The devastating news tens of thousands of people being injured and killed in Turkey and Syria sheds lights on the importance of robust seismic design for buildings.
Thousands of buildings collapsed, injuring the people inside, with provocative and disturbing photos being release on news sites across the world. With rescue efforts underway, the risk is immense for both people trapped and for the rescuers who will come to these unstable sites to lend assistance. This earthquake, at 7.8 magnitude was immense.
Across the globe, cities that are vulnerable to seismic interruptions have for generations employed a variety of measures to protect buildings and their inhabitants from such events. In the developed world, Tokyo and San Francisco are notorious for the advancements that they have brought to seismic design with engineering and technological measures.
In 2006, following the Kashmir earthquake which killed 80,000 people and left an estimated 4 million people homeless I volunteered with the Heritage Foundation on their efforts to rebuild rural villages in a way that understood and respected the local vernacular, while also being more seismically sound. Teaming up with a local university, they studied the manner in which structures collapsed, and sought to understand why those that didn’t collapse, survived. Through their efforts, they developed a simple, low cost system of ties and cross-bracing that could be employed in the rebuilding of homes to improve their resilience.
In times such as this, it is important to realize that there is an opportunity to build back better, to build in a way that respects the local environment (including seismic conditions), and leverage high tech, low tech, and no tech solutions to create buildings that will serve future occupants in a better way.
My condolences go out to the people of Turkey and Syria.