President Trump’s new border wall may likely reach 30 feet high.  But, that is assuming that the administration has not changed its mind.  In recent rallies and interviews, the president has promised to deliver a wall that is 30, 40, even 50 feet tall.  That would make it about four times larger than the Hoover Dam.  It should overwhelm potential illegal immigrants.   Homeland Security officials said in documents Friday that they have requested the first bids to begin building the barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Wall or Trump Wall?

In September, Univision’s Jorge Ramos questioned Trump on his wall.  This response was simple.  It was easy.

  • RAMOS: How are you going to build a 1,900-mile wall?
    TRUMP: Very easy. I’m a builder. That’s easy. I build buildings that are — can I tell you what’s more complicated? What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall. Okay?

Officials are not certain what type of material to use for the wall.  It is unclear whether they want a more permanent structure or movable one.  But they did say, “the wall design shall be physically imposing in height,” according to CBP documents.

They said their goal is a 30-foot barrier.  The leaders will outright reject any plans that didn’t at least run 18 feet high. The wall must also run at least six feet underground to stop anyone from easily tunneling underneath it.  And it must take at least an hour, and ideally more than four hours, for someone to puncture a hole in the wall — presumably enough time for agents to discover and chase away anyone attempting it.

The side that faces the U.S. border wall must be easy on the eyes.

The requests for proposals for both concrete and non-concrete walls come less than two months into the new administration.  This signals Mr. Trump’s eagerness to get started on his signature campaign proposal.

Just a day earlier, the White House released its first budget calling for about $1 billion in money to begin building the wall over the next six months, and called for more than $2 billion in fiscal year 2018.

Image result for border wall plans

The contracting documents don’t give a hint as to the eventual scope of the wall.  But, Mr. Trump’s budget suggested it would in fact run the nearly 2,000 miles of the border. The documents do seem to imply fencing in some of the less populace regions.

Is the wall possible?

The unfortunate truth about this endeavor is that the president, who promised this wall, once earned a living in real estate investment.  Yet, he only asked congress for $2.6 billion in his budget for the border wall.  Maybe, this is for just “getting started.”  Who will receive this funding?

President Trump has called for a wall to span the entire length of the Mexican- U.S. boundary.  But, what does that mean from a construction point of view?  Is it even possible to complete this project in the time frame that he has suggested?  Either he is joking, or he seriously does not understand construction code and processes.  Here is a short explanation of the problem.

Border Wall Environmental Impact

The president may dispute climate change at the hands of humans.  But, man-made constructions do affect the environment.  Before starting the wall, agencies must conduct soil analyses along with other environment questions:  frequency of earthquakes, moisture level, temperature range, wind patterns, and flood zone (to name a few examples).  This is just the start of the process.  For a home builder, the average time of approval from the planning commission is about six months.  Are we to expect that congress can gain approval of such a long wall in less time?

Strength of the border wall

Large office buildings often have footers that are at least twice as wide and (in some cases) four times as deep as the width of the wall.  Thus, for a four inch wall, the footer would be eight inches wide and 16 inches deep.  This varies based on weight load and other factors.  Walls are particularly tricky because they do not have side supports.  The very first thing a wall will try to do is fall.

In relation to a wall, consider telephone poles.  The typical pole is 20 to 40 feet tall.  It is usually buried six feet under the ground.  But, it is also anchored at strategic points and connected to other poles for support.  Wind resistance is minimal, due to the thinness of the pole.

Compare that to a wall, especially a “supposed” retaining wall, that keeps out unwanted guests.  The first thing to consider is whether it will tip over and fall.  It most likely will if it is only six feet in the ground, 30 feet tall, and twelve feet wide.  Unless it has anchors, on both sides, the wall would need to be so massive that it is cost prohibitive.

Short Cost Analysis of Border Wall

One can only make assumptions about what type of wall the president demands.  This is because he has changed his mind on it several times.  So, let’s look at the smallest scale he has proposed.  Based on estimates from an engineer, the concrete alone would total 12.6 million cubic yards.  At a rate of about $90 per cubic yard, the up-front cost of the concrete is $1.1 billion.

  • Foundation: 6 feet deep, 18 inch radius = 42.4 cubic feet
  • Column: 4 square feet area by 30 feet tall = 120 cubic feet
  • Wall panels: 25 feet tall by 10 feet long by 8 inches thick = 166.7 cubic feet
  • Total concrete per 10-foot segment = 329.1 cubic feet
  • 1,954 miles = 10,300,00 feet = 1,030,000 segments (10-feet long each)
  • 1,030,000 segments * 329.1 cubic feet per segment = 339,000,000 cubic feet = 12,555,000 cubic yards. (The cubic yard is the standard unit of measure of concrete volume in the United States.)

This does not account for delivery, plans, support material, casting, labor, soil testing, or engineering costs.  Compare this to a home design.  For the average home, it costs about $10,000 to construct the foundation.  That same average home costs in total $300,000 when completed (of course this varies by region).  Thus, the final completion cost is 30 times greater than the initial part of the construction.

Alternative to border wall

On a low scale estimate, it would cost the tax payers more than $30 billion dollars to construct a border wall that keeps out 122 million people.  At a projected annual maintenance cost of 3%, the wall would cost close to another billion every year.  It would be cheaper to pay every Mexican $200 annually to stay home.  Given the fact that most Mexicans earn the equivalency of $12/day, this would definitely increase the friendly relation between the two countries.

In fact, it would be even less expensive to incorporate Mexico as a sovereign province, like we do for Native American Indians.  We would just need to protect the Mexico- Guatemala border.  That is much cheaper and more plausible that the current design.  For a man who claims to be so good at negotiations, why hasn’t this idea been entertained by President Trump?  We could use our Border Wall monies to finance stricter law enforcement regulations, expand the military, and pay government employees a livable wage.  Mexico could use its military funding to improve its infrastructure.  It is a win-win for everyone in North America.  This idea is not a serious one, but neither is the president’s.