration of Dry Facility, 19 Dec 2011 (right)

I strongly recommend that the AIT administration, community in current academic session, and all alumni and friends (in Thailand and abroad) who love AIT’s spirit and glory should contribute in the revival of AIT campus by offering their resources and talents to aid with the campus restoration and safe return of the AIT community. Highlights of my inspection and other issues facing AIT institution are discussed in the following paras:

  • Inspection Methodology for Flood Damage Assessment: With the assistance of these enthusiastic AIT staff, I implemented the Flood Related Damage Assessment Factor (DAF) rating methodology, to evaluate physical condition, structural health, and environmental hazard of several buildings and landmarks on AIT campus. The DAF rating methodology is based on the latest standards developed by the DHS and FEMA in the U.S. for inspection of inundation depth and visual assessment to rate significant damage of buildings. I had already provided the concise user guide and database application for a rehabilitation decision support system to AIT prior to my travel to Bangkok.
  • Assessment of Flood Inundation Impacts on AIT’s Rangsit Campus Infrastructure: The campus buildings and the open area is in worse shape than I imagined with extensive mold and water damage on all ground floors of the eight buildings I inspected with AIT staff. This is no surprise considering these buildings had stranding floodwater for 4-6 weeks and some materials above the floodwater line (such as gypsum wall panels and ceiling panels) were dampened and especially prone to mold and microbe growth. Most primary academic buildings, multipurpose buildings, and dormitories are constructed of reinforced concrete frame structures. This ensured structural health of these buildings except the discovery and evidence of cracks below vinyl tiles on ground concrete floor of Interlab, which indicates problem with the structural integrity of its foundation. Vinyl tiles on ground floors were loosened and peeled out from concrete foundation slabs due to standing floodwater.
  • Environmental Hazards and Impacts on Ecology and Biodiversity: The mold and microbe growth is extensive on all gypsum, press-wood, and wooden interior wall panels and fixtures, as well as on most ceilings on ground floors (e.g., Admin building, Interlab, NZ wooden houses). The health and safety impacts of prolonged exposure of these hazards to the public are well known. Additionally, there is extensive destruction of biodiversity, plants, landscape, ecology, and aqualife in the ponds and klongs.
  • Campus Building Restoration Progress Status: The campus wide cleaning commenced on December 10 after floodwater was removed by pumping from the campus through joint efforts of the AIT community and friends. See more details on the AIT web site. The second phase of cleaning and restoration is being continued by the Sodexo contract staff on a number of building facilities. During our visit on December 19, a guided tour was provided by the Sodexo’s Stephen Andrews who accompanied us earlier during the inspection of Interlab, Dormitory D, and Admin buildings. We observed that the restored main hall of the Conference Center facility was in pretty good shape. After rehabilitation of the kitchen facility and electrical supply and fixtures, the Conference Center facility can serve temporarily as the AIT community cafeteria. The contract staff was also busy in painfully cleaning the extension building, SET building, and swimming pool. The AIT admin is already progressing to restoring electric substations and other electronic and computing infrastructure.
  • Relocating AIT Academic Program at the Revived AIT Campus in Rangsit: Considering sacrifices and logistic difficulties of most faculty/staff and often separation from their families and homes in Bangkok, as well as the desire of students and many alumni, some buildings at Rangsit campus must be restored on an urgent basis. This will help move displaced students and academic programs from the temporary campus in Cha-am and Hua Hin to the revived AIT campus in Rangsit. The short-term restoration priorities may include a minimum of four buildings to provide the adequate number of class rooms, arrange an alternative cafeteria facility (as recommended above in the restored conference center), and resume classes on the beloved campus by the middle of the next Spring semester. I recommend establishing a “Rangsit Campus Resumption Committee” consisting of reps from SOM, SET, Environmental, student affairs staff, and student reps, etc. to coordinate class scheduling and safe resumption.
  • Prioritizing Restoration and Rehabilitation Selected Buildings for Relocating Academic Program at AIT Rangsit Campus: In order to move academic program and students it is imperative that some class room buildings be restored and rehabilitated on priority basis. The following candidate buildings are recommended for use as class rooms based on our inspection of several academic buildings and Sodexo’s on-going effort: Extension building (probably 4 classrooms or more), School of Management (SOM) building (7-8 class rooms), and SERD/Geoinformatics building. The restored ground level floor should have no major problem except re-arranging furniture and efficient space utilization by the affected departments. The SOM building is the next best candidate for rehabilitation because the SOM staff has already removed all fixed furniture contents and disposed them off site. Most mold spots are on ceiling panels and some wooden fixtures. Compared to some other buildings mold spread is less due to all concrete interior walls and mold resistant mosaic floor tiles in lobby. The inspection of electric substation 11 (next to SOM facility) showed floodwater line mark to a height of 227 cm on the outside wall. To avoid future flood damages, the substation may need to be reconstructed (concrete wall, concrete floor, concrete or vinyl ceiling) and electrical equipment need to be erected at a height of 250 cm. Alternatively, a second storey can be built to house the expensive sensitive electrical equipment.
  • Environmental Monitoring of Restored Buildings for Resuming Classes at AIT Rangsit Campus: The ground floor space of these candidate buildings can be fully restored by: thorough cleaning and drying, removal of molds and appropriate treatment to stop further mold growth, disposing off all contaminated contents and rotten wooden fixtures/furniture, drying and repainting, reinstalling floor tiles and new water resistant wall and ceiling panels, installation of other building fixtures, and refurbishment. In order to ensure safe and healthy class rooms and offices, environmental monitoring for mold/microbe in these facilities must be conducted. If the environmental faculty/staff is too busy to take this responsibility then the representative may coordinate this monitoring program through commercial labs. (The AIT admin may offer extra compensation per assigned tasks to qualified faculty/staff who are willing to coordinate and provide a “building acceptance certificate for safe and healthy environment with respect to local laws and international standards.”) This is an important step for AIT to develop a timeline and facilitate the safe return of students/faculty/staff to AIT Rangsit campus. This scenario assumes that parallel arrangement and transportation logistics are made to relocate residences in Rangsit area. (For unforeseen traffic incidents all students must be helped out to secure appropriate insurance policies. This is a usual practice in the U.S. universities. Donor agencies should be persuaded to increase scholarship amount for these extra monthly charges.)
  • Societal Costs of Flood Impacts on Social Fabric and Human Suffering: The disastrous flood deeply impacted social fabric and human suffering in addition to significant stress on small and large businesses, industries, workers’ livelihood, and families. These social and human factors need to be recognized, which affected not only the AIT community but all flood-affected population in Thailand. We have experienced these adverse impacts on society during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans in the United States. For example, counseling programs are imperative to ease the pain of human sufferings from loss of loved ones, properties and memories, and the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to the flood.

