Archive for February, 2011

The above-titled article appeared in the 2/25/11 New York Times.  It shows that performance expected by adherence to the Building Code is strictly life-safety in the first shock of an earthquake, but a Code-compliant building could collapse after everyone escapes without injury or death.  I think home owners, and building owners in general, should be given the opportunity to impart a better level of building performance, perhaps exceeding minimum life-safety required by the Building Code, by engineering and construction with the intent of limiting damage, reducing expected repair costs, and/or maintaining occupancy and function.  These choices can only be made if owners and other stake-holders know of the seismic risks and of the opportunities to exceed Code-minimum performance.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

The authorities in Christchurch, New Zealand, kept emergency workers and others away from one of the city’s tallest buildings on Friday, concerned that it might collapse three days after it was heavily damaged in an earthquake that killed at least 113 people.

But engineers familiar with the city and with New Zealand’s building codes said the structure, the 26-story Hotel Grand Chancellor, had performed up to standards during the quake. It survived initially, allowing those inside to escape.

“That’s kind of the minimum performance expectation” for a building of that type, said Chris Poland, who is chairman of an American Society of Civil Engineers committee on seismic rehabilitation of buildings.


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(MONEY Magazine) — Not long ago, you could have your big remodeling project and get your money back too. Owners recouped an average of 87% of home improvement costs at resale in 2005, according to Remodeling magazine.

But by 2010 the magazine had pegged the typical payback at just 60%. Hardly the right time to tackle the new kitchen or master bathroom you’ve been dreaming of, right?

Not so fast, says Kermit Baker, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Read the whole article at CNNMoney.com

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A 6.3- magnitude earthquake this week collapsed buildings, caused extensive other damage and killed dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: Mark Baker / AP

Be ready: It will happen here

Read this editorial by Mark Crosley, published Feb 24, 2011 in the SF Chronicle

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Magnitude 6.3 earthquake at around 12:50 PM local time caused death, injury and extensive property damage. There have been large aftershocks as well.

Pyne Gould Guinness Building in central Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, NZ Earthquake of 2/22/11, Pyne Gould Guinness Building in central Christchurch, New Zealand (Photo: AP)

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HERE is a link to an article in the Contra Costa Times about the California Geological Survey’s maps of earthquake fault zones.  The maps can be downloaded from the web site listed in the article, or from here.   The information on the maps might be useful for those considering a seismic retrofit project.

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Follow THIS to an optimistic TED talk by Michael Pawlyn.

(Notes from the TED site: “TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.”  About Michael Pawlyn:  “Michael Pawlyn established the architecture firm Exploration in 2007 to focus on environmentally sustainable projects that take their inspiration from nature.   Prior to setting up the company, Pawlyn worked with the firm Grimshaw for ten years and was central to the team that radically re-invented horticultural architecture for the Eden Project. He was responsible for leading the design of the Warm Temperate and Humid Tropics Biomes and the subsequent phases that included proposals for a third Biome for plants from dry tropical regions. In 1999 he was one of five winners in A Car-free London, an ideas competition for strategic solutions to the capital’s future transport needs and new possibilities for urban spaces. In September 2003 he joined an intensive course in nature-inspired design at Schumacher College, run by Amory Lovins and Janine Benyus. He has lectured widely on the subject of sustainable design in the UK and abroad.”)

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The San Francisco Bay Area is known as earthquake country, and many forward-thinking people, organizations and governments are actively preparing for the next “big one.”  An important aspect of preparation for an earthquake, and of limiting damage caused by an earthquake, is improving knowledge of the occurrence of earthquakes and their effects.

Among the largest earthquakes in the continental US are the series of shakes which occurred in the years 1811 and 1812 in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in what was then Missouri Territory.  Shaking was felt from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.

Here’s a web site about the planned commemoration of the New Madrid events of 1811-1812, stressing the need to prepare for the next one.

A YouTube posting concerning EQ preparedness in Memphis, TN can be seen here.

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