Summary Campus Inspection Report and Recommendations – The following excerpts are from my presentation to the President’s Re-building Committee on December 20, 2011 and draft report on ”Post-Flood Damage Assessment of AIT Campus Buildings and Infrastructure, Recommendations for Restoration, and Future Flood Protection Strategies”.

I am compiling my full report, on voluntary basis at no cost to AIT, and I intend to submit the formal full report to AIT soon. This report includes recommendations for long term strategies to protect buildings and campus infrastructures from future floods. A long-term solution of flood protection is the use of noncorrosive light weight composite sheet piles to strengthen dikes and make protective enclosures around buildings. They are being used in coastal areas of the U.S. instead of the outdated technology of concrete sheet piles.

Dr. Uddin’s Note: I visited Bangkok for on-site review of AIT temporary campus sites in Cha-am and Hua Hin and participate in cleaning effort and inspection of buildings at the AIT campus in Pathum Thani near Bangkok, Thailand. On December 20th I briefed the AIT President’s Campus Rebuilding Committee on my inspection results, the U.S. experience in similar flood disasters, and innovative technologies for infrastructure protection from future floods. We must recognize that the risk of a 100-year or 500-year flood is high and it can occur again within a few years. We must restore and rebuild campus infrastructure using flood protective design and considering the possibility of future flood disasters.

The AIT and ASEAN Affairs, in association with the University of Mississippi CAIT, hosted a symposium on December 21st in Bangkok on “Lessons Learned from the 2011 Thailand Flood Disaster and Future Directions for Flood Prevention and Mitigation”. I lectured on the implementation of early flood warning systems in the U.S. and introduced airborne LIDAR technology and alternative cost-effective aerial radar surveys for flood disaster prevention and other infrastructure applications. The summary of the symposium and excerpts from my presentation will be included in the next post.

During my visit I contributed the second installment of my family’s personal donation and funds donated by the University of Mississippi ITE Student Chapter to AIT’s Dr. Tien for Flood Relief Fund. I sincerely hope that my voluntary efforts are seen as my appreciation to Thai people in this trying time of historic floods, AIT’s institution and international community, and AIT’s host country Thailand where I got my Master’s degree.

I have been always proud that my degree was awarded by His Majesty The King of Thailand in 1975 (as seen in the following memorable old photos).

His Majesty King of Thailand Awarding Degree to Waheed Uddin, AIT, Bangkok, May 7, 1975

5 thoughts on “Bangkok Post-Flood Recovery: Inspection of AIT Campus Buildings and Other Infrastructure Assets for Post-Flood Restoration”

  1. This is a wonderfully written article that helps very much understanding the level of need in Thailand. it is sometimes difficult to find information on the current status of damage and support required, but this article covers all subjects in a superb way. I belong to a non-profit foundation that rebuilds schools after natural disasters and Dr Uddin revealed to be a great resource and supporter. Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you so much for your helpful comment. I will forward to the AIT President your query and desire to help AIT (Bangkok) for its campus restoration efforts.

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